GLENWOOD SPRINGS — Although sympathetic to concerns over what some see as an anti-rural sentiment among the current cast of Colorado lawmakers, at least two Garfield County commissioners say they’re not inclined to join other rural counties in the push for secession.
“I haven’t heard much about it from anyone in our county, other than concerns that the [state government] is not representing our point of view,” Garfield County Commission Chairman John Martin said of the 51st State Initiative being floated by several northeast Colorado counties, including Weld County, where the secession movement began.
“I think it’s a little bit of posturing going on, but it is a tough issue, and I do share some of the same concerns,” Martin said.
“My concern [with secession] is that the costs would be astronomical to do something like that, and the impacts it would have on water law,” he said.
Just one Western Slope county, Moffat County, has agreed to refer the secession question to voters this fall. Commissioners in other western Colorado counties have at least entertained the notion, including in Grand, Rio Blanco and Mesa counties.
The movement seeks either an independent 51st state or annexation to Wyoming. Also being considered by some rural lawmakers is a bill that would give more individual county representation in the Colorado Legislature.
Secession would first require local voter support, then approval from the state Legislature and an amendment to the Colorado Constitution, and finally approval from the U.S. Congress. Joining Wyoming would require nearly as many steps, including Congressional approval.
Martin said he agrees with Rio Blanco County commissioners, who last week decided not to join the secession push primarily because a new state would not be included in the existing multi-state Colorado River Compact.
“A new state would have to have new agreements [for water use],” Martin said.
Increasing rural representation in the state Legislature “could work,” he said. “Even that gets to be really expensive.”
Garfield Commissioner Tom Jankovsky agreed with his fellow representative on the county board that secession is not likely something the commissioners will formally consider.
“There are concerns that the state Legislature is not listening to rural issues, and I do have those same concerns,” Jankovsky said.
“I do think it is a message back to our metropolitan legislators, no matter which side of the aisle they are on, that they are making decisions that affect Colorado in a big way, and we do have concerns about that,” Jankovsky said.