Editorial: When direct democracy works
Vail CO, Colorado
The United States was a pipsqueak of a nation in the 1780s. Even then, though, the people who wrote our constitution realized that direct democracy ” the stuff of old-style New England town meetings ” was too clunky a device even for a country that stretched just from Massachusetts to Georgia. That’s why we elect people to represent us ” on school boards, town councils and Congress ” and make decisions in our name.
Over the years, representative democracy has served our country pretty well. But direct democracy has both appeal and a legitimate place in American life.
In 1992, Colorado voters approved the Taxpayers Bill of Rights amendment to the state constitution. The appeal wasn’t in the pages of legalese and government gotchas that author Douglas Bruce wrote, but in a simple proposition: Government can’t raise taxes without voters’ direct approval.
While critics complain Bruce’s amendment has hamstrung state and local government over the years, supporters claim the law actually prevented Colorado from worse damage than it sustained in the most recent national recession.
State issues aside, direct democracy is sometimes the best way to settle tough civic questions.
Vail is most notable in the valley for putting matters to its residents, with voters giving a thumbs-down to a revised conference center plan and a go-ahead to the Solaris project in recent years.
A couple of local towns, Eagle and Minturn, will probably need to have their own civic questions answered by voters in the foreseeable future.
The Eagle Town Board is wrestling with the Eagle River Station proposal for property just east of town, and the Minturn Town Council is working on an annexation proposal by developer Bobby Ginn for basically the entirety of Battle Mountain.
Most of those representatives truly struggle to strike the best deal possible for their towns. But in situations where a town is going to grow several-fold, or the property on its front doorstep is subject to development, arguments about how, or whether, to allow construction can put a serious tear in the civic fabric.
That why we encourage leaders in both and Eagle and Minturn to make the best deal they know how to make with developers of Eagle River Station and Battle Mountain, then let voters decide.
These are times when they really need more advice from those they represent.
” Scott N. Miller for the Editorial Board
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