Jeffrey Hare, a Weld County resident and co-organizer of The 51st State Initiative, continued a mantra of urban-versus-rural neglect Thursday afternoon as he solicited the support of the El Paso County Commissioners and asked that they "join the discussion."
"In terms of philosophy of government, we feel El Paso County would fit in really well," Hare said minutes before addressing the Board of County Commissioners.
According to Hare, the population boom in the state as well as in the entire country has centered around urban areas, leading to governmental decisions that favor cities and ignore rural needs. Weld County and 10 other counties mostly in northeast Colorado, will pose questions on their November ballots asking voters whether it's in their interest to pursue secession from the state and form "New Colorado."
Three of the five El Paso County commissioners were at the work session Thursday. Darryl Glenn, Peggy Littleton and Sallie Clark each said being a part of the discussion was important as El Paso County has both rural and urban interests.
Glenn said, "Healthy debate is very important," but probed Hare for details about his group's secession initiative. Hare couldn't supply many details and acknowledged the movement is still in its infancy.
"It's a long process," he said. "We're going to be very busy in 2014. We will continue forward even if the vote doesn't come in as strong as we believe it will. We would like to get a good sense of where communities stand throughout the state."
Clark, the District 3 commissioner, addressed Hare after he finished his half-hour long presentation. She said bolting from Colorado and forming a new state is not the answer.
"It's not quite as simple as it looks," said Clark, who compared the relationship between urban and rural Colorado to a marriage.
"Just going out and creating another government instead of trying to fix what's wrong with the current one, I just don't know that this is the right method to get there," she said.
Hare presented a vision for his organization Thursday which focuses on avoiding "federal entanglements, where possible," limiting state government and a focusing on the power of local governments to protect citizen's individual liberties.
The 51st State Initiative was born shortly after Colorado passed gun control legislation earlier this year. The group which said it aims to "restore liberty" said the gun laws and other legislation that dictates the counties' use of natural resources has led to "irreconcilable differences" between state and local interests, Hare said.
While creating a new state is the No. 1 option being considered by the initiative, Hare said it is one of three possibilities. The others are annexations into another state such as Wyoming and a restructuring of the Colorado Senate to one that is similar to the U.S. Senate model. In the latter, Hare said each county would have equal votes rather than a system based on population.
"Can we meld urban and rural interests? I think we can," he said. "Can we meld Republican and Democratic control? I think we can."
The 51st State Initiative's movement to form a new state is not the only push for secession in the country. A group in northern California wants to form a new state called "Jefferson," a mostly democratic county in Arizona has tried to pull away from its state and become "Baja," and there are other efforts in western Maryland and northern Michigan.
Hare said all of the movements are products of the same problem.
"A one-size-fits-all government within a broad spectrum of values just isn't working," he said.