Of the roughly 50 people who attended the first public meeting about a proposal to form the 51st state, nearly all indicated they are in support of seceding from Colorado -- an idea many acknowledged would be a tremendous feat.
Weld County commissioners on Thursday evening held the first of four meetings scheduled to allow public comment on issues surrounding their push to form a new state with other northeastern Colorado counties. At the Fort Lupton Recreation Center, all five commissioners laid out their concerns and proposed solutions regarding what they say is a lack of representation for rural voters.
"I think people, when they feel disenfranchised, when they feel that their voices are not being heard, I think that's a problem in a representative form of government," commissioner Sean Conway said.
Commissioners told the meeting's attendees they hope to put the 51st state initiative on the ballot come November, giving voters a chance to decide whether to start the secession process with the state. They said they're also considering a move to change the state's constitution and give rural counties more representation.
"We believe there's an attack on oil and gas," commissioner Barbara Kirkmeyer said. "We believe there's an attack on agriculture. I don't think those down in Denver understand any of it."
Commissioners pointed out several issues -- including water, energy production and education -- on which they see a disconnect between rural voters and urban legislators.
When asked for a show of hands, all residents at the meeting indicated that they think they're getting the short end of the stick on many of those major issues.
"I have an issue with urbanites thinking it's up to them to know what's best," Fort Lupton resident Elena Metro said. "I don't know what's best for them, and I don't think they know what's best for me."
The vast majority indicated they were all for adding the 51st state initiative to the Weld ballot. Still, some were skeptical that forming another state would be the best remedy. Area farmers voiced concern over seceding from the state that holds most of their water supply. Some said the more reasonable approach seems to be to push for more representation.
"I think it would serve us better to be more proactive," Fort Lupton resident Mary Martin said.
Jeff Hare, who started a Facebook page for the commissioner's plan to secede, said the idea of getting more representation at the state Capitol just isn't enough.
"It doesn't right the wrongs that have been happening," Hare said.
Commissioners and residents alike acknowledged that the secession process will be a complicated one. Meeting-goers urged commissioners to fully explain all aspects of their plan as they move forward.
Commissioners said they'll soon announce that they'll have the help of an educational institution in researching the logistics of forming a new state. They've scheduled three more public meetings in different parts of the county.
"I think this is a very important dialogue to have," Conway said. "I think it will hopefully allow us to better community with our folks in Denver." ___