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Home rule defeated again

Alison Miller
Vail, CO Colorado
Preston Utley/Vail DailyMike Gallagher drops off his home rule ballot Monday in Avon. When all the votes were county Tuesday, the government reform proposal had been rejected for the second time in six months.
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EAGLE COUNTY” What your mom always told you ” that no means no ” really is true.

At least that’s how 52 percent of Eagle County voters felt when they turned down home rule for a second time.

The move to home rule was defeated by 355 votes, with 3,819 people voting against and 3,464 voting for the proposal to expand the board of county commissioners and allow voters to place issues on the ballot.

“I expected it would be turned down again,” said Dick Gustafson, former county commissioner and home rule opponent. “I give the voters a lot of credit. They are smart people. You can’t repackage the same thing and pass it off as different.

“The voters are not stupid, they know they already voted the same thing down once,” he said.

Supporters of the initiative said they are satisfied with the outcome.

“While it was a very close vote, there’s good news here in that it says that Eagle County voters are pretty satisfied with the way we govern ourselves,” said Don Cohen who helped write the home rule charter. “There were those who said ‘no means no,’ but I’m glad that the Home Rule Charter Commission didn’t let those voices steal an opportunity for the full and fair community discussion that never really occurred in the November election with a full ballot and polarizing issues.”

The 7,283 votes cast represent 43 percent of the ballots mailed out, a high turnout for a special election. The county was expecting about 30 percent to 35 percent of the ballots to be returned, Clerk and Record Teak Simonton said.

This is the end of the home rule issue for now, Cohen said.

In order to bring the issue back again a new home rule charter committee would have to be elected or the county’s population would have to reach 75,000.

“I hope that after two times they would get the message,” Gustafson said. “It appears to me the taxpayers got screwed this time just by having to pay for this second election.

“People were and are irritated that the commissioners are not listening to them,” he said. “Just look at what they are doing with the child care stuff the voters turned down.”

The special election had an ugly side, Cohen said.

“The one dark spot, which showed up during the last election was the nasty win-at-any-cost claims by the opposition,” Cohen said. “I think the voters saw through the fallacy of their claims, but still chose to stick with our tried-and-true government.”

The next time there is a hotly debated issue in an election, Cohen said he hopes there will be less tolerance for “nasty” campaigning.

Throughout the campaign, both sides took shots at each other during a highly publicized election, Gustafson said.

Former county commissioner Tom Stone, a staunch home rule opponent, said the money spent on the election showed voters have truly rejected home rule.

“I think it significant that the people who campaigned for it outspent the opposition three-to-one, but the voters were well informed and made a good decision anyway,” Stone said.

Staff writer Alison Miller can be reached at 748-2928 or armiller@vaildaily.com.


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