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Why stop with the City and County of Saudi Aurora?

Published 30-Jul-1996 in the Denver Post
Copyright ©1996 by Ed Quillen. All rights reserved.

Lately I've heard about plans for a City and County of Aurora, and the idea makes sense. Colfax Avenue, the main drag of Aurora, is also the line between Adams and Arapahoe counties.

Before 1902, Arapahoe County stretched clear to Kansas, and it included present Adams County, as well as Denver, the county seat. Denver got to be a city-and-county. The north part went to new Adams County, while the eastern chunks were handed to Washington and Yuma counties.

These boundaries made sense in 1902 when Aurora held 202 people. There just weren't that many people to be confused by whether their county seat was in Brighton (for those north of Colfax) or Littleton (for those south).

But Aurora is now the third-largest city in the state, and it's divided between two court jurisdictions, two sheriff's departments, two zoning authorities, etc. That makes for complications, so why not a new city and county?

One problem results from Aurora imperialism, with designs to reach out even unto Watkins, where there is opposition. But Aurora could reduce its dream of manifest destiny and settle for a realm of reasonable dimensions.

I pass along one suggestion, this from Joan Fedyszyn, a friend who lives in Manhattan. She worked on a temporary job near DIA a few years ago. Bemused by the shortage of verdure, she called the place Saudi Aurora.

The City and County of Saudi Aurora has a nice ring to it, and I hope that Aurorans give it due consideration when the time comes.

But we shouldn't stop there when we adjust county boundaries. Colorado's population has grown by about 3 million people since 1913, and that's the last time the state added a county (Alamosa). The only adjustments since then have been annexations by the City and County of Denver.

Our county boundaries may have made sense a century ago, when travel was by rail or buckboard, but I doubt it. And some of them are worse than stupid today.

Take Basalt. It's between Glenwood Springs (24 miles away and seat of Garfield County) and Aspen (18 miles away and seat of Pitkin County). But it's in Eagle County, and Eagle, the seat, is 53 miles away.

Marble is about 45 miles from Glenwood, the closest county seat, but it's not in Garfield County. It's in Gunnison County, and Gunnison is 127 miles when the roads are good, which they often aren't.

Go 15 miles south of the city of Gunnison, and you're in Saguache County, whose seat is about 70 miles away. George Sibley of Gunnison has theorized that Gunnison County got Marble to make up for the parts of Saguache County that should be in Gunnison County, but sad to say, he hasn't presented any proof for this supposition.

Why should any Colorado citizen have to drive through another county seat when taking the shortest route to his own county seat?

The legislature should devote a session to adjusting county boundaries, and there would be other benefits, such as reduced geographic confusion.

Boulder is rightly in Boulder County, just as Gunnison is in Gunnison County, Ouray in Ouray, Montrose in Montrose, Delta in Delta, etc.

But Las Animas is in Bent County, not Las Animas County. Lake City is in Hinsdale County, not Lake County. Dolores is in Montezuma County, not Dolores County. Moffat is in Saguache County, not Moffat County. Kit Carson is not in Kit Carson County, but Cheyenne County (and Cheyenne is in Laramie County, while Laramie is in Albany County, which demonstrates that Wyoming can be just as stupid as Colorado).

Obviously, some new county names are needed, and besides, some current names confer an undeserved immortality.

Pore as I might through my references, I can find no reason why Lucius L. Weld, first territorial secretary of Colorado, should be enshrined on our map. The same holds for George A. Hinsdale, a lieutenant governor, and for R.O. Phillips, a land promoter.

Nor can I see why Gov. Frederick W. The Utes must go Pitkin deserves a county, when our history also offers Gov. Ralph L. Carr, who courageously stood for all Americans' rights during wartime hysteria.

Fairness also demands that we add about 218 counties in the process. In 1913, when the last of the current 63 counties was created, there were 13,317 Coloradans per courthouse. Maintaining that ratio now would require 281 counties, but we have to be forthright in facing the requirements of population growth.

Granted, a legislative session devoted to an overhaul of our antiquated county boundaries would keep the General Assembly away from its customary business of raising our taxes and restricting our liberties.

But it could be a boon for the state treasury. Once the lines are drawn, auction the names to the highest bidder. Why would any vain citizen settle for custom license plates when he could have a county?

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