Eagle County explores options to give Basalt, El Jebel more clout
Eagle County is exploring a couple of ways to tweak county commissioner elections that could boost the influence of Basalt and El Jebel significantly.The Eagle County Home Rule Charter Commission favors expansion of the board of county commissioners from three to five members. That would virtually guarantee a seat at the table for the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county, according to Jacque Whitsitt of Basalt, one of 11 members on the commission.The panel is also recommending a unique hybrid way of electing commissioners. In primaries, only residents of the districts could decide which two candidates advance to the general election. The general elections would remain at-large, allowing all county residents to vote for whomever they choose.One possibility is that Basalt and El Jebel become one of five districts in Eagle County. Only voters in the Basalt-El Jebel district would get to vote in the primary to narrow the field of candidates in their area to two, with no party affiliation. But in the general election, all county voters would get to decide the winner.”It’s the one sort of out-there twist” in the proposed charter, said Don Cohen, the chairman of the charter commission.He said that twist was meant to enhance the ability of voters in each of the five districts to determine who represents them. However, the candidates in the general election would still have to reach out to voters throughout the county, Cohen noted.”For bright, motivated candidates, it makes you drive to Vail and drive to Basalt,” he said.The three Eagle County commissioners currently represent the districts they live in, but all county voters elect them at large in the primary and general elections.Whitsitt said she supports the new proposal because it gives Basalt and El Jebel residents a greater say in who represents them while still giving voters a voice in all commissioner elections.The Eagle County Home Rule Charter Commission has been meeting for weeks to come up with proposed rules of governing. Voters said last year they want to consider a tailored form of government. Right now, state rules dictate county government procedures.The proposed charter will go before Eagle County voters in November.Cohen said there are a few significant changes in the proposal. The biggest change is expansion of the board from three to five members. Another is the hybrid style of selecting commissioners.For the most part, the commission wanted to avoid drastic overhauls, he said.”It’s business as usual,” Cohen said. “We didn’t want to get into complex social and political detail.”Midvalley residents will get the chance to review the proposal Thursday night during the first of five meetings the Home Rule Charter Commission will hold around the county to share its proposal. The commission could alter the document, based on public input, before it goes to an election in November, Cohen said.Thursday’s meeting will be from 6-8 p.m. in the Basalt High School student center.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is firstname.lastname@example.org
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