Scary side to home rule
Vail CO, Colorado
My name is Muhammad Ali Hasan and I am a proud resident of Eagle County. I serve as a guest political commentator for Fox News, MSNBC, and BBC Radio, in addition to running a film production company. However, it is my work as a land developer that births my opposition towards the home-rule proposal.
Last summer I opened my land development company, Sangre De Cristo Capital LLC of Colorado. I have learned that the success of my developments is directly dependent upon my relationship with the local county commissioners; they approve all land entitlements, surveys, timelines, and plans of construction.
With the clock ticking on bank loans, a friendly county commissioner could mean the savings of millions for me, because approvals usually take six months to one year.
In addition, county commissioners can greatly help any of my developments by spending taxpayer funds on the building of road and sewage lines, among other engineering services that would normally cost me millions.
Lastly, the commissioners can even give me free land! If the county wants a particular project to happen, then little can stop them from declaring “eminent domain” ” giving them right to purchase any property, at a price determined by the county assessor ” and delivering the land to a developer for construction and profit.
Now, most of America’s county commissioners are extremely honest. They force land developers, like myself, to competently share our plans, budgets, and construction schedules. In doing so, the county may grant forms of special assistance, should the project be good for the community. In all, county commissioners are what keep land developers honest and responsive ” a process that I welcome.
Sadly, home rule turns our commissioner system into a dictatorship. In reviewing our state constitution, one is disturbed over the laissez-faire attitude that our state takes towards home-rule entities. It was in 2003 that then-Attorney General Ken Salazar announced that the campaign finance reform laws of Amendment 27 would not apply to home-rule entities. Article XXVIII of our state constitution also protects home-rule entities from campaign laws that would otherwise prohibit county candidates from taking contributions from corporations and labor unions.
As Sections 6.6 and 6.7 of the proposed Eagle County home rule charter show, election guidelines are directly dependent upon state statutes; yet the state does not recognize statutes for home rule entities. In turn, home rule could allow corporations and labor unions to give contributions to county candidates. Even worse, none of those contributions would have to be publicly disclosed, nor any spending limits enforced.
If I’m running a land development corporation, home rule in Eagle County means billions for my business. With proper corporate funding, I could purchase all commissioner seats. One could use county taxpayer money to fund any development project, declare eminent domain to steal anyone’s property, and make billions off of selling home sites all over the county.
In addition, Section 7.1.2 of the proposed home-rule charter specifies that referendums to oppose land-use and budget approvals cannot be called; thus, the electorate will never be able to oppose any kind of land stealing, tax hiking, or development that our county takes on once the home-rule dictatorship is installed.
Worse though is Section 4.2 of the proposed home-rule charter, which calls for the elimination of the county surveyor with all responsibilities going to the county engineer. The surveyor holds an important duty because he/she archives and surveys all land plots in making decisions on size, boundaries, and ownership. Without an official surveyor, we are giving privilege to our commissioners to tell us the size of our land plots, in addition to ignoring any ownership rights, without any elected officials keeping their actions accountable.
It is no surprise to me that Pitkin and Weld counties are the only home rule entities of Colorado. After all, Weld County is home to our state’s largest amount of oil wells; now who would start home rule in Weld, considering that county commissioners claim decision over the entitlement and environmental processes of drilling oil wells? Or take Pitkin County, for example; which land development corporation is currently holding our friends in Aspen under hostage?
OK, maybe there is no conspiracy. However, home rule still sets us up to be held hostage by any corporation or individual who has enough money to purchase three county commissioner seats.
Lastly, if home rule is being proposed partly for the purpose of giving better representation to the Basalt area, then how about we give the folks of Basalt its own county commissioner to serve in conjunction with the current three?
Our system of governance is solid; my Eagle County brothers and sisters, please do not vote “yes” for a system that is nothing but hidden dictatorship.
E-mail comments about this column to email@example.com.