County made the right choice
Vail CO, Colorado
Although the issue is behind us now, one feels it important to provide a reflection of the home rule episode. I reject notions that this vote was one of little consequence; the vote taken was of historic nature for the entire state. With that in mind, one presents an overview of the episode, its historical nature, and future consequences, not just for Eagle County, but for the entire state of Colorado.
The proposed home rule charter outlawed all public referenda towards land use and budget. In addition, Amendment 27 of the state constitution protects home rule entities from campaign finance reform laws, meaning that county commissioner candidates could solicit anonymous contributions without enforced spending limits.
Thus, any corporation and/or individual would have the ability to purchase all seats and enact any kind of tax use and eminent domain that would empower various development projects around the county.
While proponents had us believing that the public would have more rights, they failed to highlight the fact that we had no rights when it came to holding our commissioners accountable over decisions involving land and taxes.
The current system of governance is a proper one because our commissioners are forced to report all personal contributions, in addition to exercising contribution limits. In effect, a system of accountability is already in place with public reporting. Without that system though, our good county could easily fall victim to the large pockets of a major corporation and/or individual. In essence, that fact alone is what made the proposed home rule initiative an inherently broken system of governance.
There were benefits to the home rule charter that many celebrated, though. The opportunity for ballot initiatives to be brought up more easily attracted many. In addition, the additional representation that would be provided to the Roaring Fork Valley also appealed to the public. However, such benefits came with a high price.
I do not know of a single pro-home rule voter who cited “the inability to challenge the county commissioners over eminent domain land stealing,” as a reason as to why he/she favored home rule. In addition, I also do not know of any pro-voters who told me “I want to give my county commissioner candidates an opportunity to solicit limitless contributions from any corporation” as a reason of support.
While many welcomed the benefits of home rule, none took heart of the dictatorial sections of the charter. If the issues of representation and voter rights remain causes that are important to the people of our good county, then those causes should be taken up outside of the home rule charter.
So it may sound absurd, but the historic nature of this vote cannot be undermined.
Mark my words, in the coming years we will witness the proposing of home rule in Routt County (Steamboat Springs), Summit County (Breckenridge), San Miguel County (Telluride), among other counties with ski resorts and outdoor recreation. The reason why is because home rule is heaven for a crooked land developer. Our episode will be historic because the campaign here exposed the benefits and weaknesses of the proposed home rule legislation, giving a rich background of debate towards any future proposals.
With that said, it is imperative that our state government include home rule entities under Amendment 27 of our state constitution. Current home rule entities could be exempt, but future ones must not be. We deserve a system that guarantees the public notification of all campaign contributions to home rule entity candidates, in addition to enforced contribution limits. Without it, future home rule entities could fall victim to outright purchase.
And lastly, proponents of the home rule charter are calling foul over the campaign. It was my good friend, Don Cohen, a writer of the proposed home rule charter, who called the campaign a “nasty” one. With all due respect to Cohen, I would like to offer some ketchup for his foot.
The $10,000 that the proponents of home rule raised was spent on a Web site that character-assassinated opponents of home rule, including Tom Stone, Mike Reid, and myself. Tom Edwards, another home rule charter author, also penned an article in our good Vail Daily that opened with defamations against home rule opponents.
And lastly, it was my good friend Cohen who publicly wrote that my personal arguments against home rule were “spoon fed” to me by outside sources. It is of note that the opponents of home rule never participated in character assassination. Our limited funds were spent highlighting intellectual disagreements against home rule, not defamation against any home rule supporters.
In conclusion, the “nasty” nature of this campaign is, indeed, the real story here.
Exposed to the spotlight of debate, the proponents of home rule, despite claiming many high-profile county individuals, chose to spend the majority of their debate using character assassination, not intellectual response, as their main tool of rebuttal. The action was reflective of the fact that the weak points of the proposed home rule charter were impossible to defend.
After all, how can the outlawing of public referenda towards budget and land use be effectively argued? Or try selling the idea that corporations and labor unions are now free to give limitless and anonymous contributions to home rule entity candidates? Personally, I feel sorry for my home rule proponents because they had no choice but to resort to personal attacks, an action that alienated voters.
But with that said, the episode is of past history now.
I personally hold no grudge to any of the home rule proponents that I debated with and as Jesus Christ would instruct me, I heartily forgive and forget all forms of character assassination that were leveled. Yet, I hold one request:
My home rule proponent friends ” please don’t bring this issue up again.
May peace and love be upon you all!
Muhammad Ali Hasan of Beaver Creek writes a biweekly column for the Vail Daily. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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