Carnes: Allowing El Jebel, Basalt to secede from Eagle County is a no-brainer (column)
August 6, 2018
Laws are amended and, in some cases, repealed in response to situations and scenarios brought about by an ever-changing society.
Right here in Happy Valley, it used to be against the law to smoke a joint, drive while wearing headphones and collect rainwater as it dribbled off your roof. Luckily, logical common sense prevailed in each of these circumstances, and life moved on.
For that matter, even good ol' Coca-Cola used to contain actual cocaine, but logical common sense prevailed and now we have cocaine-free Coke.
The U.S. Constitution has been amended 27 times, including such obviously needed changes as making slavery illegal and allowing women to vote.
Hooray for logical common sense.
Stay with me here …
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The Interstate Commerce Act of 1887 regulated the railroad industry. It was amended about a dozen times before being abolished when it no longer made logical common sense.
The Dawes Act of 1887 divided Native American tribal land into allotments for individual Native Americans and, if they lived separately from their tribe, ten they would be granted U.S. citizenship. It was amended a few times before fading into oblivion in the mid 1930s, as it no longer made logical common sense.
This same year — 1887 — a state statute was written requiring a majority of the taxpayers in Basalt and El Jebel (which didn't even exist at the time, go figure) to sign a petition before an election could be held for them to secede from Eagle County.
Although the state statute no longer makes logical common sense, it has never been amended and is currently being used as an excuse for not allowing the taxpayers in Basalt and El Jebel to control their own destiny.
Feel free to Google it yourself. You'll find it in the section titled: Government Bureaucracy for Dummies.
Just fewer than 10,000 Eagle County residents live in our extreme southwestern corner, and every few years, they bring up the possibility of separating from Eagle County to join Pitkin County (if they'll take 'em, of course).
And every time the subject is dropped faster than the Trump administration drops support for former "close" associates.
Sometimes the course of action to rectify a certain situation is so painfully obvious it's referred to as a "no-brainer."
It's a no-brainer that more Basalt and El Jebel residents work in Aspen than in Vail.
It's a no-brainer when current Eagle County commissioners admit it costs more to provide services to this tiny sliver of Eagle County than the area provides in tax revenues.
See what I mean?
Yes, I understand a few elected leaders could conceivably be voting themselves out of a job, but following the lead of the U.S. Congress toward term limits is not the right thing to do.
Neither is passing the buck of responsibility a viable excuse for lack of action.
As much as I admire and respect our Eagle County leaders, this issue is a no-brainer, and we should let the residents of Basalt and El Jebel decide for themselves. Claiming it cannot be accomplished because of an outdated statute written in 1887 is as lame as a political leader claiming his tax returns cannot be released because of a never-ending audit.
Richard Carnes, of Avon, writes weekly. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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