Jason Walsh: Forget ‘3 Californias’; we’ve got 3 Sonomas

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To the dismay of separatist venture capitalists everywhere, the equally-intriguing-as-it-is-alarming ballot initiative to divide California into three different states was blocked by the state Supreme Court Wednesday, after a group of environmentalists challenged its legality, while most everyone else with a minimum seventh-grade education level challenged its sanity.

Billionaire businessman Tim Draper had funded the effort to place the so-called 3 Californias initiative on the November ballot which, if approved by voters, would ostensibly carve the Golden State into a trio of not-quite-as-golden states: Northern California, with San Francisco and Sacramento and everything north; a Southern California of desert-y inland counties; and California, a coastal region encompassing Los Angeles. The conservative Draper argued that the new Southern California, which holds a higher percentage of Republican districts than the rest of the state, would be better served representing itself in Washington D.C. without being dragged down by the liberal whims of all the Democrats in Sacramento. Whether it would be better served without all the water the rest of the state provides that region, he did not say.

Legal experts have been dubious about the initiative from the get go – questioning its legality and pointing out that only the California legislature can approves changes to the state constitution, and only U.S. Congress has the power to create new states.

Of course, cooler heads are also no doubt weighing what’s known in modern representative democracies as the Trump Theory: which holds that the more crackpot a choice is that comes before voters, the more likely the crackpots are to vote for it. In other words, as nuts as it would be to throw the world’s fifth largest economy into chaos by cutting off some of its poorest rural regions from the Silicon Valley gravy train – this thing might actually pass.

The 3 Californias may be the worst re-branding idea since Bic disposable underwear (michaelaldridge.com/product-failures if you don’t believe me) – but that shouldn’t put a damper on a similar concept I think would really take off: I call it -- 3 Sonomas.

Wait. Give it a second to digest. Three separate Sonomas. They already exist – why not give everyone what they want?

My proposed 3 Sonomas initiative would municipally codify what we already know deep down: there are multiple factions living among each other in the Valley, and one gets the feeling they’d prefer stricter boundaries.

For instance, there are those who want cannabis dispensaries, those who don’t, and those lingering at 3 p.m. in the Plaza rose garden who will make do either way. Likewise, there are some who like leaf blowers, some who don’t, and some who are using them to clear pollen from your Armstrong Estates brick pavers as we speak.

In almost every divisive issue in Sonoma there are three sides: Those for, those against, and those who are busy with their lives and couldn’t care less.

Unlike the three states proposal, the 3 Sonomas isn’t about boundaries on a map, or demographic differences. It isn’t even about recognizing Sonoma as three different states – it’s about our three different states of mind.

The first state, for instance, will be proclaimed Ye Olde Sonoma. And its inhabitants will consist of anyone who’s lived in the Valley long enough to know that the San Francisco Seals used to train in Boyes Hot Springs back in the day, and can name the exact street which demarks the boundary between Sonoma and Schellville.

The first person to write me a letter noting that there is no demarcation because “Vineburg separates the two, you jerk,” earns a lifetime appointment to the Ye Olde Sonoma state legislature. Ye Olde Sonomans will be dedicated community volunteers, economically comfortable but not necessarily wealthy, and open to all development projects proposed before the planning commission so long as they are revised to a point that the developer would prefer to simply abandon the project.

The second state will incorporate the swish gang of Nouveau Sonoma. Residents of Nouveau Sonoma will be relatively new to the 95476 area code, as in 30 years or less, and will have established their successful careers elsewhere, before moving to the Valley to either purchase real estate or run for city council. Nouveau Sonomans will sometimes be sighted stretching their latent thespian talents in historic re-enactments from Sonoma’s past, or showcasing their recent plein air paintings in local tasting rooms. They will often be held in disdain by Ye Olde Sonomans and skirmishes between the two factions will occasionally break out at City Council meetings when new buildings are on the agenda and someone mentions “traffic.”

Lastly, there will be the proud state of Not-so-Sonoma. Those of Not-so-Sonoma will largely inhabit the outlands of the region, though a handful will remain scattered in various studio apartments throughout the heartland. Despite greatly outnumbering their neighboring Sonomas in population, they are a little-seen folk – to the point that some say they are merely mythological. Unlike most neighboring Sonoma inhabitants, they won’t serve on any nonprofit boards and, save for an occasional appearance in a police log, they won’t make headlines in the beloved local newspaper. They may, however, glare if you don’t tip at least 20 percent for parties of five or more.

Not-so-Sonoma residents will serve multiple roles throughout the greater Sonoma-sphere – as parents, school children, market shoppers, service providers, house cleaners, harvest pickers, Arnold Drive passersby – just like inhabitants of Ye Olde Sonoma and Nouveau Sonoma, but their presence will be harder to detect. Census takers take note: They’re seen, but unseen. Known, yet somehow foreign.

In fact, a fire broke out at the home of a Not-so-Sonoma resident just this week – it was under the northwest corner of the Ig Vella Bridge, where responders found bicycle parts, a small grill, empty bottles and other personal remains. But the dwellers had fled, discarded refuse their only trace.

Sonoma Valley is a place of at-times promising assimilation and quite-frequent astounding generosity. If there’s a more well-meaning region than this, I have yet to step into its limits. This was demonstrated during the October fires, when Sonomans rallied for their fellow Valley residents escaping flames. Its generosity is seen at holiday gatherings and daily through so many who give their time freely – and money willingly – to assist those less fortunate.

Nevertheless there are three Sonomas. And there are probably even more.

Like the state proposal, the 3 Sonomas initiative won’t be appearing anytime soon for ballot consideration. There’s no need.

3 Sonomas was already approved by the Sonoma electorate years ago.

Email Jason at jason.walsh@sonomanews.com.

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