Hick Ventures Into the Would-Be 51st State, Not Warmly Received

Gov. John Hickenlooper arrives at the University Center on Wednesday at the University of Northern Colorado campus in Greeley. Hickenlooper spoke with several city and county officials in an effort to create regular communication between the Governor’s office and Colorado communities. (Photo by Joshua Polson/jpolson@greeleytribune.com | The Greeley Tribune)

Gov. John Hickenlooper deserves at least a modicum of credit for his willingness to enter the lion’s den. In this case, that would be a trip last week to Weld County to meet with a group of 30 or so local and elected officials so unhappy with the state of politics in Denver that they’re voting on whether to secede from Colorado.

Eleven counties have just such a measure on next Tuesday’s ballot – 10 counties in northeast Colorado are proposing to become a new state of North Colorado, while Moffat County in far northwest Colorado will explore becoming part of Wyoming. At the town hall style meeting at the University of Colorado, Hickenlooper, still bracing himself on crutches following hip surgery, offered a mea culpa.

“If that many people feel that we didn’t pay attention, then shame on us,” the governor said. “Maybe we didn’t pay attention.”

He promised to listen more to the concerns of people in Weld County and other points northeast.

But the proffering of the olive branch was not well received, according to Analisa Romano of The Greeley Tribune, who covered the meeting. It “fell on a great deal of scorched earth,” Romano reported.

After offering a brief update on flood repair work, the governor proceeded to explain his position on some of the issues that have the secession-minded counties so upset, including new gun control and rural renewable energy laws.

Some present apparently didn’t even like the way he looked, much less what he said. Pro-secession Weld Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said Hickenlooper appeared to “revel” in angering so many people. “I don’t think I ever reveled in that fact,” the governor responded, according to The Tribune. “If I appeared that way, maybe I was taking on a good face – which I sometimes do.”

Others  objected to what he said. “We know his side of the story,” said state Rep. Lori Saine, R-Dacono, after the meeting. “We don’t need to hear about it again and again.”

Should secession receive a successful vote, it would still face significant constitutional hurdles, including the required approval of both houses of Congress and the Colorado General Assembly. 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. That report found that Colorado would probably come out slightly ahead economically if the 11 counties seceded, in that the state spends more in the counties than it receives back in taxes and other revenues.



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