Sorry for the length, but I didn't have time to write a short blog.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Welcome to the Other Colorado

When it first was proposed many thought it was something of a joke.  It was the proposal of Weld County and few other counties along with apparently a county or two in Nebraska that they would secede from the respective states and become the 51st state of Northern Colorado.  The argument was that rural counties in Colorado were no longer receiving any support by the Front Range controlled government of Colorado.  The argument works if we ignore the counties that are not even in Colorado that initially wanted to join.  To a certain degree it is true that rural counties do not receive as much as the Front Range Cities.  For a long time, when roads needed fixed, the money first went to Denver, Colorado Springs, Boulder and maybe Fort Collins.  For many a year, where I grew up, we referred to Denver's other mayor, the Governor.  But I hadn't really thought about that since Roy Romer or Governor Doom, Richard Lamb.

What is the complaint? Well it seems to have to do with regulating petroleum, guns, and in general the fact that the largely Republican rural counties lost legislative control to the larger Democrat cities.  In other words, they were getting out voted.  We will ignore if such a separation did occur if such a state is even viable and if folks would be thrilled with the idea that the bulk of votes would now rest in another city, the college town of Greeley.  If it succeeded it would become one of the least populated states in the US and the reddest.   If a separation did occur there would be a list of problems to overcome. There would  be the issue of water rights, oil rights, the University of Northern Colorado, infrastructure, what to do with Moffat county (I will get to that in a moment), the countless connections that every county has to other counties and the state government, and do we still cheer for CU, CSU, the Broncos, the Avalanche, Rockies and the Nuggets.  Of course there is one advantage if this happens.  If I ever decided to go back to teaching, I could establish retirement in two states without moving, but it would really mess with the retirement of those who currently have money set up with Colorado's retirement program.

For awhile, the secession talk subsided because the idea developed of perhaps changing the structure of the state government so that every county would have the same number of representatives regardless of the population of the county.  In other words, representative would be based on land and not people. That would in all probability go down to defeat, so once again the session talk continues.  Several of these counties will put it on their ballot to see if they should go the state and request approval from the state legislature for secession. If approved in Colorado, then it must be approved by the dysfunctional congress in Washington D. C.

It amounts to a hissyfit because these counties aren't getting their way.  It seems every time someone on the extreme left or extreme right or just the extreme doesn't have the vote to go their way, they decide it is time to take their ball and go home. Don't like the president; Rick Perry thinks Texas should secede.  Don't like the rules in one state; then that county should secede to another state.  Don't like the rules in Colorado; make your own state.  And so it goes.  It is actually more than that though.  Governor Hickenlooper has stated that he needs and the state legislature needs to pay better attention to its rural areas.  Probably true. Just as true, it is the nature of representative democracy that occasionally one group or another loses control.

And then it happened.

The county commissioners of my county decided to join the movement.  Did they publicize that they were considering this? No.  Did they have it on their agenda? No.  They just did it.  They voted 3-0 to add Elbert County to  the 51st state initiative.  I don't know whether to laugh or cry.  I told my wife that I saw this on the news, and she looked at me and said that it was just embarrassing.  I understand that living in Colorado where the larger area of the state is rural, but the population is mostly urban, it is tough not to feel left out.  That said, I really don't feel very well represented by the sneakiness of my county commissioners.  They did, in fact, exactly what they are accusing the Colorado State Legislature of doing: passed something without request for public input.  They went only on the idea that the vocal few is representing everyone.  I do not know if I am in the minority or not, but I do know that there was no public discourse of this decision.

So right now there are ten counties in the movement. They are Cheyenne, Elbert, Kit Carson, Logan, Moffat, Phillips, Sedgwick, Washington, Weld, and Yuma.  There are some obvious problems.  Moffat is far from the other counties (Routt, Jackson, and Larimer sort of get in the way).  Morgan also would effect the shape as would Lincoln as it seems to be in the way of Elbert joining.  I also saw in one report that the town of Erie would end up in two states. I don't know what counties from other states are still involved if any now.  What I do know is that it is unlikely that the 51st state will occur.  Still, it would be nice if the representatives doing this bothered to have a public discussion before putting it on a ballot.