County to vote again on home rule?
EAGLE ” Even though voters rejected home rule last year, it seems they like a lot of things about the proposed government reform.
But whether there’s enough support to justify another election on the issue remains undecided.
According to a new survey, voters like the idea of five commissioners instead of three. That would have been one of the most significant changes if voters had approved a measure last fall that would have converted Eagle County into a home-rule government.
“We don’t get a strong sense of why they voted ‘no’ except maybe that it was confusing and they needed more information,” said Kathy Chandler-Henry, a member of the Home Rule Charter Commission.
In November, 53.5 percent of voters rejected home rule. But state law allows the proposal to return to voters in the same form or in a revised version.
The drafters of the home rule charter are now trying to decide whether to bring it back to voters in a special election. They commissioned the $4,500 survey, which polled 400 voters, to gauge people’s opinions on home rule.
Chandler-Henry said the survey gives her enough evidence to support another election on home rule.
“It seems we ought to do a better job of explaining it and put it back on the ballot,” she said.
Perhaps the commission needs to revise the part of the proposal that takes party affiliations out of county politics, Chandler-Henry said.
Most survey respondents said they didn’t agree that county officials should be elected without political-party identification.
The survey didn’t include residents from the Roaring Fork Valley, where most voters supported the proposal. Home rule would provide a commissioner for the isolated corner of the county that’s in the Roaring Fork Valley.
Opponents of home rule say the voters’ decision should be respected.
“What people are saying is ‘We kind of like those ideas, but we don’t want to go to home rule to do that,'” said Tom Stone, a former county commissioner and an opponent of home rule.
The aims of home rule can be achieved without reforming the government, Stone said. Two more commissioners can be added once the county’s population exceeds 70,000, which is expected to happen in the next few years.
Even with 49.75 percent of respondents saying they think the county should have five commissioners, that’s not enough to justify another election, Stone said. Supporters will need to get at least 65 percent of voters saying they want five commissioners because once a campaign starts, opponents will erode the support, he said.
“Those results are not decisive enough to run home rule again,” Stone said.
In the poll, 62.75 percent of voters said they had enough information to understand the ballot issue thoroughly.
“If 62 percent said they had enough information, that was an informed vote,” Stone said.
A special election, at a cost of as much as $50,000, shouldn’t happen, Stone said.
“It doesn’t make sense,” he said. “The voters spoke very convincingly that they did not want to go to home rule.”
The commission will hold its next meeting at 6 p.m. Monday at the Eagle County Building in Eagle to discuss the prospects of another election.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.