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I’m With Stupid – June 14, 2013

by Todd Hartley

Todd Hartley-smallI’m not sure if you’ve heard, but the big news here in Colorado is that eight counties in the northeastern part of the state want to split off and form their own state. That might seem shocking and a little upsetting, but I think it’s important to remember that most of us in the other parts of Colorado don’t really care.

The counties in question are Weld, Morgan, Logan, Sedgwick, Phillips, Washington, Yuma and Kit Carson. Collectively, they’re home to about 6.43 percent of Colorado’s population, an estimated 333,641 people. Of that number, 252,825 live in Weld County, many of them in the Boulder suburbs, which I would imagine probably want to stay part of Colorado.

The reasons behind the secession movement will come as no surprise to conservatives and residents of rural areas. As Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway noted, “Our very way of life is under attack.” That’s a moving argument, so I think we should delve into the tenets of that way of life to see how we arrived at this juncture.

The initial catalysts behind the call to secede, according to Conway, were the new gun-control bills passed in the Colorado Legislature that attempt to reduce the likelihood of another mass murder along the lines of Columbine and Aurora. I’m not a big gun guy, but I can see why someone who enjoys firearms and dead children would be opposed to that.

Guns, however, were just the tip of the iceberg. What really has driven the counties mad are other bills that since have been introduced that attempt to curb the perceived cruel treatment of livestock and increase renewable energy standards in rural counties. Clearly, those are both horrible ideas in an area that, apparently, likes to abuse animals and contribute as much as possible to climate change and America’s dependence on foreign oil.

So, obviously, the counties in question have what they think are compelling reasons to leave Colorado. Chances are they won’t actually be able to, but if they do, let’s look at the huge negative impact their secession would have on the rest of the state, shall we?

Um — well, none of the counties is exactly an economic powerhouse. Of the eight, only Weld, at No. 32, is in the top half of Colorado’s 64 counties in per capita income, but that’s not the point. The point is that if those eight counties contribute 6.43 percent of Colorado’s gross domestic product (I’m assuming they contribute considerably less), losing them would reduce the state GDP from $236.3 billion to a meager $221.1 billion. I don’t think there’s any way the rest of Colorado could absorb a hit like that.

Fortunately, the secession movement most likely is doomed to fail. This is largely due to the fact that not everyone in those counties is on board with the idea. As a longtime Weld County resident and University of Northern Colorado political science professor put it, “It’s just going to be seen as a crackpot idea by a bunch of crackpot commissioners, some of whom are term-limited. Some will just call it Crackpottopia.”

Be that as it may, if the secession question ever makes it onto a statewide ballot, I, for one, will be voting emphatically in favor of letting the counties go. I believe very strongly that if it’s truly the will of the majority of the people and not just the will of special-interest groups, then it should be so. I’m kind of the opposite of the United States Congress in that regard.

I do, however, have one small bone to pick with the secession movement, and it has to do with the name the counties want to use should they secede. Right now, the people behind the push to form America’s 51st state want to call the place North Colorado. That sounds nice, doesn’t it? The only problem is that the word “Colorado” conjures up images of mountains, which would be incredibly misleading in the case of North Colorado.

I’ve spent precious little time in northeastern Colorado, but I can assure you there is not a single mountain to be found in any of the counties in question. Therefore, should they succeed in seceding, I think there should be another ballot measure wherein the rest of us get to vote on giving the new state a name that gibes better with reality because let’s face it: Those counties aren’t North Colorado; they’re West Kansas.

Todd Hartley would be the head of the North Colorado Tourism Bureau if there were any chance of tourists visiting. 

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