Pitkin County eyes charter tweaks
July 6, 2011
ASPEN – Currently, one needn’t be a resident of Pitkin County in order to run for the county assessor’s post, or clerk and recorder. It’s an omission in the county’s home-rule charter that county voters will be asked to fix in November.
The county is planning to ask several questions that would amend the charter, including provisions related to campaign finance, eligibility requirements for elected office and a reduction in the requirement for publication of county ordinances.
Commissioners discussed the latter two issues Tuesday.
Proposed new language addressing the eligibility requirements for those who seek election to the posts of assessor and clerk will mirror what has been past practice, according to Dwight Shellman III, county elections manager. The charter was silent on eligibility for the two posts, assuming that state rules would apply. But, voters will be asked to make it clear that candidates must be eligible electors in the county, citizens of the United States and at least 18 years of age, he said.
Candidates have always adhered to those requirements in the past, though they didn’t exist in the charter, Shellman said. Other election issues have made it clear that the county charter does not default to state law when something is not specifically addressed in the charter, forcing the county to seek clarity on various election-related issues.
Commissioners also agreed to ask voters to amend the charter so that only publication of the title of a proposed ordinance and a summary of the legislation is necessary in a newspaper. Currently, the full text of proposed ordinances is published; after they are adopted, a title and summary is published. County resolutions are only published in the abbreviated format.
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The move would save about $10,000 a year, said Deputy Clerk and Recorder Jeanette Jones. This year, $20,000 in publishing costs is budgeted. The county notices are published in the Aspen Times Weekly.
The county also makes the ordinances available in paper form at the clerk’s office and posts them online at http://www.aspenpitkin.com, Jones noted.
Commissioners generally agreed with asking voter approval to publish only a summary of proposed ordinances, but Commissioner Rachel Richards disagreed, calling it a step toward closed-door government.
“Not that a dime doesn’t count, but some dimes are better spent,” she said, supporting continued newspaper publication of the full text of ordinances.
Commissioner Jack Hatfield urged making ordinances available in the newspaper and online.
Others felt that having proposed ordinances available online and at the clerk’s office is sufficient.
“The web actually has great advantages over one issue of a newspaper that you may or may not see,” said Commissioner Michael Owsley.