Home rule: more or less representation? | VailDaily.com

Home rule: more or less representation?

John Colson
Vail, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY ” Those who think Eagle County would be better off as a home-rule county say the government will make better decisions, have better communication among the commissioners, and will give better representation to all county residents.

Opponents argue home rule is unnecessary, will make government more complicated, and has the potential to cause trouble within the county’s bureaucracy.

Voters are in the midst of a mail-only election campaign to determine whether the county should switch to home rule, as opposed to being governed by state statutes. It is the second time the county’s voters have been asked the question; voters rejected the idea last year.

Ballots are due back in the county clerk’s office no later than 7 p.m. on May 1.

If approved, the home rule charter, drawn up by a charter commission elected in 2005, would expand the Eagle Board of County Commissioners from three members to five. Each commissioner must live in the district which he or she will represent, and the commissioners will be elected at large as they have been historically.

The charter also calls for creation of a “redistricting committee,” which would redraw the five commissioner districts periodically, according to changes in population distribution. Further, the charter would allow county voters to have a direct effect on local government either by initiative or by referendum.

The one big change in the current proposal, say its proponents, is that partisan politics is retained in county elections. Parties were eliminated in the rejected charter.

Pitkin and Weld counties are both home rule, and the city and county governments of Denver and Broomfield also have opted out of rule by statute, according to Larry Kallenberger, executive director of Colorado Counties, Inc.

“In fact, I’ve been kind of surprised there aren’t more people interested in pursuing home rule,” Kallenberger said.

“Citizens For Home Rule” are campaigning in favor of the charter. “Citizens For Responsible Government “is against home rule.

“I don’t think that it’s necessary,” said former Eagle County commissioner Tom Stone, who has long opposed home rule.

He believes the charter sets up a complicated redistricting procedure that will actually diminish the representation offered to citizens of Eagle County who live in the Roaring Fork Valley.

Don Cohen, who chaired the home-rule charter commission, said Stone is throwing out “scare tactics” to confuse and distract voters.

“When you redistrict, it is almost impossible to get perfection,” Cohen said. “The charter does, however, require that representatives live within their district, and those communities will be very close to each other within the districts. It will still be a heck of a lot more fair than it is now.”

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