Home rule election to be approved today

Alison Miller
Vail correspondent
Aspen, CO Colorado

EAGLE COUNTY – Unless the Eagle County commissioners defy state law and turn down a request to call for a special election on home rule, voters will soon be finding ballots in their mailbox.

The Home Rule Charter Commission voted Thursday night to ask for a vote by the county commissioners today approving a final draft of the proposed charter and to send it to a vote of the people. The committee approved the move by a seven-to-eight majority, and three committee members were not in attendance.

County Attorney Brian Treu advised the county commissioners they are legally obligated to approve a second election, County Commissioner Arn Menconi said.

“While I support the process to move forward as granted by state statute, I am not supportive of moving forward,” said Charlie Wick, the dissenting member of the charter commission. “I believe the last election resolved the issue by a reasonable margin of ‘no’ votes and those ‘no’ votes should be respected by our committee at this time.”

Wick’s statement was echoed by the four citizens in attendance.

“What I’m hearing from people is negative, and people are angry because they said ‘no’ once and you’re hitting them in the face with it again,” Eagle County resident Earl Stiles said.

“You seem to think we didn’t understand it,” said Stiles’ wife, Sandy. “We did read it, and we understood it, and we said no.”

There is a general feeling among the people who showed up at the public input meetings and in the community who feel like the committee decided to move forward with a second vote on the charter and are not taking the public’s feelings into consideration, Sandy Styles said.

The public’s opinion was important in the process of revising the charter and deciding if it should go to another vote, but there was not overwhelming evidence a majority of the county’s citizens do not want home rule, charter commission member Don Cohen said.

“When we did the citizen survey, the one question we didn’t ask was ‘Would you vote for it in the future?’ but there is compelling information the community wants some of the things in the charter,” Cohen said.

Creating a code of ethics and wanting better representation were two of the components of the charter the citizens want, Cohen said.

The charter commission’s decision to keep political affiliation in tact for elections was appreciated by Stiles.

“There are good things, and I am very pleased you are keeping political parties,” Stiles said. “If I don’t know anything else about the person, I can look for a ‘D’ or an ‘R’ and know what they stand for.”

The belief that the charter’s creation of two additional county commissioners will result in more balanced representation countywide was the motivation behind charter commission member John Horan-Kates’ “yes” vote to move the charter forward.

“I hadn’t made up my mind before hand, but based on all the facts and input from citizens, including the objections, I think it is the right thing to do,” Horan-Kates said. “The principal reason I voted to move ahead is for expanded representation. The most western side of the county is really shortchanged right now.”

Increasing the amount of commissioners is not a compelling enough reason to send the charter to a vote again, said Eagle County resident Rich Howard.

“I think it flies in the face of the current commissioners and says they are not doing their job right now,” Howard said. “They are voted for at large, and they represent the county at large already. It’s not a very good approach to take with our current elected officials.”

The idea of increasing the amount of commissioners is not intended to insult the current commissioners but rather is intended to lighten their workload and allow them to concentrate on bigger issues, charter commission member Colleen McCarthy said.

Having five commissioners doing the work that three are now would allow time for a representative for Eagle County to campaign for local interests on a state level and would free up the commissioners to become “experts” on issues that matter to the county, McCarthy said.

Ballots are expected to be mailed to registered voters in Eagle County ” including residents of El Jebel and part of Basalt in the Roaring Fork Valley ” on April 2 and will be due back by May 1.

The committee members said they are optimistic the home rule charter will pass this time around.

“I think the people have had a chance to think about it a little bit and they know this is a better form than what we had before,” Horan-Kates said. “However, there are many people out there against any sort of change.”

Whether the voters approve or kill the charter for good, the special election should bring a higher amount of votes than the November election, Cohen said.

“Vote yes, vote no – just vote,” Cohen said.


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