County rejects Entrance to Aspen initiative
Aspen, CO Colorado
ASPEN ” The Pitkin County clerk rejected a ballot initiative Thursday that sought to ask county voters to finance a four-lane highway at the Entrance to Aspen.
Four-lane advocate Jeffrey Evans submitted the initiative petition to County Clerk and Recorder Janice Vos Caudill last week; in a letter dated Feb. 20, she informed Evans she was rejecting the petition.
The proposed county ballot would have funded one of two four-lane plans Evans proposed in separate ballots, city of Aspen initiatives that are caught up in a separate legal fight.
Evans had hoped to circulate the county petition and obtain enough signatures to place a question on the November ballot proposing an annual county tax increase to fund the highway improvements.
In Thursday’s denial, Vos Caudill said she was simply upholding the county’s Home Rule Charter.
Pitkin and Weld County are the only two Colorado counties with home-rule charters, Vos Caudill said. Anywhere else, Evans could not file an initiative at the county level; he could only file a municipal petition or file a ballot initiative with the Colorado secretary of state, Vos Caudill said.
And despite his right to put a ballot question before Pitkin County voters, the home-rule charter explicitly forbids any petition having to do with land use, county budget, appropriations or levying of taxes, Vos Caudill said.
Wrote Evans in an e-mail regarding the decision: “So, kiss your messy constitutional rights good-bye; they’re just too inconvenient ” and they interfere with the plans of elected officials.”
Evans also has attempted to place ballot questions before Aspen voters that propose two alternatives for rerouting and making four-lanes on Highway 82 on the western edge of town, where the existing highway narrows to two lanes and winds through two 90-degree turns dubbed the S-curves, creating a traffic bottleneck.
Last year, Evans circulated the four-lane initiatives and filed them with the city, but they were challenged by a group of citizens and ultimately shot down by a special hearing officer. She ruled the petitions invalid because they seek action on administrative matters that aren’t subject to the citizen initiative process.
Evans and fellow petitioner Curtis Vagneur then took the matter to court, where it is awaiting trial.
“They don’t have a leg to stand on or a twig to hang from,” Evans said of Thursday’s denial by county officials. “They’re just assuming they can get away with it.”
Evans invoked the Taxpayer’s Bill of Rights which he said expressly gives a voter the right to raise a tax question before the electorate.
Vos Caudill said it would take a judge to overrule the county decision.
“I don’t quite know what we’re going to do next,” Evans said.
Evans said he hasn’t given up, and without the funds to pursue the case in court, he would perhaps enlist the help of an attorney working pro bono.
Evans said he is frustrated that county officials are flexing their legal muscles, and that he can’t get to the electorate without thousands of dollars in legal fees.
“The county clerk is in blatant violation of her office,” Evans said. “It’s pure political ploy. … This is just beyond ugly.”
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