More to home rule than numbers |

More to home rule than numbers

Alex Miller

Understanding nuance and sweating some of the details seems to be something of a lost skill in these United States. Everything must be boiled down to good or evil, black or white or left or right.Maybe this is because we like so much of our information fast and tight, unambiguous and served up in easy-to-understand sound bites. Look no further than the “crawl” of news creeping by on CNN and Fox News to see how headline writers slice-and-dice major stories into 10 words or less. Not much room for detail there. Nor, it would seem, is there much time for us to follow up in other media to get the full story. And while this mentality drives much of our media culture and understanding thereof on a national basis, it can also fallaciously inform decisions closer to home.Take, for example, home rule. We recently did a story that suggested, albeit through a rather small sampling of opinion, that Eagle County residents don’t know much about it. No surprise there, since the workings of local government are generally followed and understood by a small percentage of the population, who ostensibly elect people to understand it all for them as we go about the business of earning a living, raising children, skiing, biking, etc.Judging by the letters and other comments we get from those who like to opine about such things, though, the sense is that home rule, as a concept, boils down to one critical question: how many commissioners?That’s a biggie, no doubt about it. But the arguments that focus only on this question miss the point, which is this: Home rule gives your county more power to structure its own government. Those charged with creating the charter to define that government are certainly capable of doing an awful job, but if they did it right, it might look like this:– Five commissioners instead of three. Ever sat in a county commissioners meeting when one commissioner is absent and a huge question can be decided by two people? I have, and it ain’t pretty. Ever wonder why the framers of the U.S. Constitution devised a system that ended up totaling more than 500 state representatives instead of, say, a single monarch? They weren’t worrying about salaries and travel expenses but, rather, about better representation.Stupidity, ideology and other individual factors are diluted by numbers. More votes mean a better representative sample of opinion. Yes, there’s an additional cost, but only if you discard the fact that two people can end up making some very costly decisions. — If you are like me, your qualifications for hiring a sheriff, treasurer, coroner, surveyor or assessor are on par with my ability to pick winning PowerBall numbers. But that’s what we do every time we must cast ballots for what are now elected positions. Home rule would allow these positions to be appointed, meaning they would go through a more typical hiring process, ostensibly by people who’ve vetted the candidates more thoroughly and know what they’re looking for. There are other aspects of home rule, but those are the most salient reasons for giving it a look. November’s vote would only be appoint a commission to make recommendations for a home rule charter; we’ll get to vote later on whether we like it or not.Home rule is a tricky thing. But before discounting it as a simple question of commissioner numbers and how much that’ll cost, we owe it to ourselves to give the whole package a closer look.Assistant Managing Editor Alex Miller can be reached at 949-0555, ext. 615, or This column, as with all personal columns, does not necessarily reflect the views of the Vail Daily.Vail Colorado

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