No 51st state, but researchers laud “Weld County model”

Weld County, big, oil-rich, and self-confident, the birthplace of last year’s secession movement, still wants bragging rights over its neighbors, even though voters squelched the 51st state idea. That’s the implication of a research report

commissioned by Weld’s board of commissioners and released last week by the Centennial Institute, Colorado Christian University’s think tank.

Grassroots Government in Colorado: How Does Weld County Compare? is a 95-page study comparing Weld’s economic and fiscal condition, public administration, budgeting, and citizen satisfaction against those of five counties similarly situated – Larimer, Boulder, El Paso, Pueblo, and Mesa. It was initiated under contract with the commissioners last September and completed this March. Read the report.

The client’s performance of its governmental mission “compares very favorably with peer counties on most objective measurements,” Centennial Institute researchers concluded. “And Weld residents subjectively register more satisfaction with life in the county than Coloradans in most other locales.”

Weld County also asked the researchers to “determine the transferability of [our] model to other govern-ments.” The recommendation by one of them, Bob Brooks, who formerly headed the Colorado Department of Local Affairs, was that “local governments everywhere would do well to replicate” the Weld model.

Along with Brooks, who now teaches political science at CU-Denver and management at CCU, the research team included Barry Poulson, emeritus professor of economics at CU-Boulder, and Todd Vitale, a Denver-based opinion pollster. John Andrews, director of the Centennial Institute and former president of the Colorado Senate, headed up the study. Read the report.

“Findings in the Colorado comparative counties study were developed independently without prescription by the client, Weld County,” said Andrews. “We had full and unfettered access to county files as well as 20 hours of candid confidential interviews with county personnel.”

But the study’s observations and conclusions do not address the secession issue, Andrews made clear. “The 51st state notion was mainly a thought experiment anyway,” he said, “so its political and fiscal merits weren’t in our purview.”

“However the flurry over a number of counties potentially seceding did trigger a debate over whether some localities are better governed than Colorado as whole – and the Weld commissioners have certainly kept the debate going by authorizing us to publish this report,” Andrews added.

Grassroots Government in Colorado: How Does Weld County Compare? is available online to read or download free of charge. The print edition, $20 postpaid, can be ordered by emailing Centennial@ccu.edu or by calling 303.963.3424.

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