Voters reject county reform
EAGLE COUNTY ” More isn’t better when it comes to county commissioners, voters said Tuesday.
Residents rejected home rule government for Eagle County, with 53.5 percent of voters casting ballots against the proposal. Eagle County joined four other counties that have rejected home rule over the last 13 years.
Don Cohen, the chairman of the Home Rule Charter Commission, said he wasn’t surprised by the result because of the complexity of the proposed charter.
“When people don’t fully understand something, they are going to very naturally vote against it,” he said.
Supporters said home rule would give better representation to the county by increasing the number of commissioners from three to five. It would also have provided a representative on the Board of Commissioners for the isolated El Jebel-Basalt area of Eagle County.
Opponents said more commissioners wouldn’t help, and that home rule would cost too much ” about $386,000 per year in salaries, benefits and administrative support to add two commissioners.
“The one residue that maybe stuck in people’s minds that I heard the most is the cost thing,” Cohen said.
Detractors also said the language in the charter would have undermined the power of the county commissioners, turning the board into a policy-making board.
Home rule would have removed political affiliations from parties. Supporters said that would have removed rancor from local politics, but local political party leaders said affiliations are important indicators of candidates’ philosophies.
Pitkin and Weld counties are the only Colorado counties that have made the change to home rule counties. In the last 13 years, home rule was rejected in Mesa, Ouray, Summit and Archuleta counties.
Cohen said state law allows voters to reconsider a proposed home rule charter within 120 days after it is rejected by voters. The home rule charter commission can revise it and it can be taken to voters again, he said.
“There will have to be a follow-up conversation,” Cohen said.
Voters’ opinions were split as they showed up at precincts during the day across the county Tuesday. Others said their understanding of the home rule proposal was not great.
Genaro Magana of Edwards said he just didn’t quite understand home rule ” that’s why he voted against it.
“All the information kept going back and forth,” he said. “If they had just put it in layman’s terms, I would have understood it better.”
Jason Cole, a Vail resident, also said he didn’t know enough about home rule. But after a brief refresher on the proposal was provided to him, he said he was against it.
“I just don’t think it’s needed,” he said. “It seems like we’re raising taxes enough.”
Filip Petrovski of Edwards had to consult his sample ballot to remember if he’d voted for home rule. He didn’t.
“It would increase a lot the money we have to spend,” he said.
Jim Broghammer of Avon said he voted against home rule, even though his understanding was a bit hazy on the topic.
“That’s one of the issues I didn’t know a lot about,” he said.
Broghammer said home rule hasn’t seemed to work in other Colorado counties that have adopted it, such as Pitkin and Weld counties.
Joyce Newton, a voter from Eagle-Vail, said home rule is too expensive for what the county would get from it.
“I was turned off by the price tag,” she said. “I didn’t see the cost justification.”
Will Miller of Eagle-Vail said a representative for El Jebel and Basalt would be a good thing.
“It just made sense, the overall concept,” he said. “Any time you can get more realistic, accurate, in-touch representation ” instead of conceptual representation ” I think that’s worthwhile.”
Justin Barnett of West Vail raised his arms in jubilation as he left Donovan Pavilion after the hour-long wait to cast his vote. “I wish I had brought a magazine or my iPod or something,” he said.
His wait culminated with a vote in favor of home rule. It will bring better representation to the county, he said.
“When you deal with stuff like that, the more people, the better,” he said.
Last November, voters agreed by a slim margin ” 51 percent to 49 percent ” to form a commission to explore the idea of home rule. In the same election, voters elected 11 people from across the county to form the commission.
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or email@example.com.