Home rule worth a look
October 11, 2005
Eagle County voters, specifically those in the Roaring Fork Valley portion of the county, will have an opportunity in November to rectify a long-standing problem. A ballot proposal asks county residents if they want to explore the idea of a “home rule” style of government, under which county residents and officials enjoy greater power to craft the way their government is run.This issue has about as much sex appeal as a root canal. But it could have an important impact on thousands of citizens in Basalt, El Jebel and Missouri Heights.Separated from the county seat by a long mountain ridge, residents of “western Eagle County have long felt that their interests are subordinate to those of people living in the Eagle Valley along Interstate 70. The most obvious example is the county’s three-member governing board, the Eagle County Board of Commissioners, which all voters in the county elect. Because the majority of the county’s population lives between Vail and Gypsum, the county commissioners have almost always hailed from the Eagle Valley. Accordingly, they have shown much less interest in their constituents on this side of the hill.As stale as it sounds, home rule may help resolve this “forgotten stepchild” issue. Instead of having three commissioners, Eagle County could elect five commissioners, each representing a different geographic district. The Roaring Fork Valley, which contains about a fifth of the county’s population, would be all but guaranteed a seat at the commissioners’ table.This would mean a voice for western Eagle County in county decision-making on issues from sidewalks and roads to land-use planning and open space purchases. Voters should seize the opportunity.If the Nov. 1 proposal wins approval, it does not guarantee a new, five-person Eagle County board, but it does create a panel of Eagle County residents to explore the home-rule idea. And there is considerable momentum for the five-commissioner idea.In addition to voting on home rule itself, voters will also have a say on the members of the 11-member commission that would draft the proposed new county charter. Four of the 21 candidates seeking a spot on that commission are Roaring Fork Valley residents, and should receive due consideration from midvalley voters: Michael Bair, Harvie Branscomb, Robert Schultz and Jacque Whitsitt.Vote yes on Question 1A.