Ortiz: To reorganize the United States

Sterling Ortiz, Columnist

Many initiatives made sense hundreds of years ago and are now obsolete. Heroin and leeches as common medical cures, fossil fuels powering transportation and the divine right of nobility rank among the outdated. I would like to include current state boundaries within the category.

Students and Evanston residents, look at a state map and think: what connection do Evanston and Chicago have to Carbondale and Springfield? What relationship does Cook County have with Alexander County or Champaign County? The only reason these locations are in the same state is that Nathaniel Pope, a delegate to the United States House of Representatives from the Illinois Territory, negotiated the borders to include Chicago and an extended Lake Michigan border. Though admirable at the time, these lines are over 200 years old and need an update.

To start, I would establish three main types of states: city-states, metropolitan states and the periphery states. City-states would be, as the name implies, states that consist of an “important” city. This practice is common worldwide, such as in Buenos Aires, Argentina and Budapest, Hungary, to give large cities power and dignity otherwise lacking in the American system. The metropolitan states would consist of states surrounding or bordering city-states. Examples include the Estado de México, Mexico and Brandenburg, Germany. Finally, periphery states would encompass a wide area of rural and small towns and be small-scale industrial or agricultural. Examples of this include the Hokkaido Circuit Prefecture in Japan and Saskatchewan Province in Canada.

To apply this model to everyday life, imagine going to Northwestern, not in the city of Evanston, but in the Evanston neighborhood in the city-state of Chicago. In this hypothetical reorganization, Chicago would annex all of Cook County to unify Chicago with border towns like Evanston, Skokie and Cicero because of a shared culture. As a unified city-state without the suburban collar counties or downstate, ideally under Mayor Jeanette Taylor and Speaker Will Guzzardi, Chicago would now have free reign to enact an income tax to expand the Chicago Transit Authority and provide 18 months of paid family leave. 

Outside of the new Chicago, the suburban collar counties have united with southeastern Wisconsin and Indiana hugging Lake Michigan to create the State of the Southern Lake. This state wouldn’t have Chicago’s presence, but it would have easy connections via a frequent, newly-electric Metra network. Southern Lake would be more populous and include the cities of Madison, Milwaukee and South Bend, bridging former Wisconsin and Indiana counties with historic German culture, shared economic prosperity and plenty of beer.

The rest of Illinois would be divided among regional powers, with Iowa claiming the Quad Cities region while resisting a power grab from the new State of Omaha-Lincoln, and the new State of St. Louis claiming East St. Louis, Carbondale and other Southern Illinois territories.

Part of my fun with this reorganization is applying it to various dreams in the U.S. Imagine a city-state of New York, annexing Hudson and Bergen Counties in New Jersey to the west, Dutchess County and Poughkeepsie to the north and Long Island to the east. Of course, this ambition to rival the megapolis of Tokyo would come with many pressures that hypothetical Mayor Jessica Ramos must deal with. The ruling party would struggle to pressure Long Island to urbanize along with the Long Island Rail Road stations and calculate how many bodega cats would be needed to package with Staten Island for New Jersey to take the cursed borough. 

Reorganizing states could also rewrite historical wrongs. The country should listen to Native Americans’ proposals for autonomous states, like the Republic of Lakotah. Canada has started to do this by recognizing and giving power to the Squamish Nation in Vancouver. The Supreme Court recognized in McGirt v. Oklahoma that half of Oklahoma, including Tulsa, belongs by law to the Muscogee (Creek) Nation. Also, imagine a state or series of states, including the Black Belt in the American South, spanning from the Mississippi Delta west to New Orleans south, Savannah east and the Research Triangle north. This area would border the city-state of Atlanta, include Montgomery, Jackson, Raleigh and Durham, and contribute wonders by the great universities and cultural contributions.

I believe a better world is possible, and we must create and distribute new ideas for the future. Reorganizing the U.S. would benefit most people, especially urban citizens, and give better representation in government. Let us take current and historical regional polarization seriously and group people along modern lines.

Sterling Ortiz is a SESP fourth-year. You can contact him at [email protected]. If you would like to respond publicly to this op-ed, send a Letter to the Editor to [email protected]. The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of all staff members of The Daily Northwestern.