A quirk of geography | AspenTimes.com

A quirk of geography

Dear Editor:

Please accept this letter as an application for the Town Council vacancy created by my resignation in May of this year. Because it seems I underestimated the public ” or at least media ” interest in my comings and goings when I resigned, this letter provides a relatively numbing level of detail for those who want to better understand why I resigned from council and am now reapplying.

Before diving into the legal mumbo-jumbo, though, let me address why I think it was reasonable to resign from Town Council under the circumstances. As all of you know, service on Town Council is essentially a voluntary position. Although there is a nominal salary, nobody quits his or her day job when elected to council. Instead, we all make time for council on top of our other commitments. In my experience, it’s pretty challenging to find people who are willing to dedicate their time in this way. Given these realities, I don’t think it’s realistic to expect council members to forego major career opportunities or life changes simply because they have chosen to commit time to their community through council.

In April, I decided to explore such an opportunity: a judicial vacancy in the 9th

Judicial District. I knew applying for that position might require me to resign my council seat if selected as a finalist, but I also knew it could be five to 10 years before another judicial vacancy presented itself. Since judicial service is of serious interest to me and since such opportunities are few and far between, I decided to give it a shot.

In early May, the 9th Judicial District nominating commission selected me as one of three finalists. At that point, pursuing the judicial position required me to relinquish my council seat. Here’s why: Article VI, § 11 of the Colorado Constitution requires all district court judges to be qualified electors of their judicial district at the time of their “selection.” In turn, Article VI, § 20 requires the governor to “appoint” within 15 days one of the three finalists selected by the nominating commission. The Colorado Judicial Branch, sensibly, appears to view “appoint” as synonymous with “select.” Thus, a candidate for district court judge must be a qualified elector when the governor makes his time-sensitive appointment.

For most people, this isn’t a problem; they work and live in the same judicial district. Because the Roaring Fork Valley’s political boundaries do not mirror its watershed boundaries, however, it was a problem for me. Although all of my work is in the Ninth Judicial District, my residence in Basalt is not. It’s in the Fifth Judicial District, where I’ve never worked at all. Consequently, to be eligible for appointment to the bench where I actually work, I had to change my legal residence before the governor made his appointment.

Unfortunately, this wasn’t something I could do at the last minute. In order to change legal residence, I had to change my physical residence at least 30 days before then. That requirement is in § 1-2-101 of the Colorado statutes (and, incidentally, also controls my change of legal residence back to Basalt). I was able to do so on short notice by sharing a place in Aspen. But, of course, when my legal residence changed, section 3.3 of the Basalt Home Rule Charter required me to resign my seat on council.

This may seem like a lot to go through for a job application (though it’s a picnic compared to what kids do to get into college these days), but I didn’t see how I could legally, and in good faith, do any less and still ask the nominating commission and governor to consider my application. And while the governor didn’t choose me, I’m very grateful simply to have had the opportunity to go through the process.

So why am I applying for my old seat on council? The reality is that had I lived in the Pitkin County portion of Basalt, I wouldn’t have needed to resign in the first place. I simply would have gone on to serve out my term after the governor made his selection. And much as I would like to continue enjoying the bonanza of free time I’ve rediscovered since resigning from council, I don’t feel free to do anything less now.

As for the issues, I think you all know me well enough to realize where I stand.

Chris Seldin