Craig The Bears Ears Tea Party Patriots held a public meeting Wednesday night to talk about the secession movement happening in Moffat County and in other parts of Colorado.
State Sen. Greg Brophy, R-Wray, and Jeffrey Hare — who founded the 51st State Initiative — were at the meeting to address questions and concerns voters have about seceding from the state.
Moffat County Commissioners John Kinkaid and Tom Mathers voted to put the secession question on the November ballot. Commissioner Chuck Grobe voted against it because he said there hadn’t been an opportunity for community input.
Roughly 70 people gathered at the Moffat County Fairgrounds Pavilion to weigh in on the topic.
Moffat County Farm Bureau President Glenda Bellio said she wanted more information about what secession would mean for Moffat County.
“We need to have information, and we need to get information out. Part of our mission as the Farm Bureau is to inform voters,” she said. This summer, Bellio put in her bid for Moffat County Commission in 2014.
The two keynote speakers had different takes on the issue. Hare is the leader of the secession movement and said he sees it as a way to challenge and change the existing government, whether that means through secession or through revamping the existing Colorado government.
“Either we have to have a new state or a new state government,” he said.
But Brophy, who is running for Colorado governor in the 2014 election, said he wants to unify Colorado.
Even though they had different ideas about the right approach, they continued to express support for each other.
“I don’t want to break the state up. I want to govern all of Colorado,” Brophy said.
But he applauded the message that the 51st State Initiative would be sending to Denver.
He wants to work on creating a more unified Colorado, but he said, “I’m damn proud of the people who are fighting" for secession.
Hare expressed conflicting feelings. Waiting for the right legislator to come along and make the right vote doesn’t always work, he said.
“Now is the time to organize, and now is the time to fight,” Hare said. “If there’s any hope for Colorado to turn around, (we need a) legislative model of change.”
Hare also took an opportunity to answer practical questions about what secession would mean. Because legal secession requires a new state to be connected, he said the new state likely would have an odd shape with an isthmus border to connect Moffat County to the northeastern counties.
One concern that has created buzz regarding secession is what might happen to water rights in the county.
As for water rights, Hare assured the audience that they don’t need to worry.
“It’s good to hear that it doesn’t matter where the snow falls, it’s still your property,” Kinkaid said.
While Brophy kept insisting he wanted to pull Colorado together, he also expressed admiration for the principles that could develop in the 51st state.
“If ultimately this happened, this is effectively 'Atlas Shrugged.' This becomes a mecca for entrepreneurs from all over America,” he said.
Eleven counties currently are involved in the 51st State Initiative, and Hare said he will continue traveling to other counties to encourage them to put the referendum on the ballot.
Erin Fenner can be reached at 970-875-1794 or efenner@CraigDailyPress.com.