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Home rule attacks turn slimy

Don Cohen

It’s official. The naysayers of home rule have finally revealed themselves publicly (well, at least sort of). There’s a series of misleading radio spots that seem to be fronted by a Denver law firm and a recent column in this newspaper by some former, and one soon-to-be former, elected officials.I find it hard to understand the virulent criticism and ethically questionable tactics of this small group of opponents. The first thing that hit me was that these people, who are former elected officials, are the ones clamoring for the status quo. So why do two of our currently serving commissioners and all three of the candidates for the open commissioner’s seat all think the home rule charter is a good thing? They see the potential for a better way of governance for the county.We had expert legal guidance throughout the process of writing the charter and have had legal review by lawyers outside of the process. Their consensus expert legal opinion thoroughly discredits the opponents’ assertions that the charter takes power away from the commissioners.I could go on, but enough of exploding the myths and innuendos. Let me take you inside the charter commission, where you can find the heart and soul of a dedicated group of people who spent months working hard to do the right thing.In our first meeting, each of our 11 elected members spoke about what their expectations about writing a charter were. The remarkable thing about everyone’s comments was that there was a belief that the group was capable of writing a charter, but many openly said that they could envision a situation where a charter was completed, but that they might not endorse it. It was a definite sense of “we’ll write the recipe, cook the meal, but might not eat it if we don’t like the peas.” I think it was that remarkable commitment to honesty that set the tone for the rest of our work.A few days ago I had the great opportunity to participate in a Vail Leadership Institute program that introduced us to Stephen M.R. Covey and his new book “The Speed of Trust.” As I listened to Mr. Covey’s presentation and subsequent group discussions about the value of trust, I kept thinking about how our charter commission operated. We had a monumental task ahead of us that seemed daunting, and absolutely no road map to guide us through the process. We all had to make a leap of faith and trust one another.In my business career I’ve worked with a variety of groups, and, as I’ve told many others, it was breathtaking how quickly the entire charter commission developed a sense of trust and respect between all of us.Even more significantly, the trust we developed between ourselves extended outward to the citizens of our county. Prior to being elected, we heard the mission loud and clear: expand the board to five commissioners, provide better geographic representation and take partisan politics out of the process. We knew that to keep our trust with Eagle County voters we needed to write a charter that reflected these desires. We also knew that outside of these changes, it was critical that we trust the value of the governance system that’s already in place and make sure the charter would not fundamentally change it.Not once were there heated words. Not once did anyone leave in disgust. Not once did anyone throw up their hands and say, “It can’t be done.” It was a collaborative trust that by the end of the months-long process resulted in a completely unanimous support of the final charter document.If you’re not an expert on municipal law, it’s reasonable to expect that you’re going to have to make an election decision based on trust. The question is: Do you trust a small group who’s looking behind them at the past, or a larger group who have their eyes on the future?Don Cohen served as chairman of the Home Rule Commission and is a member of Citizens for Home Rule.Vail, Colorado


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