Firestone: North Colorado secession public meeting recap

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From the Longmont Times-Call (Scott Rochat):

Weld County’s quest to add “North Colorado” to the United States met with loud approval Monday night in southwest Weld. Approximately 75 people gathered in the Southwest Weld Complex near Firestone to add their voices to the debate over whether to create the 51st state.

Most could agree on two things: there is a “disconnect” between rural Colorado and the Denver-Boulder area, and secession for northeastern Colorado should be put before the voters as soon as possible. “It may just make a statement,” acknowledged Harry McClintock of Frederick. “But doggone it, I really hope we succeed in doing it!”[…]

…several North Colorado supporters acknowledged that a statehood fight would be an uphill battle at best. “Forming a new state in the atmosphere we have now is much, much harder than it was 150 years ago,” said Dan Oster of Kersey, referring to the last “breakway” state to join the Union, West Virginia in 1863…

On Monday, a long line of speakers ran down their list of grievances: gun regulation, oil and gas regulation, firefighter unionization and — the breaking point for some — Senate Bill 252, which doubled the amount of energy rural cooperatives would have to get from “green” sources. “We’re not falling away from Colorado,” Bruce Sparrow of Keenesburg said. “Colorado’s falling away from us.”

Short of statehood, several also expressed support for a suggestion from Phillips County, that the Colorado constitution should be amended to have the Senate elect one member per county, rather than base both chambers on population.

Weld County will hold two more public comment sessions: today at the Evans Recreation Center, 1100 37th St., Evans; and Wednesday at the Ault Fire Department, 16680 Colo. Highway 14, Ault.

Meanwhile, Conway said, a number of people and even some businesses have expressed interest in moving to the new state.

From The Denver Post (Adrian D. Garcia):

Weld County residents said they were ready for a major fight Monday evening. Whether that battle is to secede from Colorado or to change representation, all they want is to be heard and to win respect. The nearly 70 people in attendance were participating in the second public meeting Weld County commissioners have hosted to discuss whether their constituents felt a disconnect and wanted to pursue change.

Every person who spoke agreed there is a disconnect between the needs of rural voters and the laws and policies being passed at the state legislature. “If you’re going to start walking on the people that give the government power, then they’re going to start taking that power back,” Travis Showalter of Frederick said.

Most commissioners from the 10 counties who attended a 51st State initiative meeting July 8 shifted their support to the new plan suggested by Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer. Schafer suggested changing representation in the state Senate or House so that each county would have the same number of representatives. Currently, representation is based on populations.

However, most who spoke at the meeting decided they want the commissioners to pursue seceding from Colorado. “We’re not pulling away from Colorado, Colorado is pulling away from us,” Keenesburg resident Bruce Sparrow said.

Sparrow pointed to laws passed during the last legislative session, such as Amendment 64 that OK’d recreational marijuana and the new renewable energy standards created by SB 252.

Attendees of Thursday’s public meeting held in Fort Lupton expressed similar concerns and asked commissioners to pursue creating a 51st state. “They feel like there are other circumstances where minorities are protected and they’re probably looking for something like that,” said Chip Taylor, executive director of Colorado Counties Inc. “They are concerned about real bona fide issues.”

Weld County Commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer admitted that the road to actual secession will be a bumpy one. The last state to successfully do so was West Virginia in 1863, according to Kirkmeyer, who was joined by her fellow commissioners, except for Mike Freeman. To actually secede, Weld County would have to put that option before its own voters, then get measures approved at the state and federal levels.

Commissioner Sean Conway, who originally supported the plan to secede, opted to support the other proposal instead. Conway, who is also general government chairman for CCI, plans to have the association make the Phillips County proposal a legislative priority during a September meeting, he said. “I’m supporting it and pushing it. I think the Phillips County proposal makes a lot of sense,” Conway said. If he is successful and CCI votes to make the proposal a priority, the group will seek bipartisan sponsorship and introduce it as a bill at the beginning of the 2014 legislative session in January.

Conway and the other four Weld County commissioners attended the two public meetings. Two more discussions are scheduled, one Tuesday in Evans and another Wednesday in Ault.

More North Colorado secession coverage here.

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