Basalt voters asked to do some housekeeping on residency rules
BASALT ” Lost in the drama of some big issues and the presidential race in the Nov. 4 election are three decidedly more mundane items facing Basalt voters.
Town voters will be asked to settle the fate of three so-called housekeeping matters involving minor amendments to Basalt’s Home Rule Charter. The items relate to residency requirements to vote or hold elected office in the town.
Mayor Leroy Duroux said the three ballot questions are needed because of flaws in the charter, which was approved by voters in November 2002. The commission that drafted the charter intended to defer to state regulations on residency requirements, Duroux recalled. Somehow, a few words were omitted from the charter as it was approved, creating uncertainty about residency requirements, he said. The town is now proposing to cure those deficiencies.
(A Home Rule Charter allows a local jurisdiction to tailor some aspects of its governing rather than relying on state rules.)
The first question on “elector qualification” proposes a change that simply notes that the state may change the residency requirement for voters from time to time. The current requirement is that a person live in town for 30 days before they can vote in town elections. That won’t be altered by this vote.
The second question, on “qualifications for elected office,” requires that a council member and the mayor must reside in Basalt for at least 12 consecutive months before their election. The current qualification is vague and open to interpretation. The ballot measure makes it clear that Basalt will follow the state’s lead on the qualifications.
The third question is on filling council vacancies. It requires that applicants for an open council position must meet the 12-month residency requirement. Currently, that requirement also is vague.
Duroux said the town has enforced the 12-month residency requirement for candidates in all recent elections even though the charter, as written, doesn’t specifically identify that qualification. The vague wording of the charter came to light when Councilman Chris Seldin resigned his seat to pursue a judgeship. When Seldin didn’t get appointed to the bench, he applied for appointment to his old council seat. Seldin interpreted the charter, as written, to require only 30-day residency for elected office ” the same as the requirement for voters. The council concurred after receiving a legal opinion from town attorney Tom Smith. Seldin was appointed to his seat.
Former Basalt Councilwoman Anne Freedman, who served on the charter commission with Duroux, also recalled that the intention was to make sure council members had lived in town for at least one month. She said she supports the ballot measures.
There has been no campaign on the three Basalt town issues, either pro or con. In fact, many voters have scratched their heads over the mundane items as they prepare to vote.
Greater detail on the three ballot measures is available at the town government website. Visit http://www.basalt.net/ and look for the link to “Basalt Ballot Questions – November 4, 2008.”
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