We need more commissioners | VailDaily.com

We need more commissioners

Kaye Ferry
Vail CO, Colorado

I’ve written about this topic before and I’m writing again because some things need a little clarification. But I want you to know something right now. I am 100 percent in support of home rule and I’ll tell you why.

Home rule by itself, holds no particular appeal per se. It’s only a means to an end. And that end is to have five county commissioners. So let’s start there.

Some have said it’s OK to wait until the population of Eagle County reaches 70,000 for this to happen because at 70,000, by virtue of the Colorado Constitution, the number of commissioners will automatically increase. Unfortunately, it will be another 10 to 15 years before we are expected to reach that number, which is entirely too long if you’re paying attention to what happens in Eagle every other Tuesday.

Let me give you an example. A few weeks ago I was searching my TV for road conditions and came upon the Eagle County Commissioners’ meeting. Imagine my horror when I witnessed Arn Menconi and Sara Fisher making all the decisions. Peter Runyon was out of town so the future of Eagle County and its $100-million budget were being administered by only two people.

To me, it is the height of irresponsibility ” maybe insanity is a better word ” to think that all of our concerns are being appropriately attended to by only two people, regardless of who they are.

Which brings me to the next point. Have you ever looked at the boundaries? Clearly the poor guys over in Basalt don’t have any chance at all. As far as anyone can remember, there has only been one commissioner ever elected from the Roaring Fork Valley.

And then, the way the town of Vail is included with parts of Edwards, Vail hasn’t got a chance either with only three commissioners ever elected that lived in the town of Vail. And both of these communities have a right to be at the table when decisions are made.

And no disrespect intended for Basalt, but Vail contributes boat loads of money to the county in both property tax and sales tax. Why shouldn’t we have something to say about how those dollars are spent?

So the way I see it, it’s not only fair (excuse me for the pitifully insipid word), but absolutely mandatory for these communities to be represented in every decision.

Because you see, if the number of commissioners is increased, the lines will be redrawn to give Vail and Basalt a seat in Eagle. Perhaps what you don’t know is that when Basalt was surveyed about the possibility of a revote, 74 percent were in favor because they clearly know that up until now, they’ve been on the outside looking in.

One thing I am particularly sick of hearing is the “what part of no don’t they understand?” question. No doubt about it, this is a very complicated issue. But not nearly as complicated as the opponents would have you believe.

And the Colorado Constitution anticipated that any time a community addressed this question, it would require a lot of education and negotiation.

For that reason, the constitution made provisions for this in a way that it did for no other ballot question. It specifically gives discretion to a home-rule committee to study the results of an election and direct a second vote if they see fit. No other issue in the entire constitution makes that provision which to me clearly indicates that it was anticipated that a topic as complicated as this might require a second look.

But are we voting on the same thing? No. The committee listened to the criticism and party nominations and primaries will remain the same as they are now without the changes originally suggested.

Will we lose any rights? No. Eagle County citizens will actually gain the right for placing initiatives and referendums on the ballot. And by the way, anything not specifically addressed will stay the same and follow the Colorado Constitution. Additionally, any future proposed change will have to be voted on by you.

Then there are those who would have you believe that it’s just bigger government and that’s bad. I agree. Bigger government is inherently bad. That’s the Republican in me coming out. But you have to be careful not to cut off your nose despite your face. Because what five commissioners will give us is better government.

And that’s the key. Three people simply cannot adequately represent a county with such diverse needs and such unconnected geography.

And those who keep referring to the cost really are only fulfilling another old saying, penny wise and pound foolish. With a $100-million budget and 500 employees already at work down there, what’s two more?

In reality, two new salaries would cost $145,000. Double that for benefits and you roughly have the annual expenditure.

Sure there’ll be some one-time set up costs but so what? The cost is a nothing more than a drop in the bucket. Besides, it’s money well spent if it results in just one better decision down there ” think child care.

If we approve this, the boundary lines will be re-drawn and in 2008 we will have an election for two more commissioners.

Everything else will remain the same. Party nominations and primaries will stay the same. Policies will stay the same. Departments will stay the same. The jobs of the elected officials will stay the same.

Despite claims to the contrary, the only difference you’ll see is that there would be five commissioners behind the desk with better and fairer representation.

Remember, doing the same thing and expecting different results is one definition of insanity. Hopefully we aren’t. Insane that is. Vote yes for home rule.

For more info, go to http://www.homerulefacts.com.

Do your part: call them and write them. To contact the Town Council, call 479-1860, ext. 8, or e-mail towncouncil@vailgov.com. To contact Vail Resorts, call 476-5601 or e-mail vailinfo@vailresorts.com. For past columns, go to vaildaily.com and click on “Commentary” or search for keyword “ferry.”

Kaye Ferry is a longtime observer of Vail government. She writes a biweekly column for the Daily.

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