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Front Page » November 5, 2013 » Opinion » Splits may not solve old problems
Published 351 days ago

Splits may not solve old problems


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By RICHARD SHAW

It seems it is an American tradition to get mad at your neighbors who you don't think reflect your feelings very well and to ask for a change. When it comes to those next door, you can just move. When it comes to those living in a different part of the state, well some say maybe you should just elect to not be a part of them.

That is what is happening in northern Colorado this week. Today, on the ballot in 11 counties there, is a measure that will ask the county commissioners of those counties to start action to create a new state. I would guess they would name the state Northern Colorado if it happened, but then who knows.

A number of people in those counties think that the Denver metroplex doesn't serve them well. The views of these rural counties is so very different from that of many of the city folk that they feel like pulling away and having their own government as well as representation in Washington D.C. would be appealing.

Problem is, doing that is a long and arduous process, one that even if 100 percent of the people in the northern part of the state were for it, it would probably not happen. The hoops that a group of people have to go through to reach statehood are pretty difficult.

The vote this election day is only one place where this kind of movement is happening. Parts of Michigan and northern California feel the same way. And so do some around here.

For years, there has been talk of forming another state out of everything east of the Wasatch and west of the Front Range in Colorado into a separate state that would better serve the needs of the mostly rural communities on the Colorado Plateau. In fact the movement even had a name for the state at one time: Utopia.

From what I can discern the movement started in the 1930s and has been resurrected a number of times. In fact, I remember something was said about it only a few years ago.

Making a new state (or states) out of an existing state is nothing new. It has happened before. For instance Kentucky and Tennessee were once part of North Carolina. And of course there is Virginia and West Virginia.

So let's imagine a Utopia. Let's say the people here, in Vernal, Moab, Montrose, Grand Junction, Steamboat Springs and Craig all decided it would be a good idea. And let's say that the Colorado and Utah state legislatures agreed and Congress went along with it (both pretty unlikely). What would that state look like?

Well it would end on the south just north of Shiprock, N.M. and stretch over to the border of Kane county on the west. It would follow the spine of the Boulder Mountains, the Wasatch Plateau, and the western parts of the Uinta Mountains up to the Wyoming border. From there, it would stretch to Steamboat Springs and back down along the western edge of the Rocky Mountains and into Cortez.

Major cities would include Grand Junction, Craig, Montrose, Steamboat Springs, Vernal, and Price. It would include literally all of San Juan, Grand, Wayne, Emery, Carbon, Duchesne and Uintah counties in Utah.

Where would the capitol of the new state be? Good question, but Grand Junction would be the largest city while Price would be more central. Certainly there would be squabbling over this. Vernal and Steamboat Springs might also want that honor.

What would we have in such a state? Well there would be less than a million people in it, a lot like the size of Utah in the early 1950s. It would have huge energy deposits of oil, gas, coal and uranium. There would be other minerals too. Agriculture would be important and the tourism industry would certainly be a big deal as well. After all, it would encompass a number of national parks and monuments along with many state parks.

As for politics, it would almost certainly be very conservative if judged by the votes that come out of the area for national offices. The most conservative area would probably be the Uintah Basin although some parts of what is now Colorado would be nearly the same. Liberal areas? Probably Steamboat Springs and a bit from Grand Junction. If it happened right now, at the federal level we would have two senators (as every state does) and one congressman representing us in Washington D.C.

Some parts of the area that Utopia would encompass are growing like crazy. The Uintah Basin and Grand Junction are two of them. Steamboat Springs also is growing. The distribution of population is one sided. Grand Junction proper has about 60,000 people with the metro area approaching 100,000. Montrose has about 19,000 while Steamboat has about 12,000. Vernal has near 10,000. Craig has about 9,000. Cortez has about 8,500. Price is a little under 10,000.

All these communities are largely disgusted by the way the Denver/Salt Lake dominated governments run the state in one way or another. I have often heard people say we have a lot more in common with Grand Junction or Craig than we do with Salt Lake.

Personally, I wouldn't like the name Utopia. More importantly though I think we in smaller communities would start to feel the same way about the bigger communities from what is now within the Colorado border that we do about the upstate towns in Utah now.

I know there is a lot of concern about the fact that we in rural Utah are losing our clout in the legislature because we are mostly getting smaller and the big cities are getting bigger. But maybe there is another answer other than trying to pull away from Utah.

I have often heard many people say we need a constitutional convention for the United States to do things like make campaign contributions illegal so that big money players won't have so much sway in elections. Maybe we need one in the state of Utah.

There are a lot of issues and changes that need to be made to guarantee that small rural areas are not taken advantage of or so they are not run over all the time. One way would be to have every county in the state represented by one senator. There would be no more senatorial districts that cross over county lines. That would help rural areas to have more control over what happens.

The idea of dividing our communities from our states and then dividing again until we get to what amounts to what they had in ancient Greece thousands of years ago (city states) sounds appealing in some ways. But it also has its shortcomings.

We are still all Americans. And in our case we are Utahns. We need to work to change things within rather than scrap what we have for an unknown that will have its own set of problems.

Still, what happens in northern Colorado will be interesting to watch.

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November 5, 2013
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