When voters in 11 Colorado counties go to the polls two weeks from today to decide whether to secede from the state of Colorado, the issues will have been fully-aired in some of the locales – but that doesn’t mean there is any agreement as to what it all means.
Weld County commissioners Barbara Kirkmeyer and Sean Conway, proponents of secession, joined a panel discussion last week hosted by the Greeley/Weld County League of Women Voters. On the other side of the discussion were Bob Ruyle, a water attorney and a member of the Greeley Water and Sewer Board, and Steve Mazurana, retired professor of political science at the University of Northern Colorado.
As reported by The Greeley Tribune’s Analisa Romano, more than 200 people “moaned and clucked their tongues” during the forum at Hensel Phelps Theater at the Union Colony Civic Center as panelists discussed what the 51st state initiative would mean for such as issues as education, water rights and the financial feasibility of the new state. They also disagreed on whether the Weld County Commission had legal authority to lead the 51st state movement, an issue that was scheduled to be heard by the Weld County Council, which oversees the commission.
Ten counties in northeast Colorado, led by Weld, want to establish a new state of North Colorado, while Moffat County in northwest Colorado seeks to become part of Wyoming. I-News at Rocky Mountain PBS analyzed census, budget, crime and voter records to develop profiles of a new 51st state and a truncated Colorado. The I-News analysis shows that Colorado would be slightly better off economically if the 11 counties leave, as the state spends more in the counties than it receives back in taxes and fees.
At the League of Women Voters’ discussion, Conway said I-News had left out lease revenues paid to the state land board. A competing argument is that those leases are on lands granted to Colorado by the federal government and would remain Colorado property 51st state or no. There are many such sticking points.
Weld commissioners contend that Colorado’s rural interests are being ignored, even disrespected, by the state’s urban controlled legislature. “Whether this passes or not, the disconnect is a problem,” Conway said.
Mazurana said he wasn’t even sure of that. He said this year’s state legislation demonstrates the ebb and flow of politics, and questioned whether the argument for a 51st state would be a moot point if Republicans dominate the state Legislature in coming years.
“Take it easy,” he said, according to The Tribune’s Romano. “This is one legislative session.”