‘Read the charter,’ ex-official says
Vail, CO Colorado
EAGLE ” A voice for and a voice against home rule spoke out during a televised political debate devoted to the topic Wednesday night in Eagle.
Don Cohen, who chaired the Home Rule Charter Commission, spoke in favor of the government reform that will come to a second vote of the people through mail ballot beginning Tuesday.
Former County Commissioner Tom Stone represented the opposition to home rule.
“I think it was a fair debate,” Stone said. “It gave people a chance to see the other side of home rule that the proponents won’t tell you and are trying to lead you away from.”
The debate was also a success in Cohen’s eyes because it gave the issue more public visibility than it had when the initiative was first voted on in November, he said.
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“There’s one major difference this time,” Cohen said. “This version is retaining party involvement in the political process, which was the main thing of the original version people did not like. The commission would not have moved forward if it was the same.”
Both sides of the debate encouraged voters to read the charter, which can be found on the county’s Web site and the Vail Daily’s Web Site.
“I would encourage voters to read the charter themselves and see that it is a bad document,” Stone said. “I believe it will fail because it’s basically the same thing the voters turned down in the first place.”
Though it was a thorough, hour-long debate, Stone said he had hoped to have more of a discussion on the charter’s failure to address fair campaign practices. Because the charter does not specifically require candidates to report the sources and amounts of their campaign funding, voters will not know who is “really running for office.”
“Wealthy people will be able to buy future elections,” Stone said. “There was a decision by the state of Colorado in 2003 that says home rule counties do not have to report campaign expenditures, so we won’t know where money is coming from.”
The charter does not address fair campaign practices, but the likelihood that candidates will not have to report their funding is slim, Cohen said.
“It’s one of those scare tactics that Tom throws out,” Cohen said. “Could it happen, sure. But asteroids could also hit the earth. It’s an unfounded argument that will have to be looked at by lawyers.”
Another point of Stone’s that may need some more legal research is the argument that, if home rule passes, the county will need to redistrict and that can not be done fairly, he said.
The charter calls for 20 percent of the county’s population to be in each of the five districts, Stone said. The Roaring Fork Valley only accounts for 18 percent, and other communities will have to be included in that district, he said.
“By their own falsely drawn lines, they are taking away the very local voice they are telling everybody they are giving the Roaring Fork Valley,” Stone said. “If other communities are included in the district, their representative doesn’t even have to live in the Roaring Fork.”
It is possible that parts of other communities may have to be included in the district that would encompass the Roaring Fork Valley, Cohen said.
“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.”
Tuesday’s debate was the first televised debate in Eagle County, and both Cohen and Stone said it was just the first step in campaigning for and against home rule.
Voters will be mailed ballots Tuesday, and ballots are due back no later than May 1 at 7 p.m.