Will Home Rule ever return?
EAGLE COUNTY ” Home rule could come back to the voters within four months. But even the co-chair of the group that drafted the home rule charter said he’s not sure that would be a good idea.
“I don’t think going through this process right now would serve the best interests of Eagle County,” said Don Cohen, co-chairman of the Home Rule Charter Commission.
Cohen said he will informally poll the members of the commission within the next few days to find out if they want to resubmit the charter to voters, as is allowed by state law.
On Tuesday, 53.5 percent of voters rejected home rule for Eagle County, which would have increased the number of commissioners from three to five and removed political affiliations from county races.
Supporters said more commissioners would have provided better representation for local residents, especially for the residents of the isolated El Jebel-Basalt area of Eagle County. Opponents said more government is not better, and that the costs were too much.
State law that governs the process of becoming a home rule county allows for a home rule charter to be taken back to voters between 90 and 120 days after it was rejected, Cohen said.
The Home Rule Charter Commission may revise the charter before it is taken to a vote again. The vote would be a special, mail-in ballot that would cost tens of thousands of dollars.
Heather Lemon, another member of the commission, said she’ll have to look at the expense of another election. She also said she would talk to voters about how they voted on the issue and why.
The home rule referendum may have suffered because of the many other ballot questions that were on the slate, and an election with home rule as the sole item may help more people understand it, she said.
County Commissioner Tom Stone, who was a leading opponent of home rule, said it would be wrong for the charter commission to pursue another vote.
“The voters spoke conclusively and said they don’t like home rule,” he said. “It would be irresponsible for the charter committee to open up that can of worms one more time.”
Stone said when the county’s population exceeds 70,000 it can add two more commissioners without becoming a home rule county.
Former county commissioner Dick Gustafson, another opponent of home rule, said voters realized that changing the system would only create more problems. Another election would be unwise, he said.
“It’s just a waste of the taxpayers’ money,” he said. “They’re just wasting more money than they had planned to waste with two additional commissioners.”
The county commissioners would have to approve another election for home rule. Commissioner Peter Runyon said he’s not sure if he would vote in favor of that.
“I would look at it,” he said. “I don’t want to prejudge on that. Certainly, the added cost of an election would come into my decision process.”
Staff Writer Edward Stoner can be reached at 748-2929 or firstname.lastname@example.org.