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Attack on rural Coloradans by Morse led to secession movement

By: The Gazette editorial
August 21, 2013 Updated: August 21, 2013 at 11:55 am
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Weld County commissioners voted unanimously Monday to place secession on November's ballot, putting the state's ninth most-populous county in company with Cheyenne, Sedgwick and Yuma counties and at least four others that plan to follow suit.

"Si se puede - yes, we can," declared Weld County Commission Chairman Bill Garcia after the vote.

Commissioners blame the secession movement largely on Senate President John Morse, the Colorado Springs Democrat facing recall.

Weld County Commissioner Sean Conway, a well-known and long-time player in Colorado politics, served with Morse on the Senate's 2009 Fiscal Sustainability Committee.

"He represented himself as a centrist, moderate Democrat and I was confident we could work with him when he became president of the Senate. Man was I wrong," Conway said. "I don't know what type of transformation took place but he is not the senator I came to know in 2009."

Conway said bills Morse pushed are destructive, but would have been worse had he succeeded with several efforts to kill Colorado's oil and gas industry - a major driver of Colorado's economy.

"I haven't seen anything like this past session in 30 years of involvement in Colorado politics," Conway said. "It was the most radical session in Colorado history. That's largely because of John Morse."

Conway said Morse shut down Weld County politicians and residents who tried to speak about anything Morse wanted to pass.

"From day one, it was 'we're going to roll over you. We have the votes and we have the power.' And that's what they did, thanks mostly to a tone set by Senator Morse," Conway said.

The commissioner met for hours with Gov. John Hickenlooper and House Speaker Mark Ferrandino. Conway said the two listened and cared about Weld County concerns. He insists Morse, by contrast, would not see him.

"Even the Democratic governor had to step back and say 'good Lord, what's going on in the Senate.' Thank God enough sensible Democrats prevented Morse from imposing an agenda that was even far-more radical and destructive to our economy," Conway said.

Secession measures may pass with strong support. Even so, voters have no chance of creating a state of Northern Colorado. That would require cooperation of the legislature, the governor and Congress. None will get on board.

Still, we caution the establishment to refrain from laughing this off. The secession movement is blowback from a legislative session so extreme - so brazenly partisan and divisive - that leaders in at least eight counties want freedom from their own state government. Direct the chuckles toward Morse and the few who tried to help him succeed.

Don't mistake secession as shenanigans of hillbillies we could just as well do without. With a population of 253,000, Weld County - which adjoins Boulder County - grew by 40 percent from 2000 to 2010. Median household incomes far surpass Denver's. The county is diverse, with a growing Latino population of 30 percent. The median age is 31 (Denver is 34).

Garcia, Conway and other secessionists complain most vociferously of a Morse-backed law that will raise rates on energy for Coloradans who struggle to feed kids and pay employees. The law subsidizes alternative energy contraptions that would otherwise come into demand if and when rural cooperatives and ratepayers consider them economically viable. The Morse rate hike will kill jobs, as higher rates mean less to invest in employees.

A center pivot irrigation system, for one field, can use about $18,000 in electricity each year. Opponents estimate the Morse rate hike will cost the average Colorado farm family $16,000 each year. No wonder Morse wouldn't let them talk.

"Senator Morse subjected my farmers to a 20 percent renewables mandate, yet he allows his urban utility to get by with a 10 percent mandate," Conway said. "The hypocrisy is astounding."

The rate hike means more young Coloradans won't go to college. Some farm hands will lose jobs. Farmers will have less for food and school supplies.

A Denver Post article by Sens. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Steve King, R-Grand Junction, said the Morse bill will cost rural schools so much "they'll have to cut programs and fire teachers."

Secession advocates present a litany of grievances that all have one common thread: Senator John Morse.

We don't advocate secession, nor does it stand a chance. But when some of Colorado's most desirable and productive communities want out, something is seriously wrong at a Capitol established and funded to serve us all.

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