What’s wrong with home rule | VailDaily.com
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What’s wrong with home rule

Special to the Daily

The following former county commissioners and elected officials are opposed to home rule for Eagle County – Bud Gates, Tom Stone, A.J. Johnson, Johnnette Phillips and Dick Gustafson for the following reasons:Many projects begin with an idea. Supporters reinforce each other, then develop a plan, and reach a conclusion that is a self-fulfilling prophecy. The home rule discussion is just that sort of process. Most charter committee members who ran to be elected to the committee were already predisposed to a home rule charter. They supported the original concept, with slight modifications, and the committee’s conclusion was predictable. The problem is that the original idea is flawed.No state has ever granted complete functional home rule to any county. Colorado is no exception. Colorado Counties Inc. (CCI) is an organization of county commissioners from 62 counties in Colorado. Around 1985, CCI did a comprehensive nonpartisan study of county home rule to see if the concept was logical for counties to pursue. They studied the only two existing home rule counties, Weld and Pitkin. Both attempted to solve a specific short-term problem with one “problem” elected official, thus changing their form of government to solve the problem, a poor solution. The study listed pros and cons. The conclusion reached was that home rule was risky idea, at best. Even the county attorneys from both home rule counties have recommended against home rule for Eagle County. Few, if any, members of the Eagle County Charter Committee questioned the flawed original premise. Why is county home rule a bad idea?County home rule is not like town home rule. Municipal home rule charters can be a blank check for elected officials, frequently bypassing citizens’ control. Home rule counties are still under the control of the state Legislature. Basically, the only benefit to the county, if you can call it a benefit, is the ability to increase the number of commissioners. The negatives far outweigh the positives. Neither Pitkin nor Weld has an impressive administration. The CCI study indicated that these experiments were not positive. The Weld County example is the worst. Their charter committee created a citizens committee to bypass the commissioners, thus restricting their ability to perform their elected duties and responsibilities. The proposed charter for Eagle County incorporates similar requirement limiting the commissioners’ duties to only policy setting, apparently to control commissioners from micromanaging the staff. The county manager will therefore have complete power to set employee policies for the employees of all elected officials (sections 5.1 and 10.5), eliminating the elected officials from the equation. Some believe that additional commissioners will guarantee better government. This argument is flawed. The reverse is more likely to be true. The U.S. Congress is one example. Some town governments with five and seven councilmen frequently act with questionable levels of competence (choose your own examples). The more decision makers, the greater need for compromise and chance of personal agenda to contaminate and diluting the results. When a committees attempts to design a racehorse, the result is often a camel. (The bigger the committee the uglier the camel.) This argument for home rule is weak. Several counties, such as Douglas, Larimer, and Jefferson, which are larger and more complicated than Eagle County, effectively operate with three commissioners. Most have looked into home rule and rejected it.Some believe that more commissioners will reduce bickering politics, thus creating more harmony and civility. This is naive. Politics will continue to exist and may even intensify. It exists in every organization. It exists in our religious organizations, our social clubs, our fraternities, our service clubs, our businesses, our schools, our sports activities and even our homes. The larger the group, the greater the conflict and greater is the need for politics. Even our children learn the art of politics early to deal with siblings and parents. Conflict exists everywhere. Conflict is healthy, but should not be intentionally created. Conflict increases exponentially to the number of participants, unless of course, the additional participants contribute nothing, in which case, their presence is irrelevant. (The proposed “gerrymandered” district lines might well be illegal; so much for reducing politics.)Costs to taxpayers will definitely increase. These costs include building modifications to accommodate additional commissioners. Others include more commissioners’ salaries, increased travel expense, vehicles, and more of just about everything. Larimer County estimated their first year’s cost would increase by $209,824 for two additional commissioners. The voters rejected home rule. If you believe that the current commissioners appear to be careless with your money, just think what five commissioners can spend. So, what’s the solution?State law allows counties with over 70,000 citizens to increase the number of commissioners to five, without home rule. El Paso County is an example. Eagle County has 50,000 citizens and is rapidly growing. Time will solve the problem without additional regulations. There is no need to rush to judgment. Home rule creates bigger government, and at the same time restricts its ability to function. Modifying government is dangerous and may be irrevocable. The solution is simple. If voters are impatient with the current direction of Eagle County’s government, they should research, recruit, educate and elect competent candidates for government offices. Non-voters have no dog in this fight.Big government creates bigger problems, higher cost and more politics. Home rule is not the answer. We need commissioners who are better qualified and whose only agenda is the best interest of their constituents. Vote “no” on home rule.Vail, Colorado


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