D.R.: Home rule dead | VailDaily.com

D.R.: Home rule dead

Don Rogers

The tie-breaker settling home rule as a concept was settled by 355 votes. Eagle County will continue under the status quo of three commissioners and strict state control.

The voters said yes to home rule in November 2005 and elected a commission to write up a charter. Then they said no to the first draft of the charter. The commission surveyed the public, which showed a near 50-50 split in support for a home rule charter, and revised the charter to put forward once more.

That once more fit squarely with state law that provides for two chances before the commission’s attempts are exhausted.

But make no mistake, this version of the charter was very different from the first draft, which left the political parties out of the county election process. This one brought them back, and that’s a huge change ” nowhere near the same charter that was turned down before.

The turnout was great at around 40 percent for a mail-in election.

The charter ” actually the first charter ” would have improved Eagle County government, no question.

I hope the voters on balance made a clear decision to stay with the status quo because they did not see a compelling reason to change it ” and not for the scary exaggerations cooked up by a few people at the core of the local Republican Party. Their intent appeared to be to confuse things, which would always aid the cause of stopping something. These folks cared less for a fair debate than winning for the sake of their own egos, I belive.

I wish they had stayed above board arguing the charter on its merits rather than whatever weird scenario they could scare up. I’d have a lot more respect for this bunch if they did.

I can see the logic of arguing that there’s no truly compelling reason to increase the board to a normal size for every other board governing anything in America. I don’t agree with it, but I can see it.

Same with the ability for citizens to petition to put certain matters on election ballots. Why we wouldn’t want that seems odd to me, but I can see the argument that the system in place has trundled along without any obvious catastrophe.

One argument I would have made against the charter would have been that once adopted, it could be amended with the voters’ approval. That means that the political parties could be tossed out with the rest of the trash, and that citizens could gain the right to second guess big decisions on things like big developments. The towns ” governed by their own home rule charters, which are different than counties’ ” can do this now and I think that’s healthy.

Of course, that’s also a great argument for it. Give the people more true rights to participate in the big decisions.

Imagine the carping, for instance, if Vail’s citizens did not have the opportunity to weigh in on Crossroads?

The current clunky means of county governance will be OK, if particularly vulnerable to future personal feuds like we saw between now ex-Commissioner Tom Stone and current Commissioner Arn Menconi. I’m certain that a board of five would have contained their mostly petty crap from 2000 to January 2007, when Stone made his exit.

I’m pleased to say that Commissioner Peter Runyon does not seem to have the makeup to engage so personally with other commissioners. And Sara Fisher ” Stone’s successor ” has been a breath of fresh air.

Menconi is headed swiftly toward lame duck status as his second and last term winds down in 2008.

Maybe we’ll choose another commissioner who is unlikely to get caught up in personality clashes or invite them.

I sure hope so, because home rule is effectively dead. We’re going to have to lie in this bed.

The voters will need to get wise to some of those hardcore Republicans who go below the belt, too. They are celebrating tonight, but they ought to be ashamed of themselves.

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