Midvalley secessionists are planning `big push’ | AspenTimes.com

Midvalley secessionists are planning `big push’

A group that wants the midvalley to secede from Eagle County intends to “crank up” its campaign this weekend with a high-visibility petition drive.

Members of the Midvalley Caucus plan to collect signatures at the El Jebel City Market Saturday, from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m.

“We’ve never really made a big push,” said Jacque Whitsitt, a co-founder of the caucus and a Basalt town councilwoman. “It’s just been individuals collecting signatures in their neighborhoods. We had a slow-down during mud season, but now we’re cranking it up.”

The group has collected an estimated 200 signatures so far, according to Whitsitt. Only property-tax payers who are also registered voters in the Eagle County portion of the Roaring Fork Valley are eligible to sign.

The group needs to collect signatures from between 600 and 700 people, or 50 percent of those eligible. An exact number is yet to be determined by the Eagle County clerk’s office.

Midvalley Caucus chairman P.J. Jaycox said the group won’t rely just on hanging out at City Market. Members will still go door-to-door.

“I think we need more people out there circulating petitions,” he said. “I think there are a lot of people out there willing to sign that we’re not reaching.”

Organizers intend to circulate petitions in major subdivisions like Blue Lake, Sopris Village and part of Elk Run by the end of May.

Then the group plans to submit the petitions to Eagle County by mid-July. If the petitions are ruled valid, questions will go on the November ballots in Eagle and Pitkin counties. Those questions would ask if the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County should be taken out of Eagle and placed in Pitkin County.

The proposal would pass only if approved by a majority of voters from both counties.

The caucus members contend that the midvalley is too far removed, geographically and philosophically, from the Eagle County government. They claim the midvalley is more directly affected by Pitkin County’s politics, yet residents have no say in Pitkin County matters.

Jaycox said it’s apparent that just about everyone has a “hot button” on the topic. Some people he’s approached become angry at the thought of the midvalley relying on representation from Pitkin County. Others believe Eagle County doesn’t supply adequate service to its western sliver, he said.

The secession effort received a boost from a recent computer poll conducted by Sopris Surfers. The unscientific poll asked respondents whether the midvalley should leave Eagle County to join Pitkin County.

Out of 567 responses, 44 percent (255) said yes; 37 percent (205) said no; 13 percent (71) said they don’t care; and 6 percent (36) said they didn’t know.

Jaycox said he views the petition drive simply as a way to get the proposal on the ballot and studied in greater detail. Even as chairman of the caucus that’s promoting the idea, he acknowledged he is keeping an open mind about it.

“There may be something that comes out that makes me say I don’t want this anymore,” he said.

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