Let’s give home rule a chance | VailDaily.com

Let’s give home rule a chance

Don Rogers

There are no guarantees. Of course. But haven’t we had enough yet with Eagle County’s tug-of-war in the commissioners’ chambers this century?One near-lockstep majority of just two commissioner freezes the odd man out. The odd man gains one political ally and the table turns completely. Not necessarily for the better. Just overturned. Perhaps rule by personality conflict will pass as the personalities eventually move on. We know, we know. We should view our county politicians with more respect. Certainly their ideology is truly what guides them; it’s just hard to see for the fumes and hot air that too often despoil the august body’s chambers.But it just may be that numbers would indeed help. Five commissioners, belonging to no established party, elected out of specific districts, might just be the better answer than today’s troika. There’s nothing special, magical or essential about three elected leaders governing a region with a budget approaching $100 million. Some states have a dozen or more commissioners for a county. Not that we’d recommend that.The expense of exploring better governance is not much, considering that $100 million budget. How much are better thought out and discussed decisions worth in the long run? Surely sacred cows dear to either set of partisans would more likely be punctured. The two commissioners’ stampede to overspend on Eaton Ranch almost as soon as they were sworn in this year likely would have slowed to a more sensible discussion. That is to say, there might actually have been a discussion before leaping hastily.Some of the previous, more conservative tandem commissioners’ decisions then might have gotten more scrutiny, as well, had the body been five instead of a majority consisting of “me and my buddy,” or at least reliable voting partner.And yes, let’s note here that new Commissioner Peter Runyon has voted against fellow Democrat Arn Menconi at least twice on major issues – approving a new livestock pavillion at the county fairgrounds and rejecting a rather silly and time-consuming quest to create an ethics policy for commissioners atop the law. Runyon, of course, is the man in the middle of two partisans who have ceased bothered to hide their disdain for each other.One bogeymen in the “home rule” discussion is that five commissioners on the board would mean that two could legally have private conversations about county business. Hate to break this to you, but that’s the case with every town or city council in Colorado and the country, as well as the vast majority of county boards. There’s nothing particularly pernicious about two elected officials talking to each other – unless they make up a quorum as they do here. There’s no real need to fear all the crazy things a charter commission might do in writing in essence a local constitution for our own county. Sure, such a commission could plug in big raises for commissioners, make all the currently elected department heads appointed positions instead, put an elk on the planning commission. …And such a charter would promptly be rejected by the voters – next year.After all, today’s question, Referendum 1A in your mailed ballot, is about exploring the concept and seeing if we can’t come up with a more sensible county charter than the state mandates we have now. If we truly cannot, well, it’s back to square one. No real harm done.For whatever reason, the opposition organized to fight the proposition using telephone calls to try to scare voters. That’s why we hear “logic” that taken to its logical end, suggests one commissioner, a king, would be the best form of government yet for Eagle County.In fact we live in a democracy, a society in which we really do have choices. If voters will let these folks scare them, then Referendum 1A will indeed fail.But we don’t have to let fear determine our vote. We don’t need political parties making county government unnaturally partisan. We can provide better representation for outlying districts, such as Basalt and El Jebel in the Roaring Fork Valley. We can have enough commissioners to contribute to proper discussions about the issues of the day before making decisions.Simply put, the proposal makes sense. So let’s give a panel of citizens a chance to make Eagle County’s government ours rather than the state’s. If the charter commission fails to come up with a sensible constitution for the county, then the voters will reject it.But first things first. There’s a real opportunity here to improve how the county works.Vote yes on this referendum.Vail, Colorado

Support Local Journalism