Government reform, smoking on November ballot |

Government reform, smoking on November ballot

Kathy Heicher

EAGLE COUNTY – Eagle County voters are going to have a couple of extra ballot issues to study this year.The commissioners have set in motion two ballot questions. Voters will get to choose whether they want to expand the commission from three members to five, and whether smoking should be banned in bars, restaurants and perhaps other public places in incorporated parts of Eagle County, such as Eagle-Vail, Edwards and Beaver Creek. Both questions will appear on the November ballot.’Home rule’Currently, the organization of the county is governed by state statutes. Switching to what’s called ‘home rule’ would allow the county to re-write some of those rules, including electing five commissioners. County Commissioner Peter Runyon campaigned on a platform of pursuing home rule. He and fellow Commissioner Arn Menconi support increasing the board to five members. The theory is that five commissioners better represent voters. For example, it’s been a couple of decades since there was a commissioner from the Basalt-El Jebel area, or from Eagle or Gypsum.A home rule charter could also make changes in which county office-holders are elected. For example, the charter could specify that the county assessor or county coroner be appointed, rather than elected, as they are now. Menconi says the work load of commissioners is also a factor in the consideration of expanding the board.”The amount of work is much greater today than it was 10 to 20 years ago,” he said, noting commissioners attend many meetings outside of the county. “Our main goal is better representation.”Commissioner Tom Stone has not been a fan of the home rule concept, questioning the need for a change in county organization and voicing concerns about the cost of home rule.At a discussion last week, he said the issue would be more palatable if it were coming through a citizen initiative, rather than being introduced by the commissioners.”This has been top-down government at it’s worst,” he said, “…. it’s a solution in search of a problem.”Voters won’t actually be voting on home rule in November. Rather, they will decide whether Eagle County should form a Home Rule Charter Committee, and will choose the members of that committee. If voters approve a Charter Committee, that group will have 280 days to write a charter describing what the parameters of county home rule will be. Once the charter is drawn, it goes back to the voters, who can either accept or reject home rule.Smoke-free Eagle County?Another may have a chance to decide in November is whether they would like to see smoking restricted in parts of Eagle County.The vote would affect only un-incorporated Eagle County, such as Eagle-Vail, Edwards, Beaver Creek and Wolcott. Towns like Vail, Avon, Eagle and Gypsum would have to decide individually whether they want to pursue smoking bans. Among the Colorado Counties that have already become smoke-free are Arapahoe, Boulder, Broomfield, Clear Creek, Douglas, Gilpin, Hinsdale, La Plata, Larimer, Montrose, Pitkin, Pueblo, Summit, and Weld.The smoke-free ordinance, if approved, would ban smoking in public places, including restaurants, bars, and other public places.Menconi said that if the concept is approved by voters, he hopes the towns will follow with their own bans. Vail Daily reporter Cliff Thompson also contributed to this story.Vail, Colorado

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