Why home rule is back on the ballot
Vail CO, Colorado
“A lie will go round the world while the truth is pulling its boots on.”
You are going to get a second opportunity to review, debate and vote on a REVISED Eagle County Home Rule Charter.
In the last election, and even now, we’ve been taken aback at the wild amount of disinformation that seems to surround this very straightforward document.
We want you to know, from an insider’s perspective, why we revised the charter and why we feel this is a very moderate, but significant improvement for Eagle County government.
The revised charter that you will vote on will have one major change: It will fully retain the partisan two-party election process that we have always had.
What stays in the charter is this: expanding the board from three to five commissioners, an ethics code, initiative and referendum rights, term limits for the commissioners and annual publication of the commissioners voting record.
In total, there’s more balance, opportunity for citizen input and higher transparency.
Colorado state statue allows a second vote within 180 days if a charter question is not passed. It is the only provision in state law that does this.
A reasonable interpretation of this unique second opportunity is that the lawmakers recognized that charters are very complex and that a one-time-only revision process might lead to an improved document.
After the November election, the Home Rule Commission was very undecided on whether or not we should complete the process as provided for in the law. Two months passed and several commission members came back to the group with a very reasonable request: Because the charter is a complex document, there may be some features that Eagle County citizens would like to see in their government, but in a straight yes or no vote, we had no way of knowing what those were.
They asked that a statistically sound, nonbiased survey of voters be taken to understand that.
There was still healthy skepticism within the commission about moving forward with a revision, but we took our charge from the voters who elected us to write the best charter possible.
With that in mind we moved forward with a survey. We vetted the questions to eliminate, as best as possible, any sense of bias.
Had the results not been so strong in the areas of ethics and conduct and fairness of representation, there would have been no further effort to reconvene, revise the charter and put it back to you the voter.
The survey results showed that there was very strong support for ethics and equal geographic representation, but a clear preference for leaving the two-party partisan process in place.
Developing good legislation and good governance is a process of compromise, adjustment and revision. The United States’ first governing document, the Articles of Confederation, was replaced by our current U.S. Constitution.
Closer to home, some school-bond issues have required a second election, and it took two elections to establish our Eagle County transit bus system. The bond issues and county transit system were revised to match more closely what the voters wanted.
That’s what we have done with the charter.
The state charter statue required us to add referendum and petition rights. We did.
And while we believe there is great benefit to acquiring expanded rights for self-determination, we set the petition bar as high as legally acceptable to strongly discourage frivolous and special interest ballot initiatives.
We want you to consider the true heart of what the charter is about: expanding board representation. We believe an expanded board has great potential to improve the quality and equity of decisions.
Under a five-member board, consider some outcomes that may have very well been voted on or negotiated differently on hot topics such as the Eaton Ranch, the pavilion at the fairgrounds, and early childhood development.
Under our current system, it only takes two votes to place an issue on the ballot (which only commissioners can do) or obligate the county for millions of dollars. Lobbying one individual commissioner to change his or her mind provides a very attractive pressure point for special interest groups.
If you think it’s costly adding two more commissioners, it’s equally possible that adding two more might provide a better check and balance for fiscal responsibility.
We have learned from our survey that Eagle County voters want improved representation and a stronger self-determination on how our government is run. We’ve rewritten the home rule charter to do exactly that while eliminating what appears to have been an objection to non-partisan elections.
Now it’s your chance to have the FINAL say to determine if we’ve done the right thing.
The above are all members of the Eagle County Home Rule Commission.
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