Our View: Eagle County Commissioners don’t need a third term
The Eagle County commissioners have asked, again, for an extension in the amount of time they can hold office, putting Issue 1A on the fall ballot.
Colorado’s Constitution prohibits elective office holders from serving more than eight consecutive years. Voters can extend or remove those limits.
In Eagle County, the commissioners are the only elected officials limited to just a pair of four-year terms, despite several attempts at change.
In the wake of the 1994 passage of the state’s term-limit amendment, county officials asked voters almost immediately for relief, following the forced retirement of a popular county sheriff and other office-holders.
The original ballot question asked to remove term limits from all office holders. Voters said no. A few years later, the question was split, with the commissioners on one question and other elected officials on the other. Voters approved lifting limits for the sheriff, clerk and recorder, treasurer and other offices, but left them in place for the commissioners.
The commissioners asked again in the early 2000s, and were again rejected.
The current question asks voters — in a slightly sneaky way — to add another four-year term to the current two-term limit. That would allow commissioners to serve up to 12 years — if voters agree, of course.
The term-limit question is a tricky one. One one hand, why should arbitrary limits subvert the will of the voters? If the county clerk, or sheriff, or surveyor want to serve multiple terms, and voters agree, why should the state impose a limit?
On the other hand, the more political an elective job is, short-circuiting the power of incumbency allows a regular infusion of fresh talent into the process.
The commissioners are the most political office holders in the county, and catch the most input on whatever decisions they make.
Congress is the best example of incumbency creating voter malaise. Representatives and senators can, and do, serve for decades, often amassing great power and sizable fortunes in the process.
The situation is different for county commissioners, of course. And there’s a logical argument for 1A, particularly when it comes to serving in state and regional organizations. A few of those organizations, including the Colorado River District, make policy. Others are primarily lobbying groups. But all depend in large part on seniority.
Given that relatively few of Colorado’s counties are locked into the two-term limit, that puts Eagle County’s representatives at a disadvantage.
With that in mind, though, Eagle County voters have already answered this question several times. Not enough has changed in the past couple of decades to change that answer. While experience in any job can be valuable, there’s also something to be said for new people and new ideas.
We encourage voters to check no on their ballots — again.
The Vail Daily Editorial Board is Publisher Mark Wurzer, Editor Nate Peterson, Assistant Editor Sean Naylor, Business Editor Scott Miller and Eagle Valley Enterprise Editor Pam Boyd.