GREELEY — Six years ago, Sean Conway was a leader of a small rebellion of rural counties that wanted to split from Colorado and form a 51st state.
The genesis of the movement was the collective feeling among rural voters that state Democratic lawmakers and the governor didn’t respect them. The changes Democrats made on gun control and renewable energy were just too much for the rural counties to handle.
The effort made a lot of headlines, yet it fizzled out after Weld County voters and others rejected the idea of seceding. Nevertheless, Conway, a Republican Weld County commissioner, saw the movement as a win.
“It was an outlet,” he said. “It was an ability for people to express concern” about the urban-rural divide.
The urban-rural divide: It’s a societal schism you’ve heard a lot about, a rift The Denver Post has covered at great length.
As Conway sees it, the divide in Colorado and around the nation is getting worse.
There is fresh evidence Conway is right to be worried. A new poll The Post published this morning underscores the very different perceptions voters in urban and suburban communities have compared to their rural peers.
Conway shared his fear and his mission to bring the state together with me and my colleagues when we visited Greeley this week as part of The Post’s listening tour. We’ll have more about what we heard in Sunday’s paper. Spoiler alert: Senate Bill 181, which rewrote the state’s oil and gas regulations, was a hot topic.
But back to Conway. The commissioner had conversations with leaders at the University of Denver, Colorado State University and Mayor Michael Hancock’s office to establish a working group of academics and communication specialists to bring representatives from both sides of the divide together to talk.
Conway and others involved acknowledged the merit of the idea — and that it didn’t go anywhere. Elections and leadership turnover have a funny way of getting in the way life.
“The work is on hold due to leadership changes in both universities and in the state,” Lea Cadieux associate vice chancellor of marketing and communications, said in an email. “However, DU is committed and we look forward to working on this in the future.”
And Alan Salazar, the mayor’s chief of staff, said Hancock was receptive to the idea and would be again. Salazar added that a larger coalition of individuals such as state Sen. Jerry Sonnenberg, who represents a sprawling section of the state’s Eastern Plains, and institutions such as Mesa State University in Grand Junction should be part of the conversation.
Conway committed to restart the conversation by the end of summer.
“This is too important,” Conway said. “I want to have something done before 2020.”
Welcome to The Spot, The Denver Post’s weekly political newsletter. I’m Nic Garcia, a political reporter at The Post. Keep the conversation going by joining our Facebook group today! Forward this newsletter to your colleagues and encourage them to subscribe. And please support the journalism that matters to you and become a Denver Post subscriber here. Send tips, comments and questions to email@example.com.
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5 days until the second Democratic presidential primary debate in Detroit; 9 days until the Iowa State Fair; 43 days until Polis recall petitions are due
Capitol Diary • By Anna Staver
Acting Gov. Garcia makes his mark
For five hours Thursday Senate President Leroy Garcia, a Pueblo Democrat, is Colorado’s acting governor.
Both Gov. Jared Polis and Lt. Gov. Dianne Primavera will be out of the state, and it’s protocol for whomever is next in line to take on the responsibilities of Colorado’s chief executive.
It’s a job Garcia takes seriously. He scheduled a public signing Thursday morning for two proclamations.
The proclamations, which Polis’ office said were cleared with the governor, create a day to honor the USS Pueblo and a week to commemorate the Colorado State Fair, which just happens to be held in Pueblo each year.
Other state political news:
- Colorado’s prison population was slated to set a record high. Now forecasters say that may not happen. Denver Post
- 10th Circuit reverses TABOR ruling, says lawsuit can challenge Colorado law’s constitutionality. Denver Post
- Polis calls for donations to fight recall attempt against him. Colorado Politics
Colorado in Washington • By Justin Wingerter
Rep. Buck’s great question
U.S. Rep. Ken Buck, the Windsor Republican and state GOP chairman, had one of the more important moments at Wednesday’s much-hyped Robert Mueller hearing before the House Judiciary Committee when he asked if the president could be charged with a crime after he left office.
The consistently coy Mueller answered in the affirmative.
Later, Mueller clarified that he wasn’t offering an opinion about whether President Trump should be charged later, merely saying a president could be.
But that didn’t stop Colorado Democrats from lavishing Buck with tongue-in-cheek praise, or what you might call praise-trolling.
The Colorado Democratic Party sent reporters a photo of party chair Morgan Carroll signing a thank you note to Buck. “Given that the investigation resulted in nearly 200 criminal charges already filed, it’s good for voters to know that Donald Trump soon could face legal consequences for his corruption after they vote him out of office in 2020,” Carroll said.
Progress Now Colorado started a hashtag – #thanksken – for the conservative congressman. A Rolling Stone headline framed it this way: “Republican Ken Buck Scores Massive Own Goal in Mueller Questioning.”
Only in partisan politics is a good question that elicited an important answer used against you.
Other federal political news:
John Aguilar reports: Both of Colorado’s U.S. senators teamed up this week to introduce a bill in Washington D.C., dubbed the Railroad Rehabilitation and Improvement Financing Equity Act, that would require the U.S. Department of Transportation to refund “credit risk premiums” to the Regional Transportation District to the tune of $28.9 million. What’s that, you say? That’s the money RTD put up years ago to cover the USDOT’s estimated risk exposure for the $155 million loan used to help finance the rebuild of Union Station nearly 10 years ago. RTD says it repaid the 30-year loan in 2017 — 21 years early — and now it wants the premiums back, with interest.
- For Coloradans who were at Ground Zero, relief comes with 9/11 fund vote (Denver Post)
- ICE director defends Aurora facility as members of Congress call for end to for-profit detention centers (Denver Post)
Mile High Politics • By Andrew Kenney
The Seattle to Denver pipeline
If you pay attention to Denver for long enough, you’ll start hearing about Seattle.
Here’s how it happens: You might be talking about housing, or traffic, or maybe the structure of government itself. The City Council is debating some new policy or another. Sooner or later, someone will say the magic words: “Well, you know what they’re doing in Seattle…”
Or maybe it’s Austin, or Portland, or San Francisco. Sometimes, they’ll go east — Minneapolis, lately, is an urbanist favorite.
Seattle, for example, puts city money into tiny home villages. Vancouver, B.C., hosts a supervised-use site where people can use injection drugs more safely. Minneapolis is doing away with single-family zoning, allowing medium-density housing across much more of the city.
Further abroad, urbanists look longingly to Barcelona, where voters recently banned many automobiles from the city center, or to Amsterdam, famous for its … bike lanes. (We already have their cannabis.)
It’s not unusual, of course, that a city would look to another city for inspiration or advice. It’s good policymaking to look for real-world examples from “peer cities.”
But people’s choices for comparison are telling. For instance, Denver isn’t looking to Aurora or Grand Junction for inspiration.
The Federal Reserve Bank of Chicago shows that Denver’s “peer cities” are sprinkled across the nation. Its housing market is similar to San Diego. Its economic outlook resembles those of Austin and Washington, D.C. On the “racial dissimilarity index” — a measure of geographic racial segregation — it scores closer to Southern cities like Raleigh.
Denver is an island. All of Colorado is changing, but Denver is entering a new phase of urbanism compared to the rest of the state. And so, when its legislators and reformers need new ideas, they look to other islands.
Other Denver political news:
- Mobility advocates got annoyed when the Rockies banned scooters and bikes, but it looks like scooters are here to stay. Denver Post
- The city is racing against private developers on gentrifying East Colfax. Denver Post
- Uber, Lyft and the A-Line are so popular that DIA is canceling parking expansion plans. Denver Post
- What does Canada goose meat taste like? Denver Post