After spending two months trying to come up with a single argument that there is any reason for 10 counties in northeast Colorado to form the state of Northern Colorado, I’ve come up with a reason. It’s not particularly compelling, but it’s something. They’ve already got their state university. The university in Greeley is called the University of Northern Colorado.
Frustrated and angered by several legislative initiatives they considered anti-rural, a group of county commissioners from northeastern Colorado shared their discontent when they gathered at the Colorado Counties Inc. convention in June. Out of those conversations came a suggestion that maybe they should just start their own state.
Since that time, there have been public meetings throughout northeastern Colorado about whether the 10 counties should secede from Colorado and start their own state. Now the Weld County commissioners have placed the question on November’s ballot. Several other counties will ask their residents the same question.
The whole thing is ridiculous, as it isn’t even remotely possible that we’ll see Northern Colorado become its own state. It would take support of both the Colorado General Assembly and the U.S. Congress. All substance aside, and substance argues against secession, politics would stop creation of a new state in its tracks. Creating two reliable Republican seats in the U.S. Senate, which would surely be the case in a state where the conservative city of Greeley could be considered a progressive enclave, will never pass Congress. This exercise can only serve to continue to work as a wedge between Coloradans who disagree on a number of political fronts.
Phillips County Administrator Randy Schafer has floated an alternative plan that one house of the Colorado legislature be apportioned by county rather than population. Aside from the fact that the plan is not politically feasible, as neither legislators nor voters from more populous parts of our state would vote to disenfranchise themselves, the plan would not pass constitutional muster under the equal protection clause.
It’s unfortunate that many Coloradans feel disenfranchised because our legislature has passed laws they don’t support, but the answer is to mobilize and work to elect people whose views more closely represent theirs. And although the establishment of the new state wouldn’t require a name change for the University of Northern Colorado, there’s little other reason to further discuss or consider having the northeastern part of our state secede. The fact that voters in several counties will vote whether they should form their own state is just an unfortunate distraction that can only serve to further alienate and divide us. The best thing that can happen is for voters in those counties to vote against secession and allow the issue to quietly go away.
Greg Romberg is president of Romberg and Associates, a government relations and public affairs firm. He lives in Evergreen with his wife, Laurie, and three daughters.