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A very bad idea

Dick Gustafson

Every few years the question about “home rule” for Eagle County is recycled. I guess I shouldn’t be surprised, but I’m always disappointed. Especially now since it reached the ballot. Few have a sense of history. The home rule issue is one that was thoroughly researched in the middle 1980s by Colorado Counties Inc. (the official organization of county commissions in Colorado). After extensive review of the laws pertaining to the subject, a study determined that counties benefit far greater by being a “statutory” county, as Eagle County currently is, rather than being a home rule county. It should be obvious that there are only two counties that have ventured into this quagmire and most regret the decision to do so. Weld and Pitkin counties are the only true home rule counties in Colorado. Both of the county attorneys of the Weld and Pitkin counties have recommended that Eagle county AVOID home rule. Most counties have been wise enough to see the problems and have avoided them. The common misperception is that the powers granted to home rule counties are similar to those powers granted to home rule municipalities, such as Vail. Nothing could be further from the truth. Municipalities have far greater powers to self govern under home rule. Home rule counties are far more restricted by the state and are better off to remain statutory. The state Legislature controls the counties. If the present is similar to the past, the Legislature basically does not trust commissioners. It, therefore, retains control over how the counties operate, be they statutory or home rule. The argument always surfaces that home rule status gives a county the “opportunity” to increase the number of commissioners. The one thing that guarantees is that the taxpayer will pay more for government. Consider the need for additional offices, salaries, benefits, expenses and wasted time. Also, whenever you select a committee to design a “race horse,” the degree of ugliness of the resulting “camel” is directly proportionate to the number of members on the committee. The greater the size of the committee, usually, the worse the results. One great flaw in the thinking of the people proposing home rule for the purpose of increasing the number of commissioners that it is assumed that a larger committee will be “wiser” and therefore will govern with greater acumen. Unfortunately, this is often not the case. If the electorate wants better government, it should elect better qualified, experienced, knowledgeable, candidates. It should do its homework, monitor the election process, and elect candidates without personal agenda. If the electorate is unhappy with the decisions made by its elected officials, it has none to blame but itself.Incompetence does not decrease by adding additional incompetents. If an uninformed electorate is fortunate enough to accidentally elect two qualified additional commissioners, they will still be burdened with the existing commissioners. Only their votes will be diluted. Government will be less manageable. Everyone will want their sound bite, thus extending every decision. The result will be a very ugly camel, indeed.When you are displeased with your government, it is better to change the elected officials rather than change the form of government. The latter is the option of last resort.There are two better solutions for an electorate that is unhappy with its elected officials:– Elect qualified commissioners at the next election.– Recall the current commissioners if you can’t wait.My personal feelings about elected officials are as follows:1. I never trust an elected official who changes the rules in the middle of a process to accomplish a decision based upon his/her personal agenda; i.e., changing the budget processes and wasting prudently accumulated emergency reserves; i.e., state of Colorado and Referendums C and D.2. I never trust an elected official who does not respect the fact that the money he gives away or spends belongs to the taxpayers, not to him or an emotional minority.3. I never trust an elected official who choreographs hearings to support predetermined decisions.4. I never trust an elected official who forces hasty decisions or rushes to judgment. The lack of planning by others should not create an urgency for the board. 5. I never trust an elected official whose votes are inconsistent with the facts and prior precedence. (Example: Giving money for “new” open space, destroying previously designated open space for employee housing; i.e., The Edwards 5th Filing.6. I never trust an elected official who spends or wastes your money for his-her agenda.7. I rarely trust a decision by consensus. The more officials involved in a decision, the worse the decision. The most wasteful organization is the federal government. There are just too many compromises and egos to satisfy. The smaller the government, the better.8. I never trust an elected official who wants to increase the size of government and who spends your money to cover the cost. Less is better.In summary: Home rule for Eagle County is a bad idea. Increasing the number of commissioners to five, or more, is a worse idea. VOTE AGAINST IT. It is better to elect those who are looking out for you and your property.Dick Gustafson is a former Eagle County commissioner.Vail, Colorado


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