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A good idea killed by nonsense

There are times when actions of elected officials that are propelled by seemingly partisan affiliations, mystify us, and anger us.

These actions are not limited to members of one or the other of our two major parties, nor are they limited to actions at the federal, state or local levels. Blindness to the responsibilities of government and the summary dismissal of the duty of elected officials to protect the best interests of all their constituents knows no boundaries.

A clear example of this took place this week in Denver when a party-line, 3-2 vote in the Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee killed a bill that would have given voters in smaller counties in Colorado the option to change the way county commissioners are elected.

Representative J. Paul Brown was a prime sponsor of House Bill 1159. The bill, sponsored in the Senate by Ellen Roberts, would have given voters in counties with less than 70,000 residents the ability to change the current process so that each commissioner would be elected by the voters who reside in that commissioner’s district.

The current process in the small counties produces three commissioners with an at-large vote, though each commissioner is required to live within a specific district. Had the bill gone on to become law, the change could have been made either by a board of county commissioners referring a question to the voters or by qualified electors filing a petition to have the question placed on the ballot. Terms of current commissioners would not have been affected — the change affecting only newly-elected commissioners once it was put in place.

There is no need for this change in the larger counties in Colorado. There, commissioners can be elected by residents of their district.

The logic of the vote against the proposed bill escapes us. But, then, little in politics these days is particularly logical. Though Brown’s bill passed by an overwhelming margin in the House (61-4) it is said the primary opposition came from Colorado Counties Inc., a group representing the state’s county commissioners. Reportedly, there are commissioners who fear that being elected by voters in their district would impede their ability to represent residents countywide. Apparently, this kind of argument was sufficient to sway the Democrats on the committee to kill the bill.

We believe the argument is specious. We like to think the opposition was from sitting commissioners who fear their neighbors know them well enough not to vote for them.

Moreover, we are stunned that a vote would go against a proposed law that would give residents of small Colorado counties — Archuleta among them – the right to decide whether or not they wish to do away with the at-large commissioner vote and institute a district-limited process. The bill did not mandate the change; it intended to give us the opportunity to consider the change and make it ourselves if we deemed it worthy.

It should be our decision, one way or the other.

But, at least this year, it is not. And, this year, as in most, this situation is not unique. In fact, the HB 1159 incident is a relatively tame example of the kind of blather and behavior that has come to dominate politics in America —nonsense perpetuated by inhabitants on both sides of the aisle.

It’s nonsense we need to vote out of office, if we ever escape the partisan drivel flooding from the cable “news” and talk radio faucets, find a way to loosen the grip of big money-driven propaganda and come to our senses.

Karl Isberg

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