Unfavorable poll results don’t faze secessionists | AspenTimes.com

Unfavorable poll results don’t faze secessionists

The core members of a group pressing for the midvalley’s secession from Eagle County are unfazed by recent survey results which suggest they face an uphill battle.

Members of the Midvalley Caucus said Monday night they will continue to work toward their goal of placing a question on the November 2000 ballot. The question will propose that the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County secede and join Pitkin County.

A survey commissioned this month by the Eagle County government indicates the majority of midvalley residents want to stay put. In a survey of 300 registered voters, half were asked if they supported leaving Eagle County for Garfield County and half were asked if they supported leaving Eagle for Pitkin County.

Both failed by hefty margins. Leaving Eagle County for Garfield County was supported by 32 percent of respondents and opposed by 53 percent.

Leaving Eagle County for Pitkin County was supported by 32 percent and opposed by 61 percent. The remainder of the respondents to each question expressed no opinion.

“We can blow holes in the survey,” said Midvalley Caucus chairman P.J. Jaycox.

He noted that survey respondents identified growth, public transportation and affordable housing as the top three issues facing the midvalley.

“What is Eagle County doing about any of them?” Jaycox asked rhetorically.

Once it is pointed out that Eagle County is doing little to address their concerns, midvalley residents will be more receptive to the idea of secession, he said.

Caucus members Peter Frey, Ted Bristol, Anne Clapper-Austin and Jacque Whitsitt agreed that education is the key to their group’s success.

Frey, a professor who taught statistics at Northwestern University, claimed Eagle County’s survey was “statistically flawed” on the secession questions. The population sample for the survey wasn’t the same as the sample of people who could potentially sign a petition supporting secession, he noted.

The survey sampled registered voters. Only property owners will be allowed to sign a petition that would force a ballot question on secession. However, registered voters will ultimately settle the issue.

Frey also criticized the survey for basing answers on emotional reactions to an issue for which many of the facts aren’t yet known.

“People haven’t been provided with information that’s relevant yet,” he said.

Caucus member Bristol said he wasn’t discouraged by the survey results because relevant questions weren’t asked. Relevant questions, he said, would include asking residents if they would support joining Pitkin County if it meant they could vote on issues that more directly affect their lives.

For example, a person who owns a business in Pitkin County but lives in the Eagle County portion of Basalt cannot currently vote on a sales-tax proposal even if it affects the business’s prices.

The Midvalley Caucus members decided they will start a campaign addressing their issues through letters to the editors of local newspapers. Meanwhile, they will turn in wording of a proposed petition to the Eagle County clerk and find out how many signatures they need to get a ballot question for secession on the Eagle and Pitkin County ballots next year.

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