Letters to the Editor
Vail CO, Colorado
Balance of power
How do you and others say with such conviction that the proposed home rule charter does not alter the balance of power between the elected board of county commissioners and the non-elected bureaucrats that make up the county staff?
While you may be correct that the charter does not specifically enumerate any additional powers to the county administrator, section 10.5 of the proposed charter, unquestionably prohibits the commissioners from, “interfere[ing] with the administrative functions of the county or the professional duties of the county staff.”
Regardless of how people feel about three or five commissioners, political parties, district elections, the right, or lack thereof, of citizens to challenge the decisions of elected officials, section 10.5 raises a much bigger issue about how public policy is made. Sure, section 5 states that the board makes policy and the county administrator is to carry it out. This is a truism. Everyone knows that public policy should be made only by elected officials, so citizens can hold elected officials accountable.
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When nonelected bureaucrats make or influence public policy, no one can be held accountable. At both the county and town levels, these folks have enormous power to influence policy and it is funded by our tax dollars. Under the new charter, will a commissioner who challenges a bureaucrat on the policy front be deemed to have interfered with the administrative functions of the county or the professional duties of the county staff? You can be sure that will be the position of the unelected official.
Given that section 10.5 is part of the code of ethics, I can even hear the unelected saying that the commissioner is acting unethically under such a scenario. In short, the unelected can exert influence at the policy level but the elected can not exert influence at the bureaucratic level. This is a one-way street going the wrong way. Who should control who?
What is at stake is nothing less than a citizen’s right to petition their elected officials for the redress of grievances, a constitutional right. Simply put, elected officials sometimes have to intervene on behalf of a citizen against an unelected staff member. Sure, the chief executive should be aware of such an event and hopefully the two officials would act in concert but at the end of the day an elected official should only be accountable to the citizenry, not the appointed. To put it into perspective for Mr. Rogers, can anyone imagine speaker Pelosi confined by a charter in her right as an elected official to challenge the acts of an unelected member of the Bush administration. Get real.
Ask yourself, who should write the rules, make the tough decisions and be able to intervene on issues that affect your life? I submit that the answer is not a bureaucrat.
Vote to improve
Home rule for Eagle County just makes sense, and we urge all Eagle County voters to vote yes in favor of home rule on the current mail ballot. First, it strengthens our rights by allowing for citizen initiatives and referenda. We have this ability for state and local issues, but not for county issues. Second, it adds two county commissioners giving greater representation to the many diverse communities throughout our county. The fiscal impact of having two more commissioners is nominal, and broader representation should lead to more efficient, effective, and responsive governance. Voting for home rule isn’t a vote against the current system, it is simply an opportunity to improve upon it.