Home Rule could get a second chance
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE COUNTY ” A revised version of the home rule charter ” which its authors Thursday called jokingly “the best charter in the history of the world,” ” is just one week away from either going to a vote of the people or dying once and for all.
In what was described as a “gut check,” the Home Rule Commission decided Thursday to make some changes to the home rule charter that was rejected by voters in November and try to put it back on the ballot.
“What we don’t want is to say, ‘Here it is, again, read it over more carefully this time,” said Don Cohen chairman of the citizens’ commission that wrote the charter. “We need to focus on what the public has said they want changed and on the direction we would like to see this document go.”
What happens next week will determine whether home rule gets a second chance. The citizens commission Thursday voted to ask the Board of County Commissioners to hold a special meeting next week to give final approval to putting the reform proposal before voters in a special spring election. If the commissioners don’t meet or vote not to return the proposal to the ballot, this version of home rule is dead.
If the county commissioners vote to grant a special election, ballots will be mailed to county voters on April 2 and the votes will be tallied on May 1.
The heart of the proposal remains expanding the board of county commissioners from three to five members.
But the most unpopular part of the original charter ” the removal of political parties from county elections ” has been eliminated, Cohen said.
That means whether home rule is approved or not, the Democratic and Republican parties will still nominate candidates for vacancies and party-affiliated hopefuls will be allowed to petition their way on to the primary ballot. The top vote-getters from each party, along with any independents, compete in the general election.
“It’s too bad they took out the party affiliations change because that was the most important part,” said former county commissioner Michael Gallagher, who was not a member of the citizens committee. “So many candidates think the parties are the most important part and it’s not. I just don’t think I can support it without the parties being removed from the equation.”
If home rules gets on the ballot and is approved, an election for the new commission seats wouldn’t be held until 2008, because there wouldn’t be enough time for voters to select candidates and or for officials to order general election ballots by this November, said Gerry Dahl, legal advisor to the home rule commission.
“The only thing about having the election in 2008 is that the only commissioner retaining their seat is Sara (Fisher), so we would have four people running for a seat,” Cohen said. “That would create a turnover of four at once in future elections, and that stops me in my tracks.”
To prevent that, the new charter proposal says the winning candidate who in the 2008 election receives the fewest votes would serve a two-year term.
The move to five commissioners is to give the county as a whole greater and more equal representation, and remote areas of the county, such as Basalt, would gain a voice, Cohen said.
“Life as you know it is not going to change,” Dahl said. “You already have districts, there will just be more of them.”
Giving the voters a second opportunity to make a decision on home rule is something the commission feels they are morally obligated to do, commission member Kara Heide said.
“We have all heard the ‘What part of no don’t you understand’ argument, but that is not representative of what we are doing,” Heide said. “Giving this our due diligence means taking a second look at it, revising where needed and bringing it back to the voters as we are allowed to do under the law.”
Gallagher, the former commissioner, said one ‘no’ vote is sufficient.
“What they were trying to do may have been a good thing, but it should not have been brought back again after November,” Gallagher said. “Does anybody else in the valley get four or five votes on the same thing?”