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Roaring Fork view of home rule

Bob Schultz

Greetings from your friends in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County. Over the past two decades, many of us have struggled to increase representation and involvement in county affairs. I served for six years on the planning commissions, both countywide and local, and several task forces in an effort to improve communication and representation. Now, based on the interest of people throughout the county for better representation, we have a chance to make a major step forward.In early October, mail-in ballots will be sent to all Eagle County voters and there will be two items related to “taking a look” at Home Rule. The first (1A), asks voters to vote for creating a Home Rule Charter Commission to study the issue and to bring a proposed charter to voters next year (vote YES). The second, asks voters to select 11 members to the Charter Commission. I encourage you to vote for Jacque Whitsitt and me in District 3 to ensure representation from the Roaring Fork Valley. Here are the reasons that I believe we should explore a home rule charter for Eagle County.One size does not fit all: Without a charter, the organization and structure of county government is set by the state Legislature. Only by becoming a charter county can we ensure adequate representation for everyone – by expanding the board from a state-regulated three commissioners to a local charter-regulated five commissioners. Our area represents about 20 percent of the population of the county, but we have not had a county commissioner from our area for at least two decades. The county budget is now over $100 million, and five commissioners will be able to provide better oversight and prevent a team of two commissioners from diverting dollars into pet projects or favored areas of the county. Greater geographic diversity on the board will also bring additional local knowledge to sidewalk, road, park, land use and social service decisions. And finally, much of the work for commissioners now takes place outside of regular meetings as part of inter-governmental organizations. Our portion of the county is under-represented in such efforts because there are not enough commissioners to participate in Roaring Fork Valley efforts.Taxation without representation is not fair: All citizens of Eagle County would be better represented by five commissioners, each from distinct geographic regions of the county. Boundaries can be drawn to reflect our topography and unique communities.Our current representative lives in Gypsum, about an hour from Basalt in good weather. The previous commissioner lived in Burns, almost two hours from Basalt. We would love to run into our commissioner at local events, in the grocery store, at school activities or other routine locations and speak to them about current county issues. Better decisions and more diverse candidates: Becoming a charter county could also allow us to remove partisanship from the commissioner elections. Candidates currently run through the Democratic and Republican caucuses, and some people feel that adds to the rancor that we have seen among commissioners over the last several years. The Charter Commission could explore whether a non-partisan approach would attract a more diverse set of candidates who would focus on issues rather than ideology.By voting in favor of a Charter Commission, you are voting to ask a diverse group of citizens from throughout the county to study the best manner in which to organize the county and represent the people and to bring back a proposal for voter approval next year. Please look for your mail-in ballot, vote YES on 1A and return-mail it to Eagle County before Nov. 1.Bob Schultz is a planning and organizational development consultant, recipient of Eagle County’s Distinguished Service Award and candidate for the Home Rule Charter Commission.Vail, Colorado


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