Exploring home rule would be good for Eagle County
Why should we explore home rule?
Because doing so makes good business sense. Not only is this an opportunity for us to look at different, and perhaps better ways of doing business at our local level, but there are actually 21 interested community members, (11 of which we voters will select through this mail ballot election), who are willing to put in the time and energy to take a good look at something that has been talked about in Eagle County for decades.
The commission we voters are electing will serve for 240 days. The people we elect will look at a variety of management options available to us under home rule. At the end of the eight months, we voters will be given the task of either adopting the charter that is proposed to us or we will vote against it and continue doing business as we do today.
The options available under home rule that seem most advantageous to me include increasing the number of county commissioners from three to five, dividing the county into five commissioner districts instead of the three we have now, and making the elected county official races non-partisan contests.
The majority of the counties in our state who experience our kind of growth both in development and in population already have larger commissions guiding their decision making. Counties and cities across America, as well as here in Colorado, understand that three-person boards are often less effectual and more divisive than those of five or more.
We have a variety of concerns that we share as a county, but we also have concerns that are closer to home. Twenty percent of our county’s population actually lives in the Roaring Fork Valley, and they are happy that they do. These people deserve to be represented by commissioners they know and people who live in their communities. Looking at upgrading our system to accommodate and address the concerns of all of our citizens seems like a very reasonable thing to do.
Taking partisanship out of our local races would broaden our selection of candidates and provide greater opportunity for those who are not party aligned to have a voice and representation in our county government. Finding consensus is challenging enough, but by reducing the barriers that impede communication between our elected officials, (i.e., labels and party agendas) we open up opportunity for better dialogue and better understanding of the challenges we are facing now and those we will face in the years to come.
Yes, there will be some additional costs associated with this project, however, the home rule charter commission (those 11 people we are electing this fall) will not be paid for their efforts nor for the hours they will spend working on our behalf. Their travel related expenses and the expenses that will be incurred by county staff to provide technical, legal and administrative support will end up costing approximately $200,000 or 0.2 percent of the county’s annual budget. This figure covers the cost from now through the election when we will vote on the proposed charter. The price tag seems inconsequential when you consider that we might end up with better representation, better dialogue and a better Eagle County for the effort.
Please join me and vote YES on 1A and vote for the commission members who you think will serve us well through this process. Call these candidates, read the papers, and think outside of the “one-size-fits-all” box. Rather than just talk about it for another twenty years, let’s see if home rule is the right choice for Eagle County and if now is the right time for change.
Sara Fisher is a Gypsum resident and the treasurer for Citizens for Choice in Government.
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