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Seriously, North Colorado?

City Sage

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The folks who would like to create their very own state of "North Colorado" made their pitch to the El Paso County commissioners last week.

The would-be secessionists have managed to get their proposal on the November ballot in 11 Colorado counties, which would comprise the core of the new state. And geographically, it's a big deal. The new state would encompass nearly 25,000 square miles, slicing off a quarter of Colorado.

Ten counties are, shall we say, sparsely populated, with 91,178 inhabitants scattered over 20,880 square miles. The 11th, Weld County, includes an actual city (Greeley), thousands of oil wells and 252,825 inhabitants.

Briefed at last Thursday's work session, local commissioners spent a half-hour in Neverland, pretending to believe that the proposal had merit.

Why do these good folks want to split? They feel disrespected, abused and abandoned by state government. They believe the Legislature is unconcerned with rural matters, and carelessly enacts laws that unfairly burden rural areas. They're incensed by new state mandates that require energy generated by rural electric providers to meet "green" standards comparable to those required of urban suppliers. They don't much care for gun control legislation, either.

But the movement's roots go deeper than a few specific complaints.

"I'm a third-generation Coloradan," Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway says, as quoted by multiple sources. "But I will tell you, the state I grew up in is slowly and surely slipping away to something I don't recognize. I think that is what's fueling this movement."

Sean's right — but maybe the changes are inevitable.

If we believe that government is "of, by, and for the people," then we need democracy with a small "d." One person, one vote. We shouldn't make disingenuous proposals that empower tiny, homogenous groups at the cost of the larger polity.

Every state, regardless of population, sends two senators to Washington. In practice, thinly populated, largely rural states are over-represented.

The 10 most heavily populated states, including California, New York and Texas, have slightly more than 50 percent of the nation's people. The 10 least populated, including the Dakotas, Alaska, Maine, Montana and Wyoming, total just more than 2 percent. In the Senate, country-dwellers have far more clout than their urban counterparts.

And the state of North Colorado, with fewer than 350,000 inhabitants, would be the nation's smallest.

Colorado has been an urban state for decades, but rural conservatives, Colorado Springs Republicans and conservative Democrats have worked together to protect rural interests. Canny GOP legislators such as Hugo farmer Bev Bledsoe, who served as Colorado House speaker for the entire decade of the 1980s, worked harmoniously with Democratic governors.

To the folks who have lived for generations on the plains, it's deeply frustrating to be marginalized. But that's fate. Ask Colorado Springs Democrats, unrepresented in Congress for generations, or Boulder Republicans who have wandered in the political wilderness for 40 years.

In fact, talk to Los Angeles residents about being unrepresented in the U.S. Senate. With a 2013 population estimated at 3.8 million, L.A. residents are crammed into 469 square miles. So here's a suggestion for Conway and Co.: Divide L.A. into 11 slices, have each of your counties annex a slice, and bingo — 11 new states with room to roam and a restless, energetic youthful population. Land for the landless, power for the powerless.

Doesn't make sense, but so what? It has at least as much chance of happening as does North Colorado.

Article 4, Section 3 of the U.S. Constitution says: "New States may be admitted by the Congress into this Union; but no new States shall be formed or erected within the Jurisdiction of any other State; nor any State be formed by the Junction of two or more States, or parts of States, without the Consent of the Legislatures of the States concerned as well as of the Congress."

Guys, you might has well abandon your quixotic quest, and seek new allies. Threatening to secede won't get you anywhere, so go see John Hickenlooper.

You know him — he's the governor of Denver ... I mean, Colorado.

hazlehurst@csindy.com

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