Eagle County plans to ask voters two questions
August 10, 2010
EAGLE, Colorado – Eagle County voters this fall will be asked about medical marijuana and county commissioners’ term limits.
The Eagle County Commissioners Tuesday took a step, but not the final one, toward putting the questions on this fall’s ballot.
The term limits question would ask voters to give commissioners a maximum of three terms in office instead of the current two. This will be the third time county voters have been asked about term limits for local elected officials since a statewide term limits law passed in the 1990s.
The first attempt, not long after voters passed the state law, would have exempted all county officials from the law. It failed. A second attempt exempted county officials except the county commissioners. That measure passed.
While all three commissioners support the measure, Commissioner Peter Runyon has led the effort this time. And, while anti-government sentiment is running high throughout the country this year, Runyon said this might actually be a good year to ask voters to extend term limits.
Runyon is the first of the current board who might be affected, and not for another two years. He’s also said he’ll retire after completing his current term, his second.
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Runyon said he believes experience and connections matter for county commissioners, and another four-year term would give voters the chance to have more effective representatives.
Commissioner Sara Fisher, who is seeking re-election this fall, also spent eight years as Eagle County Clerk and Recorder before being forced out by term limits in 2002, the year county voters exempted her job from term limits.
“Term limits already exist – they’re called elections,” Fisher said, adding that she would only serve two terms if re-elected this fall.
“This isn’t a referendum on any of us,” Commissioner Jon Stavney said. “It’s not hugely important, but it ought to be considered.”
The ballot question asking whether or not to ban medical marijuana dispensaries may generate more heat.
As the dispensary business has blossomed since last year, the Colorado Legislature this year passed a pair of new laws requiring those businesses to be licensed and allowing local governments to either regulate them or ban them outright.
The ballot question this fall will ask voters if dispensaries should be banned in unincorporated Eagle County. The county’s towns are allowed to set their own regulations. Eagle is the only town in the county with operating dispensaries right now.
The state constitutional amendment that allowed medical marijuana use passed with 70 percent of the vote in Eagle County 10 years ago, but the commissioners said recently changes may have changed some voters’ opinions.
“If the current situation had been contemplated then, I think that vote would have been closer,” Runyon said. “At this point we don’t know what the voters want.”
Unlike the term limits question, the dispensary ballot issue won’t have the force of law. If voters approve the ban, the commissioners would then have to pass a resolution to do that. But all three commissioners said they’d follow the voters’ wishes, one way or the other.
Business Editor Scott N. Miller can be reached at 970-748-2930 or firstname.lastname@example.org.