Home rule a loser in Eagle County
EAGLE COUNTY Eagle County voters left no doubt Tuesday how they felt about a proposal to change their style of government.A ballot measure to switch from a statutory to “home rule” style of governing lost for the second time in seven months. In this election, the proposal failed by 355 votes, or 47.5 to 52.5 percent. The measure lost in last November’s general election by a similar margin.Home rule proponents put the measure back before voters because they felt the issue was overshadowed on the crowded November ballot and that some county residents were confused about what home rule meant.Tuesday’s outcome shows that voters weren’t confused, acknowledged Jacque Whitsitt, a Basalt resident who helped lead the campaign in favor of the proposal.”It means people knew exactly what they were voting on,” she said.Proponents mounted a much more aggressive campaign this election. Their political action committee, Citizens for Home Rule, spent about $10,000, according to the latest campaign finance report.The main foes, Citizens For Responsible Government, spent only $3,250. Michael Reid, treasurer of the group, said the results showed “responsible government is not for sale. It cannot be purchased. It can only flourish by the will of the people.”Despite a more organized effort by proponents, they gained only one percentage point among voters compared to November.In the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County, which includes El Jebel and part of Basalt, several elected officials and civic activists endorsed the switch to home rule. The issue appeared popular in the Roaring Fork sliver of the county because it would have increased the number of county commissioners from three to five. One of the new commissioners would have been selected from the Basalt/El Jebel area.Home rule allows some customization of the style of county government, like having a board of five county commissioners rather than three. Statutory government relies on rules written by the state Legislature. Pitkin County voters approved the home rule style in the 1970s.Voting results weren’t tabulated by precinct in Tuesday’s election so it was impossible to know if the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county supported the measure. In November, the Roaring Fork Valley supported the proposed switch to home rule, 3-to-1.In the main part of the county, which includes Gypsum, Eagle, Avon and Vail, “there was real resistance,” said Don Cohen, another supporter of the measure. Cohen participated in a handful of spirited debates during the campaign with home rule foe Tom Stone, a former Eagle County commissioner.When the issue was resurrected for this ballot after the defeat in November, Stone had questioned what part of “no” the proponents didn’t understand. Tuesday night, he said the charter commission failed to write a proposal that had more benefits than unintended consequences. For example, the proposed charter took away the right to petition on budget and land-use issues, which account for 90 percent of the commissioners’ time, Stone said.Cohen said he doubted that voters, particularly those in the Eagle Valley, really dove into the details to learn what home rule was about.”It is not a ballot issue that catches fire in people’s imaginations,” he said. “It doesn’t have a lot of pizzazz to it.”The election was completely by mail-in ballot. No polling places were established. The Eagle County clerk’s office had said turnout in excess of 6,000 would be an impressive showing. There were 7,283 votes cast, 3,464 in favor of the proposal and 3,819 against.Scott Condon’s e-mail address is email@example.com.
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