Letter: Home rule for Routt County
It is time to bring full and fair local government control and representation to the residents of rural Routt County.
Pitkin and Weld counties are the only two Colorado counties that have adopted Home Rule charters that give their residents more control over local matters. Routt County needs to be the third county to adopt a Home Rule charter, and here’s why.
First, Home Rule charters can be written to provide better representation by allowing only those residents within a county district to vote for their district county commissioner. Routt County has three county districts, each one represented by a county commissioner who is ostensibly elected to represent their district constituents. However, without a Home Rule charter allowing only district residents to vote for their commissioner candidate, every county resident can vote for each county commissioner candidate. The current arrangement effectively deprives north, west and south county residents of fair representation. All three county commissioners are essentially elected by Steamboat Springs.
A notable result of this arrangement was observed at the Independent Redistricting Commission’s hearing held July 23. Steamboat Springs Democrats came out in force to testify that Routt County must be separated from other rural counties that depend on agriculture and fossil fuels. Their belief is that Routt County is mostly a resort community, like Eagle and Summit counties or Larimer and Boulder counties with more cultural commonality on the Front Range. In fact, Commissioner Tim Corrigan testified to remove Routt from any district with a fossil fuel industry.
Second, a Home Rule charter can allow county citizens to set the salaries of elected officials. Currently, salaries are set in statute by the General Assembly. Today, county commissioners are paid over $90,000 per year, plus benefits, to perform their duties. Under Home Rule, county residents, not the state, would be able to decide if their performance is worthy of this compensation.
Third, a Home Rule charter can allow for right of initiative by voters. Without Home Rule, ballot initiatives at the county level are limited.
Voters can put forth an initiative to elect Home Rule charter commission members. If passed, the charter commission would have 240 days to provide a draft for the county commissioners. The county commissioners would then place the charter before the voters in a special election.
It’s time for all Routt County residents to have more government control and fair county representation.
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