South Miami Mayor Phillip Stoddard and Vice Mayor Walter Harris are the most recent of a long list of people who want to squeeze another star on to the American flag. They want to split Florida in two – along a line north of Orlando.
Several other activists and groups across the country have attempted the same feat,and their motives are similar to Stoddard and Phillip’s. They don’t feel like their local government is working for them.
Stoddard introduced a resolution,drafted by Harris,Oct. 7 “advocating the legal separation of Florida in to two separate states.” The new state would be called South Florida.
Their reasoning is one major issue: Climate change.
However,northern Florida and southern Florida have never been close philosophically. Southern Florida is heavily Democratic and urban. Northern Florida is a Republican stronghold and not as populated. Southern Florida is located barely above sea level. Much of northern Florida sits on higher ground.
This is where a lot of the trouble begins.
More than half of the population – 67 percent – lives in the 24 counties that could become South Florida,and the oceans are rising more than anybody expected,Harris said in a phone interview.
Having a Republican majority in the state means little political acknowledgement of climate change,which is a problem for Stoddard and Harris when it is estimated sea levels will rise 3 to 6 feet by the end of the century.
Much of Southern Florida has an average elevation of just less than 50 feet above sea level. Many areas are less than 5 feet above sea level.
The premise of the resolution is that without serious collaboration,policy changes and problem solving,much of southern Florida could disappear,displacing millions of people.
But the South Miami mayor and vice mayor say that getting the conservative majority to listen isn’t working.
“We’ve been trying since the 50s,unsuccessfully. There’s no reason to assume anything is going to change,” said Harris. “Tallahassee is the essence of North Florida. South Florida is just their rich cousin.”
South Florida generates 69 percent of the state’s sales and documentary taxes,which are levied on the sale of real estate.
Their complaint and solution aren’t uncommon. It’s the link between all secession movements in American history.
In 2013,11 counties in northern Colorado voted on an initiative that would give the go-ahead to start planning secession from Colorado. Five voted in favor.
The plan stemmed from the 2013 legislative session when Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper,D,signed into law renewable energy mandates that increased electricity costs for rural,mostly conservative,Coloradans.
The Jefferson movement,to form a new state including parts of northern California and southern Oregon,has been ongoing since 1941. It would have been the 49th state then. The movement was a result of cities such as San Francisco not granting enough resources to rural areas.
Some people in Western Maryland want to split from Maryland because five counties in the northwest of the state feel underrepresented in the Democratic state legislature.
Overall,there have been movements in at least 30 states to split,although not all of them have made it to a ballot. But if they had,the likelihood is slim as the split would have to be approved by Congress – which hasn’t happened in 150 years.
West Virginia separated from Virginia after disagreeing with the state’s vote to secede from the U.S. during the Civil War. Other states have split,but it was while they were still colonies or territories.
“The genesis of the problem is that you have a very diverse state,” said Jeffrey Hare,treasurer of the 51st State Initiative in Colorado. “People moving in think they can remake the state,and that’s really not fair to the people who built the state.”
By diverse,he means partisan,and the minority is left without a way to change policy and has little chance to pass legislation.
“I think there are a variety of reasons for these movements,but we see an increase because they don’t like the way the political system is working,” said Kit Wellman,political philosophy professor at Washington University in St. Louis. He studies secession.
“They figure if we break up and form our own unit we’ll get done what we want to get done.”
For Stoddard,Harris and Hare it’s the amount of representation they have. They all say it isn’t realistic.
“I would say it is necessary,and the reason is that it comes down to the fact that you can’t have 535 people in Washington representing 315 million-plus people,” Hare said. “Either we’re going to have a more decentralization of power or continue to devolve as a nation into a former world power. There’s just no other way around it.”
But creating another state isn’t likely to be a solution. Both the House and the Senate would have to approve a 51st state,and that could create a slippery slope for the future,Wellman said. A 51st state could turn into several new states.
“Today they might want to be their own state,” he said. “Once you go down that road,how do you stop it?”
Reach reporter Kara Mason at [email protected] or 202-408-1492. SHFWire Stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.