Leadership on Colorado’s rural plains

Secession of rural Colorado, the sequel

Michael Bowman, a fifth-generation resident of Colorado’s Yuma County, argues that economic growth in rural Colorado will occur exactly when it embraces its interdependence within the state’s  diverse economy. Originally posted at ColoradoPols and republished with permission of the author. 

By Michael Bowman 

I received my first email today asking to join the “Restoring Colorado” movement.  In a perfect world this would be a great idea. Being the fifth-generation of my family to live in rural Colorado, that ‘blood’ runs deep. I personally believe in the mostly-untapped potential of our region to produce energy, local food and environmental services.  Statewide, we are a $40 billion industry; we have nothing but opportunity. 

But a trip down memory lane reminds me of what we’ve morphed in to: Amendment 37, perhaps the best public policy (in modern times)?  We fought it.  Embracing environmental services?  No thanks.  Childhood poverty?  Off the chart while we simultaneously remain a recipient of federal transfers AND claim to be independent.  Marriage equality?  Not on our watch.  Guns?  Dudley Brown as the face of our citizens?

Sadly, I have not yet exhausted “the list.”

If you listen to the YouTube below by Jeffrey Hare, you could come to the conclusion he’s making the case for Initiative 75 (Local Control), yet every nearly every major farm organization opposes the proposed constitutional amendment.  So I’m pretty sure he’s not supporting I-75.

This would be the equivalent of handing (in perpretuity)  the proverbial “keys” to COGA  and Tri-State Generation and Transmission  (who funded the dumbest-of-all wars: the War on Rural Colorado). Tri-State also continues to support the construction of the mother-of-all disasters, the Holcomb Coal Plant (see also this story from 2011), tying a multi-billion-dollar noose around Colorado rural ratepayers, and effectively ending their ability to develop our local, renewable resources.  If you want to understand what a modern-day coal plant disaster looks like, one only needs to drive to Lamar.

The coal-fired power plant in Lamar. Photo/Allen Best

The coal-fired power plant in Lamar. Photo/Allen Best

This wasn’t an easy post to write—it’s the mental whiplash one experiences when you simultaneously ponder “what is” and “what could be.”  Not too long in the past, when we were represented by literally titans like Bev Bledsoe from Hugo, Bud Moellenberg from Yuma County, Fred Anderson from Loveland—and Governor Romer from Holly—rural Colorado had earned their due respect.  Today, we’ve let that feeling go up in smoke. Squandered, unnecessarily.

It would be difficult to call this as anything other than it is: “Secession Attempt, Part 2″.  The irony? Restoring Colorado in a practical way will happen at the exact moment we in rural Colorado are willing to embrace the fact we are not independent, but interdependent within our state’s diverse economy.

In the end, this idea will fall on the same sword that befelled last fall’s secession movement:  math.  Convincing Weld, Larimer, Boulder, Denver, Jefferson, Adams, Douglas, El Paso and Pueblo Counties to give up representation isn’t what you’d call an easy sell; they are the very counties whose votes we need to pass such an initiative.  The anti-headlines are already writing themselves.

That doesn’t mean conversations shouldn’t happen on how we rebuild these bridges. If it does nothing but bring Republicans and Democrats in to the same room to discuss our challenges and facilitate a grown-up conversation about the role of government in creating our opportunities, that would be a good start. If this idea ever does come to fruition, it will be because we’ve earned it; it will be because we’ve reestablished mutual trust and respect, and that we’ve demonstrated that we grasp the concept of our role in the large, diverse economy.  And perhaps in the middle of all of this we’ll experience a dose of weiji: “in the midst of every crisis, opportunity.”

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