Secession discussions and votes 
clearly ‘do not move us forward’

“How Can I Miss You If You Won’t Go Away?”

That old song, by Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks, keeps coming to mind every time I see another story about the secessionist movement seeking traction in some rural Colorado counties.

Let ‘em go, please, and don’t let the “Welcome to Colorado” sign slap ‘em on the backsides while they’re exiting to form their new state or join a neighboring one, presumably more sympathetic to their needs.

Just last week, Moffat County commissioners decided to put the idea of secession on the November ballot. That would be an interesting addition to any new state, since most of this tomfoolery has so far been relegated to publicity-seeking county commissioners out on the Eastern Plains.

No word on what commissioners Tom Mathers and John Kinkaid think of the mechanics of Moffat County “flagpoling” across the Continental Divide to join the potential new state some have called “Weldistan,” in honor of Weld County, where the secession discussion took root. Kinkaid earlier opined that Moffat County could seek to become part of Wyoming, an idea quickly rejected by our neighbor to the north.

“The county and our state face many significant challenges at this time,” Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead’s spokesman, Renny MacKay, responded. “This discussion does not move us forward.”

Rio Blanco County commissioners also considered the secession question briefly before deciding potential water issues outweighed drawing a symbolic line in the western Colorado dirt. Thankfully, Mesa County commissioners haven’t considered secession, at least not yet.

A few weekends ago, my Sunday morning routine was interrupted by the tell-tale tone alerting me to a message on my iPhone. It was from a high-ranking state government official worrying about “connecting the disconnected,” those “grass is greener” folks who think forming their own state is the answer to a perceived lack of understanding on the part of urban legislators to the problems of those of us out here in the hinterlands.

At the heart of the discussion is a perceived inability of rural lawmakers to impact state issues. To my friend in state government, that’s a result of term limits. He cites the loss of leadership from former rural lawmakers such as Bev Bledsoe of eastern Colorado and Norwood’s Dan Noble, both of whom had outsized influence at the state Capitol.

“Barking up the wrong tree, compadre,” was my response. “Term limits are not the problem. Folks like Bledsoe, Noble, Tillie Bishop and Russ George likely couldn’t get elected or re-elected in today’s political climate.”

Lack of rural legislative leadership in Denver is, I submit, more of a quality-control issue by rural voters, including those of us in Mesa County, than a product of term limits. 

Certainly the rural inferiority complex now evidenced by secessionist rhetoric has deep roots.

Club 20’s genesis was a perceived lack of attention to rural roads by lawmakers in Denver. The “not one more drop” response of local water providers to Gov. John Hickenlooper’s call for developing a statewide water plan is another example. I wouldn’t be surprised if, in the mid-1800s, settlers in Colorado Territory weren’t railing against real or perceived wrongs by a faraway government.

I’d like to think those previous discussions were thought out a little more carefully.

I wonder if Moffat County’s secessionist commissioners realize Wyoming’s mineral severance taxes are stiffer than Colorado’s regulations, which already supposedly hamper energy development. Or if commissioners in “Weldistan,” where some communities and agricultural interests slake their thirst with Western Slope water, realize there are laws prohibiting the sale of Colorado water across state lines.

Probably not, because all this secessionist talk is more about politics than policy.

It’s much easier, and a whole lot more fun, to throw some red meat to the masses, to rail against gun laws and renewable energy standards and death-penalty decisions. It’s harder and more serious work to find and elect the kind of rural legislators who might carry on the tradition of predecessors who demonstrated success while facing the same kinds of numerical odds.

At least there’s some comfort in the fact that, at the end of the day, the secessionist movement is going nowhere.

Jim Spehar confesses he once printed up tongue-in-cheek bumper stickers that said “Western Colorado, the 51st State.” Comments are welcome at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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