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Home rule facts

It’s been interesting reading the written comments from those voicing opposition to home rule. Trying to weed out the personal diatribes to focus on the facts is far more challenging than reading the proposed charter in its entirety. In fact, the charter is only 20 pages in length and can quickly be reviewed by going to http://www.eaglecounty.us.As proposed, the Home Rule Charter adheres to state statutes in most of its complexities and frankly, changes little about the business of county government. Years ago, our legislators concurred that “one size doesn’t necessarily fit all” and the home rule concept was born, giving counties the opportunity to modify their management plan to better serve constituents.The changes that home rule will bring about are as follows:n Creation of five distinct districts instead of the three we have today. The divisions are based on population, as is required by statute, and more succinctly represent areas of commonality. The portion of Eagle County in the Roaring Fork Valley will be its own district, albeit its population currently is slightly less than 20 percent of the overall population of the county.n With five districts, we will get five county commissioners. In the first election, two will be elected to serve two-year terms, with the other two will serve four-year terms. This allows for rotation in and out of the commission, giving continuity to the board. It is true that five will cost more than three, but the salaries will continue to be set by state statute, the expenses should be relatively the same as they are now. If additional costs are incurred, they will be absorbed in the existing budget, not through additional taxes. That equates to less than $10 per county resident per year.n With five county commissioners, a quorum will take three people present rather than only two as it is today. This will allow two commissioners to communicate with one another, providing more opportunity for our decision makers to consider the objectives of one another through healthy discussion and open conversation. Diverse opinions, broadened representation and dialogue are dynamic components in decision making.n Currently the board does provide an annual report to the citizens of the county. The provision in the proposed charter codifies this practice and expands it to include a summary of the year’s meetings, a list of the committees on which each commissioner serves, a record of attendance and the votes cast throughout the year.n The proposed charter code of ethics restates provisions addressed in statute while bringing home the expectation that Eagle County’s elected officials must be honorable and transparent in their actions.n Campaign contribution reporting will not change. Nothing in the proposed charter alters reporting requirements nor allows our elected officials the ability to opt out of reporting as defined in state statute.n The proposed charter introduces initiative and referendum processes at the county level. Currently, there is no ability to petition the board of county commissioners on any level. The proposed charter does exclude petitioning for or against the operating and annual budgets as well as land use and development approvals or denials. Budget decisions, land use and development files already go through exhaustive public hearings. These processes will continue. The goal is to offer enhanced transparency and public input.n The county manager is hired by the board of county commissioners and this practice will continue. The only added language is, “The board shall not interfere with the administrative functions of the county or the professional duties of the county staff.” This is healthy practice in any organization. Micromanagement of staff by the policy makers undermines the integrity of the manager and puts staff in compromising positions.n Although the county surveyor will be absorbed into the county staff, this in no way minimizes the importance of checks and balances. Eagle County’s obligation for plan design and review will remain critical in every approval process. Nothing will be lost here – efficiency will be gained.Far be it from me to tell anyone how to vote. But, for anyone who has yet to make up your mind, I can only ask that you take time to read the proposed charter, talk to everyone you can, discuss the merits of this issue and vote … again. Ballots are due in the office of the Clerk and Recorder no later than 7 p.m. May 1.Sara Fisher is an Eagle County commissioner who lives in Gypsum. Soapbox runs weekly on the Sunday opinion page. This spot is a forum for valley residents to comment on local topics. If you’d like to contribute, contact Naomi Havlen at The Aspen Times at 925-3414, ext. 17624, or e-mail nhavlen@aspentimes.com.


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