Home-rule gains momentum
June 24, 2005
EAGLE COUNTY – Commissioner Peter Runyon’s campaign to convert Eagle County to a home-rule government just got official. He and eight other Eagle Countians have banded together to promote the formation of a committee that will rewrite the county’s governing document, or charter. Forming the committee would be the first step toward changing Eagle County into what’s called a home-rule government, and Runyon wants voters to consider the issue this November.The parts of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley could gain a representative on the county board if home-rule is approved. Runyon’s group, called Citizens for Choice in Government, largely consists of other public officials. Hilary Smith, Pitkin County manager and Eagle County resident, is on the committee. Pitkin County is one of two Colorado counties that have successfully converted to home rule. Sara Fisher, the former Eagle County clerk and recorder, was an elected official. Eagle Mayor Jon Stavney, Gypsum Town Councilman Tom Edwards and Avon Mayor Ron Wolfe also are members. “The committee isn’t rounded out yet,” Wolfe said. “Those of us who are elected officials kind of know the pluses and minuses of the different aspects of government.”Having public officials involved in the campaign adds credibility, Runyon said.”We understand the ins and outs of elected life, and we see the clear benefit of, at the very least, going through this process,” he said. With Runyon leading the charge – and Commissioner Arn Menconi’s support – the Board of County Commissioners will likely place a question on the November ballot asking voters to form a charter-writing committee and to elect 11 people to serve on that committee. The board has until July 22 to put any questions on the November ballot. State law allows home-rule counties to expand their county commission from three members to as many as voters would like. The idea of expanding the board to five members was part of Runyon’s platform when he was campaigning for county commissioner last year. The idea resonated with Edwards, the Gypsum councilman. There are seven council members on his town board, and the county commissioners have a much larger workload, he said. “To me, it seems a little bit logical to have more people representing us,” Edwards said, adding he also would like to make the county commissioner seats nonpartisan. Individually and as members of a group like Citizens for Choice in Government, public officials are allowed to express their support or opposition on any political issue and are allowed to make personal contributions toward a cause. They are forbidden, however, from using public money or facilities to promote a campaign, according to state law. Runyon didn’t think that would be a problem. “This is one of the reasons why I formed this committee, for that very campaign statute that says no political bodies can push a particular agenda,” he said. “There is obviously a good reason for that.” The commissioners are hosting a meeting to discuss home rule governments this Thursday in the Vail Town Council Chambers. The process To become a home-rule county, voters must approve formation of a commission to write the county’s new government document, known as a charter. Voters must also elect who will serve on the 11-member charter committee. The committee must have three representatives from each of the current county commission districts – in Eagle County’s case, from the eastern, middle and western parts of the county. The remaining two can represent any part of the county. The charter details how county positions like sheriff and clerk will be selected, as well as how county commissioners will be elected. Writing a charter also would give Eagle County the opportunity to decide how commissioners will be elected, either at-large – as they are now – or by district. The charter committee would get 240 days to write a new charter. Eagle County voters would approve or reject the charter.Source: Colorado Counties Inc.