Councilman Stewart explains home rule

What is Home Rule and why should I care?

In a nutshell, the state Constitution was amended in 1902, 1912, and 1970 to allow cities and towns to become self-governing entities rather than requiring oversight by the state – that is the essence of being Home Rule. In the absence of home rule a city or town is known as a “statutory” city or town. State statutes dictate the operation and governance of statutory cities or towns. Home rule cities and towns are governed by a Charter created by and for the people of their city or town.

Is Home Rule good for Salida?

I’ll give you an economist’s answer…it depends. On the one hand there are some potentially positive aspects of home rule:

Increased efficiencies

There are some aspects of home rule that would allow for decisions to be made more efficiently, with potentially less waste at no additional cost to city citizens. For example, when local sales taxes are collected by the Department of Revenue as is required for statutory cities like Salida, there is a one- to two-month delay between collection of those taxes from local vendors and reporting of the results and submitting funds back to the city. In the interim the state earns the interest on those funds (which is not too significant now with the low interest rates we’ve seen in recent years, but can be thousand of dollars per year when interest rates are in more normal historical ranges).

Perhaps less obvious is the difficulty in planning (like setting budget) when there is a significant lag in knowing how the local economy is doing. For example we typically don’t know the economic benefit of a large event in the city like FIBArk, a cycling event, or Art Walk until one to two months after the event has occurred. Home Rule municipalities are allowed (but not required) to self-collect taxes so economic performance is understood sooner and the city, rather than the state earns the interest on those funds.

Local control of local issues
Home rule places power to make decisions for items that are uniquely local in nature to local citizens and decision-makers. And that power, through the Charter, can be amended as changing needs warrant by a vote of the people, whereas citizens of statutory cities have little ability (I’ll go out on a limb and say no ability) to modify the state statutes that they are governed by.

One example of local control is the ability of the citizens to adopt differential tax rates. Home rule could allow what many cities across the country allow – a lower tax on groceries for example. Statutory cities do not have that option. But here, TABOR comes into play as well. Even if the city were to adopt Home Rule and propose to lower sales taxes on groceries, it would have to go to a public vote.

Arbitrary requirements in state statutes

You might recall the controversy surrounding the “2B” ballot measure a few years ago. In 2008 city voters approved a $4.83 tax (adjusted down to $2.50 by council) on a hotel room. Or was it? A room tax or lodging tax is a very common thing in cities/towns that have economies reliant on tourism. It turns out that what voters approved isn’t a tax on a hotel room but a tax on the owner of a hotel for every room that they rent out, i.e., it is a tax on the occupation of hotel/motel/hostel/vacation rental operator.

This kind of awkward language was required because of Salida’s status as a statutory city. Even though the outcome is exactly the same as if it were a tax on the room – that is $2.50 per room per night – the fact that it is called a lodgers tax (an Occupational Lodgers Tax really) implies that it is imposed on a profession rather than the nightly rental of a room. And that is what caused much of the controversy. As a home rule municipality, a simple tax on a room could have been implemented if approved by the voters.

Cities and towns that have adopted home rule seem to be satisfied with it.

There are close to 100 Home Rule municipalities in Colorado. More than 90% of the residents of Colorado live in home rule cities. Given that any Home Rule municipality can go back to being statutory at any time with a simple vote of the people, it is reassuring that no Home Rule municipality in Colorado has ever chosen to do so.

Taxes. What about taxes – everyone tells me that taxes will go up?
Both home rule and statutory cities must follow TABOR. Voters must approve all tax changes. Home rule municipalities have no additional power to tax.

And on the other hand there are some potentially negative aspects of home rule:

Why change?

Statutory rules have served Salida reasonably well for more than 130 years. While home rule may offer some significant advantages, it is not likely to change the daily life of a typical resident. Our future will likely be bright whether we adopt home rule or not. The city will continue to function and the sky will remain above our heads.

Home rule is not free

While there is no reason to believe that home rule itself will make running government more costly, the process of moving to home rule – elections, voting machines, materials, legal fees, etc. is estimated to cost $30-$32k. If the city were to move to self-collection of taxes (not a requirement of home rule, but an option) we can expect to spend $10k to $25k upfront (legal fees associated with the ordinance to establish self-collection, training, software, vendor education and forms, etc.) and approximately $65k to $75k per year for additional salary and software costs. However, most municipalities that self-collect report that sales tax receipts increase due to the local oversight. For example, Salida’s 2011 sales tax revenue was nearly $3.7 million. A 1% increase amounts to $37,000 while a 5% increase would be more than $180,000 in revenue.

Unacceptable charter

The Charter Commission could draft a charter that would not serve the needs of the citizens. This possibility exists, but citizens get to vote to adopt or reject it

Middle ground?

As others have noted, it is possible to create a Home Rule Charter that exactly duplicates how the city operates today but codifies it into the Charter rather than state statutes. This is probably a good starting point. From there, figure out what works and what doesn’t and what might work a bit better with minor adjustment and write it into the Charter.

Home rule election process: Two elections, three questions

Election one

On Sept 18, 2012, City Council set in motion the process to investigate home rule. Council set the first of two elections to be held Jan.15, 2013. In that first election two questions will be asked of voters: First, shall the City of Salida form a Charter Commission to create a Home Rule Charter and second, which eleven citizens of the city serve as Commission members?

If the answer to the first question, Shall the city form a Charter Commission is “No,” then the issue is over and Home Rule is rejected. If the answer to the question is “Yes,” then the eleven citizens receiving the most votes will become the Charter Commission.

Election two

The Charter Commission will then have 30-180 days to create a Charter. All meetings of the Charter Commission must be open to the public. The City of Salida will provide resources requested by the Charter Commission including meeting space, materials and access to legal advice. When the Charter Commission is ready, they will present their proposed charter to the city. The city will have a reading of the Charter and publish the Charter in the Mountain Mail. The City Council will then call for an election to approve or reject the Charter within 30-185 days. At this point that election is projected to take place late summer 2013.

If voters approve the Charter, then Salida becomes a Home Rule city and the Charter is adopted. The charter would then replace state statutes in the areas the Charter specifically addresses. If voters reject the Charter, the Charter Commission will reconvene to rewrite the Charter following the rules and timelines above. If the Charter is rejected a second time, the home rule issue dies and the Charter Committee is dissolved.

So you’ve elected to investigate Home Rule and have elected a Charter Commission
What goes into the Charter?

The Charter is primarily a limiting document. Its goal is to state the basic structure and operational procedures of city government affairs. In areas where the charter is silent, state statutes apply. You can find many examples of home rule charters on the City of Salida website.

There are a few required elements of a charter: Prefatory synopsis, provisions regarding ordinances, and provisions regarding citizen-driven efforts.

The prefatory synopsis is essentially an executive summary of the Charter. Some charters have highlighted the differences between their city’s Charter and operation as a statutory city. Some have included the philosophy and guiding principles of the charter commission.

Continuing, Amending, or Repealing existing ordinances. The Charter lays out whether existing city ordinances will be continued (adopted as previously used as a statutory city), amended (with amendments stated in Charter), or repealed (either stated in Charter or directed to be done on adoption of home rule).

Initiative, Referendum and Recall Procedures. The Charter must spell out how citizen-initiated procedures are carried out.

In addition to Charter provisions that are specifically required, there are many other additions that the Charter Commission may wish to include:

Form of government.

Salida’s existing form of government is called a “weak mayor” system (no offense to Don or are many previous mayors!), but it could be changed if citizens desired to a strong mayor, council-manager, or other form.

Elected officials. How officials are elected, including length of terms, by ward or at large, etc.

Election procedures – adopting existing state election code, make minor changes, alter election dates, etc.

Ordinances and Resolutions – procedures to adopting each and notification requirements

Legal and Judicial (how city legal representation selected, etc.)

Budget (adopting, priorities, local preference, restrictions, etc.)

Operation of enterprise funds

And many more…

My take on home rule

I have attempted to provide a relatively brief and balanced synopsis of the home rule process. I am a member of City Council and I have participated in investigations into home rule in the past. Because of that, I know some citizens will think that I am biased.

My question is this: If there is a way for the governance of the city to be carried out in a more efficient manner that meets the needs of city residents and can adapt as those needs change, isn’t it worth investigating?

So, yes, I am biased. My bias is that I believe that democracy works. I firmly believe that a Commission of 11 thoughtful residents elected at large by Salida voters can create a Charter that serves us better today and in the future than a set of stagnant state statutes largely written in the early in the 1900s when Colorado was a significantly different place than it is today.

Some citizens have voiced the concern that they don’t trust city government and reject home rule based on that. I would point out that everything that the city does now is done under the statutory authority granted by the state. Ironically, home rule would potentially give those concerned about the actions of city government a means of addressing those actions.

I believe we should give the Charter Commission a chance to show us that there might be something better for Salida. If we like the Charter that they draft, fantastic! If not we move on a put an issue that has been discussed across the city for decades to rest.

An appeal

If you find any evidence that Home Rule has not served any Colorado municipality well, please either post that information here for all to see or send it to me and I will ensure that it appears among other home rule documents on the city website.

Steve Stewart

steven.stewart@cityofsalida.com
CityOfSalida.com/projects/home-rule

The Citizen is happy to provide a forum for comments and discussion. Please be civil, truthful, and relevant. Please suggest removal of comments that violate these standards. Real names are appreciated.

37 Responses to “Councilman Stewart explains home rule”

  1. Brad

    Great information Steve. I don't think you could have been any more balanced. Appreciate your efforts.

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  2. Mike Harvey

    Very informative Steve. Thank you for taking the time. We are lucky to have you on council.

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  3. P.T. Wood

    Thanks Steve. I believe that we as friends and neighbors after sitting down at the table and having a reasonable discussion will draft a quality document that will serve Salida well into the future.
    Cheers,
    P.T. Wood

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  4. Lisa Bova

    Thank you Steve, this was very well thought out and I hope it clears up some of the misinformation going around and allows our community members to have thoughtful discussions on home rule. Before I moved to Salida, I lived in a community that voted on and adopted a home rule charter. They also elected to collect their taxes and not the state, as a resort market, they did have a lodging tax and it allowed the town a better view of our local economy and also cash flow. LIke you said at a time when interest rates were higher the interest on months where income was high was considerable. I agree it worth investigating as you stated as another option of governance. I also agree that Salida isn't the same as my previous home, but I believe that a group of well-informed community members, who are open to listening to all sides and having all community members in their hearts will come up with a charter that can be voted on.

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  5. Lisa Malde

    Steve, thank you for taking the time and effort for putting together such an informative and unbiased piece. It really helps dispel some of the misconceptions floating around about what Home Rule would mean for Salida. I agree with P.T. and am hopeful we can draft a charter that our community will support.

    Keep up the good work Steve!

    Lisa

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  6. Zach

    Steve,

    Thanks for the synopsis. A question of clarification however. You state that most cities who use home rule to collect their own taxes see an increase in revenue; in your argument you state a 1% and 5% increase as examples. My question to you is why/how is there an increase in tax revenue - through better effeciency, people start paying more taxes, etc? I'm not sure how you're finding this additional revenue unless you're cutting some state collected tax or state collected interest that is meaningful out through home rule. Is it simply the interest collected by the state in that one to two month period?

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  7. Steve Stewart

    To Zach's question...the increase in collected sales taxes is thought to be a combination of local oversight and perhaps more voluntary compliance as local vendors see a direct benefit with working with their local municipality rather than the state for local tax issues.

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  8. john holmes

    The increased flexibility with home rules leads to higher taxes and fees on almost everything, up to and including head taxes on employees, local DMV that charges special additional fees on vehicles, and many more special fees too numerous to list here. Of the 170 Statutory Rule communities in Colorado, like Salida, sales taxes are all 2% or less. Of the 100 home rule communities, they all have higher sales taxes than 2% and most are in the 3 to 5% range. It is about the money folks. These taxes, like our high flat fee water bill is already, are harsh on seniors on fixed incomes and working class families. Our local elitest politicians want their funny money to come over the backs and out of the pockets of seniors on fixed incomes and working poor.

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    • Steve Stewart

      John Holmes wrote: "The increased flexibility with home rules leads to higher taxes and fees on almost everything, up to and including head taxes on employees, local DMV that charges special additional fees on vehicles, and many more special fees too numerous to list here. Of the 170 Statutory Rule communities in Colorado, like Salida, sales taxes are all 2% or less. Of the 100 home rule communities, they all have higher sales taxes than 2% and most are in the 3 to 5% range."

      TABOR was implemented in Colorado in 1992. Since then all tax increases must be approved by voters. TABOR applies equally to both Home Rule and Statutory cities. Home Rule DOES NOT create higher taxes. If those cities/towns have higher taxes it is because they were either implemented by a popular vote or were put into place before TABOR was passed in 1992.

      The City of Salida has nothing to do with the fees that are charged by the DMV. That is a state entity. It just happens to rent a space in Salida.

      Of course the irony here is that if citizens were to adopt home rule, the charter could be written to specifically disallow the kinds of things that Mr. Holmes is concerned about.

      Home rule can give citizens more power than they currently have as residents of a statutory city. It is all about how the charter is written. And that charter is written by the citizens, voted upon by the citizens and can be revised only by the citizens.

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      • john holmes

        The point is almost all Home Rule Communities have higher sales taxes and more fees. It is a slush fund for people that do not need it, sucked out of the pockets of Seniors on fixed incomes, and working families. Particularly the flat fee water bill, and higher sales takes are a higher % of the income for these lower income folks. The process that is unfolding seems grossly unfair. The idea that citizens will draft this document is a misrepresentation. You have a hired gun lawyer who will bowl that committee over. You, the administration, and the lawyer intend to draft the Home Rule. Any other way of presenting this is just trickery. Every thing in your brochures on Home Rule advocate for flexibility in the Charter. Flexibility for what? I think it is so a few insiders can rule the city. The safest out for the community is to vote it down now, before you and your lawyrer can can corner that unsuspecting committee and run over them.

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  9. P.T. Wood

    Ultimately home rule comes down to the questions “can we make better local decisions than the state” and “do we trust ourselves”. I for one do not feel like I live in a place where I should fear my neighbors or my local government. My hope is that the people of Salida will choose a charter committee from a wide background that sits down at the table with the idea that they will produce the best possible document for the future of our city.
    I look forward to having a wide ranging and diverse discussion on the role and form of local government.

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    • Jane Smith

      No offense, but NO, I am not sure that "we" can necessarily make better local decisions than the state, and NO, I don't necessarily trust my fellow Salidans. I hope the charter committee has the sense to choose folks of differing (conflicting?) mindsets and political orientations. You must admit that the city of Salida is much more left-leaning than the rest of the county, and I fear this bias will spill over into the home-rule process.

      As Shakespeare said, "Methinks thou dost protest too much". 'Nuff said.

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      • P.T. Wood

        No offence taken, I would enjoy hearing your ideas on how to make our city better.

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      • P.T. Wood

        Sorry "offense" I'm sure my spelling will improve with time...

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      • P.T. Wood

        Offence vs offense ... Sometimes it is best to go with your first instinct...

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      • Lisa Malde

        Jane, just to clarify, voters will choose the Charter Committee in January. I just left the drawing of names for the ballot and there was quite a bit of discussion among the candidates afterward. I can honestly say that people from all political parties were engaged in the conversation and it was apparent that we all have similar concerns. I am hopeful that regardless of political affiliation that folks would be focused on the real issue, writing a charter that the residents can be happy with.

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  10. Bill Smith

    I'd like to reply to John Holmes. I have put in a petition to be on the Charter Committee. And I am a lawyer. I know a number of people who have also put their names in the hat for the committee. Speaking for myself I am not going to be "run over" by the city's attorney. There is another attorney who put his name in as well, Michael Scott. I've met Michael and worked on the other side from him as well. Not the the type who is easily "bowled over". The folks I've talked to who are running are not going to roll over for anyone. Look at the list. It is not a list of shrinking violets. It is nobody's intention to draft a charter that will empower a few insiders to run the city.

    Before you disparage the people who put themselves of there to be on the committee by saying they will allow themselves to be "bowled over" and "cornered" you should talk to them. They are not "unsuspecting" little kittens who will fawn and play lick-spittle to the city council or the city staff. They are people who have their own brains and ideas who want to make the process work. Talk to them. You might be surprised. My impression so far is that they want to identify and solve problems. I have said elsewhere that I don't think all issues should be addressed in a Charter, but a lot of them can, should, and will be.

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  11. Lisa Malde

    I am also running for the Charter Commission and would like to add that in no way would anyone that I have met, who submitted their petition for the Charter Commission, allow the Charter be anything but a document that represents the citizens of Salida. I have served on the Planning Commission for the past three and a half years and sometimes I agree with the City and sometimes I don’t, but at no point have I been tricked or cornered as Mr. Holmes seems to think will happen. Anyone who knows me knows that would never be the case.

    This is an amazing opportunity for us to draft up a document that dictates how Salida should be run rather than following the cookie cutter approach. If citizens end up not liking the Charter that the Commission comes up with, the voters can turn it down and it can be revisited by the Commission. All that I ask is to give the Commission a chance and vote for the candidates who will best serve the citizens of Salida in drafting up a Charter.

    And Mr. Holmes, I think you should give those of us who are stepping up to the challenge a little more credit. “We” are not insiders who stand to personally benefit other than simply being a part of the process and creating a solid city charter.

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  12. john holmes

    So we should be happy with non-transparent non-public meetings that put all this in process. We should be happy to pay for several elections. We should be happy with a rushed scedule that was put together before the public was ever brought into the process. We should be happy to pay for a lawyer because the people who have volunteered to write this charter think they can do a better job than 130 years or statutory rule law and history. Elitist. No one has yet mentioned the real agenda. Almost al, if not all, l Home Rule cities have higher taxes and more fees. Beware.

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    • Bill Smith

      I don't get it.

      First you complain that that you don't like the way the city is doing things (i.e. the lack of transparency with Vandeveer and the current water rate structure) and when it is pointed out that these things can be changed using the home rule process, you say we can't do better than the status quo? Are you resigned to living with the problems you see or do you want to see something done about it?

      You claim the people appointed will be rolled and bowled over by the minions of the city, but when at least three step up and say "no way" you claim they are elitist? I'm not even sure what that means?

      You claim the the only reason for home rule is higher taxes, but ignore the fact, yes I did say fact, that TABOR still requires a vote before raising taxes, home rule can't change that.

      I don't know you, but it seems like you just want to complain. I got no problem with complaining, there is often a lot to complain about, but complaining about a possible solution, I just don't get it.

      Like I said before, before you disparage people as weak minded and easily tricked, unsuspecting and now incongruously "elitist" talk to them. You might be surprised.

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  13. Steve Stewart

    in response to assertions that "john holmes" above and others have made in the newspaper, I ran across a study that directly addresses the issue. This is the result from a study of all Colorado Municipalities done in 2000 by Jason Stilwell as part of his dissertation work at CU-Denver. Dr. Stilwell is now a Cal State professor. The title of the dissertation is “The Sales Tax Revenue Implications and Administrative Efficacy of Colorado Municipal Home Rule.” Available on the web at http://www.jasonstilwell.com/dissertation

    Here is a small quote from Chapter 6: Combined Findings and Conclusions: “The first question was: Does home rule augment a municipality’s sales tax? The multiple regression research suggested home rule does not significantly augment municipal sales tax revenue. Follow-up research on subsets of the data population similarly supported this finding. Neither controlling for population nor budget size resulted in findings demonstrating home rule as a significant indicator of a municipality’s sales tax revenue.”

    There's a lot of good stuff in there. May not be the best late-night reading though!

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  14. Billy Carlisle

    Steve, Your report proves my point about sales taxes exactly. Steve Steward made the argument this morning that tax revenues are not higher in Home Rule cities. Clearly the rates go up, so this begs the question, "Do revenues go down or stay the same even though we all clearly know that the rates are higer?" Here are some possible explanations: people chose to shop outside the city, or on line to avoid the higher sales taxes. There are many ways to avoid sales taxes, the upper income folks have the flexibility to do that. This just proves my point that middle and lower income folks who are not as likely to shop on line or travel outside the town to shop wind up paying a higher percentage of their income on sales taxes. Same point for seniors. So are seniors and working poor paying the special taxes that will be used to subsidize high end amenities that only the affluent in the community can afford to access?

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  15. Bill Smith

    Billy:

    If sales tax rates are higher in some cities than others it is because people voted to have higher sales tax rates as required under TABOR. It has nothing to do with whether or not a city is home rule.

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  16. Don Stephens

    I'd like to commend Steve Stewart for his efforts to provide ACCURATE information. He spends most of his energy in this refuting misinformation, which for whatever reason is being repeatedly fed to our town. This should not be viewed as him being 'pro home rule', rather he is following his conscience and simply trying to counterbalance an overtly negative and deceitful attack on our democratic process.

    I'd like to reiterate that I am not for or against the home rule charter because, simply put, it does not exist yet. What I am for is the process of letting the citizens having a say in how they control their own future. The talented folks that have put themselves up for the commission is remarkable (the CAG referred to them as amateurs, while I counted about 10 or so advanced degrees among them), and I have enough trust in my fellow citizens to craft a document that stands a good chance to represent us well. It is important to remember the charter must be approved AFTER it has been written, there is no obligation until then.

    If you don't trust your government, fine. I myself have had concerns with the way the city has done things in the past, and that goes for every city I've lived in. But you have to respect and trust the process and your fellow citizens to make the choices they see fit, and move forward together when the results come in.

    If this ballot issue should fail, I will have no problem accepting it and moving forward. I would only hope that it gets a fair chance through the sharing of accurate information and good ideas, both before the election and during the charter writing process should it pass.

    Keep up the good work Steve.

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  17. Billy Carlisle

    Don, You and Steve are making a lot of loose talk. You use words like misinformation, negative and deceitful. Try talking facts and specifics; those are not in your favor. Attacking citizens who are raising issues and asking questions does not seem constructive. The council and admistration said they would be neutral in this debate and yet they accuse the citizens, who are the ones who should be debating the issue, of spreading misinformation. Most on the council have by now mis-spoken on the facts and in some cases apologized for making mistakes. Just for a few examples some on the council asserted that Home Rule went swimmingly well in Florence, and to the contrary it was defeated there, and for good reasons. Steve Stewart mis-stated something about fees taken by the state when collecting sales taxes, and later apologized and tried to correct his statements. I apologize for not having a better grasp on Steve's mis-statement. The bigger point is that we are all fumbling around trying to learn what we can about Home Rule. The assertion by Citizens fo Accountable Gpvernment (CAG) that the citizens of Salida were not given adequate time or information to consider Home Rule is the truest one and the biggest reason we need to vote no on Home Rule now. Billy C

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  18. P.T. Wood

    Billy, Ultimately the existing local government has nothing to do with what the charter commission writes so your point is moot. It would be great if you could offer a valid reason that we should not have a local discussion about local government.

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  19. Ed Castellon

    There's now been plenty of time to talk about home rule. So much time half the town is peppered with 'NO to Home Rule' signs. You may be 'fumbling' to understand, others may not. At this point in the process it seems very, very, simple to understand. A blank piece of paper! Again, a blank piece of paper!

    Can you imagine a charter commission filled with members that share your exact views? I have a feeling you wouldn't know what to do with yourselves. I find it very sad that you can't understand you can participate in this, and push for your particular agenda.

    You don't like how the city 'forced' a vote on this? Write something into the charter.

    They do talk facts and specifics, while you are constantly spreading fear of things that can go wrong, and have yet to be written into the charter. Why not use what you find to help write the charter and address your issues?

    And, can you get over the 'affluent shop online' talking point? I can guarantee people from all over the economic spectrum shop online to save money, and avoiding sales tax has nothing to do with it. I would also bet that you have no idea how many poverty level people enjoy playing golf. Those two points alone show me that you're not in touch with everyone you claim to be supporting.

    You've been 'researching' the candidates, how about actually talking to them and getting to know them. I've been employed by some, been co-workers with some, and have witnessed the work some have put into this community. I KNOW that these people don't want the next Aspen to be here, which is what you seem to be implying all of the time.

    Attacking people? Just go and visit the CAG site, and tell me what you think. Nevermind the countless statements starting with 'I hear', 'I think',etc.

    You're so freaked out by all of this you're going to give up your Christmas to keep fighting the good fight. Have fun!

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  20. Billy Carlisle

    Thank you for your comments. Specifics on why I will be voting no on forming a Home Rule Charter: Higher taxes and more ordinances are the common denominators of Home Rule municipalities. Many of us came to the mountains to enjoy more freedoms and to tread quietly over the open spaces. I read three pages of regulations Jefferson County, a Home Rule County, placed specifically on open space. Many of those ordinances prohibited and regulated things we enjoy here in Chaffee without regulatory interference. Many people who visit in Chaffee come here to enjoy camping opportunities that are less regulated than in some other areas. Dueling ordinances, fees, and taxes will become the order of the day in Salida, if home rule passes. We ignore this at our own peril. You are deluding yourself, if you do not think this council and administration will abuse the power to create new ordinances. The recent threats to take down No Home Rule signs should have been your heads up. I do not believe such threats were made in the past three election cycles. It is possible that they were, but I was involved in more than a few campaingns during that period and heard nothing of it. The threats were against one set of signs advocating a particular point of view. Why not give me some specifics on why you want home rule? Instead of accusing me of misinformation, go look at the Jefferson County ordinanes and tell me which of those ordinances you would like to see adopted in Salida. I choose none of them and will be voting no on forming a Home Rule Charter.

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  21. Marshall

    While I don't have a dog in this race, I find it very interesting to look at what the proponents have to say, which seems balanced and positive, and then look at the detractors, and see the same old hearsay arguments made repeatedly.

    While I don't live in Salida anymore, I call it my "town" as I am only 12 miles away. I spend my money there, recreate there, and many of my close friends live there.

    I was curious as to how many towns there actually are in Colorado that are home rule municipalities, and was shocked at the number. According to Wikipedia, there are 61 cities and 35 towns that are home rule.
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_cities_and_towns_in_Colorado

    Now, without entertaining all the "what if" scenarios posed here in this discussion, the thought that is on MY mind is, if it's so bad, why are there 96 home rule towns and only 160 statutory towns. Seems that a LOT of folks in other places, many similar to Salida, and granted many not, think this is a good idea. Personally, I believe possessing the ability to govern based on what the residents desire, as opposed to what the state mandates is a good thing.

    Touching on the higher taxes issue raised here, regardless of home rule or not, taxes are going to increase over the coming years, the government is NOT going to stop spending at the unbelievable pace it's set in the past 4 years. Wait till that "free" health care kicks in. you think you're taxed now, oh buddy, you ain't seen nothing yet. But I digress.

    At the end of the day, basing your feelings on the current slate of candidates for the charter is short sighted, they will be replaced with others as days pass, basing your feelings on the negative "what if's" posed here and in other forums is as well short sighted. The many positive aspects to this shouldn't be ignored.

    In my humble opinion, you should look at where you see Salida in 5, 10 or even 25 years down the road, and ask yourself this question. Are the lawmakers in Denver better equipped to govern this sleepy little town than the folks that live here ? I don't believe they are, but as I said before, I don't have a dog in this race.

    Marshall

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  22. Bill Donavan

    Marshall, Though there are clearly some vocal opponents who enjoy the Citizen, I believe your views are held by many people—particularly, and perhaps ironically, by those who lean to the right.

    When I speak with those interested in being part of the charter commission, they are all people who who feel there is room for improvement with our local governance, are angry at past decisions made by "the city," and like all of us—they are not pushing for higher taxes.

    In Montana and Northern Idaho where I spent more than a decade involved in local politics, I can guarantee those (ultra) conservatives would be leading the charge FOR Home Rule. Think: less "big government" control, more independence, and some control over taxation, and this is the odd part about the discussion here in Salida: Who knew the conservatives would be against it? Salida has always been a funny place. Thanks for your objectivity Marshall. bd

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  23. Billy Carlisle

    Bill and Marshall, thanks for your thoughts. I am looking at a lot of sources. The CML handbook has a lot of reasons why this would be a bad time to embrace home rule. As for the taxes, home rule communities can choose to exceed limits set by the state. That is the biggest worry for me. Most of the home rule communities do exceed the state limits on sales taxes and most often they spend the revenue on up scale venues that seniors and lower income families can not afford to use. As for facts: look at tax rates from community to community and compare; the evidence is there. Also, google seniors and sales taxes. Most seniors and low income individuals spend 8 to 14% of their incomes on sales taxes. Upper middle and upper income folks spend 1 to 4% of their incomes on sales taxes. The evidence and information is available. The higher taxes will fall disproportionately on lower income folks. Most of my reasons not to like home rule come straight from the home rule hand book. Read it with a critical eye and mind. Quotes and excerpts from An Overview of Municipal Home Rule published by CML)
    The section in the overview titled “Considerations in determining whether the time is right to adopt home rule” gives specific reasons why Home Rule is not right for Salida on pages 12 and 13 in the overview. The Colorado Municipal League seems to strongly promote/push home rule. It is very telling for us all that the overview of their manual on home rule has many quotes that would indicate this is a bad time for Salida to consider home rule.
    Quote - “The timing for proposing home ring in individual communities may or may not be “right”. Municipalities have tended to favor home rule status as they became larger and more active and the need for more authority and flexibility was perceived.” Analysis - Clearly Salida does not meet this criterion, since our population has been stable for the last 10 years at around 5,000.
    Quote – “…at other times supporters have been motivated by municipal reform desires or by special prerogative available only to home rule entities, such as the right to collect and control municipal sales and use taxes locally.” Analysis – This is one of the few reasons for home rule which some in the council have suggested could be a good reason to go to home rule. This would involve a new tax collection and accounting body whose costs might outweigh any gains. The council has been quoted as miss-stating how self-collection would work. This just means for me if there are potential benefits they have not been studied and/or cost justified. The council thinks self-collection may be a good idea, but they have not studied it and they have demonstrated that they do not understand how it works.
    Quote – “…home rule adoption generally has appeared to be more successful when: The municipal government was operating without a great deal of actual or perceived controversy, since voters seem less likely to grant different or unknown powers where other local controversy exists.” Analysis – Our current government is awash with controversies: Water bills are skyrocketing and citizens do not understand why. The Vandeveer Ranch was bought and the land and water are being sold off with little apparent benefit to citizens. The property is being managed by a not-for-profit, which does not hold public meeting. The citizens of Salida are very uncomfortable with this non-transparent group fearing that the property may be sold off to friends and cronies of the not-for-profit members with little or no accountability. Giving more flexibility to the current council under Home Rule would be like asking the fox to design the hen house.
    Quote – “…home rule adoption generally has appeared to be more successful when: Considerable ground work has taken place before scheduling an election in order to educate and obtain the support of business, civic, and other opinion leaders..” : Analysis – The council and administration have completely ignored this pre-requisite for home rule. They communicated privately with CML and a few un-named people who were in favor of home rule before passing an ordinance requiring a vote on whether to draft a home rule charter or not. This whole process was initiated by a few yet un-named people. There was no attempt, whatsoever, to foster a public open and transparent discussion before putting our community on the path to a costly special election.

    Quote – “…home rule adoption generally has appeared to be more successful when: The Charter commission acts with consensus and avoids controversial provisions in the proposed charter.” Analysis – This one is a little harder to answer, since the drafting process is not underway yet. We can only address a few of the things Steve Stewart has suggested a charter could or should address. It includes all the controversies like: transparency and accountability, formation of non-transparent not-for-profits, self-collections of taxes and the formation of a new tax collection bureaucracy. All these issues are acutely controversial and if your read this overview of the hand book CML comes down firmly saying it is a bad time to attempt a home rule charter. Refer to this previous quote, Quote – “…home rule adoption generally has appeared to be more successful when: The municipal government was operating without a great deal of actual or perceived controversy, since voters seem less likely to grant different or unknown powers where other local controversy exists.”

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  24. Billy Carlisle

    Marshall, I think it is very appropriate for someone outside Salida to comment. We have guests, neighbors, and fellow Chaffians to consider. Thanks for weighting in. Billy C.

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  25. John Jaugilas

    SS started this off saying he was offering a "balanced synopsis"
    But then admits "yes, I am biased."

    His description is nicely worded but not balanced or accurate. SS should read the student thesis he cited. Taxes went up but "home rule does not significantly augment municipal sales tax revenue". It proves the failure of home rule status. Unfortunately he didn't understand that.

    He then accurately, but misleadingly says hr does not increase taxes. Accurate, insofar as being hr doesn't make it happen, but it is the enabler to make it happen. SS then cites TABOR and says "If those cities/towns have higher taxes it is because they were... implemented by a popular vote...."

    The city council can already increase debt and will be able to do so under hr status, but hr gives increased ability to let the people vote on even more taxes and restrictions. Of course the student thesis points out the folly of all this.

    Cut the platitudes. What specific reasons do we need hr status for.

    No bs about democracy or local input.

    What are the specific Needs that cannot be addressed. Please cite them All Mr Stewart. All of them, in detail.

    They must only be things that cannot be done under current status.

    Why do you always talk in abstract generalities about this SS?

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  26. Bill Smith

    JJ:

    Here are some things we can write into the charter. These come from a variety of sources, and I don't support them all.

    - Require a vote of the people before the city purchases or disposes of any real property (See Vandeveer)
    - Require a vote of the people before the city council can approve additional debt for its enterprise funds
    - take away the city's ability to create 63-20 corporations
    - require that the current city council all be members of the Board of Directors of the current 63-20
    - require that the current 63-20 comply with Sunshine Laws
    - require the city attorney to live in Chaffee County
    - prevent the city from taking advantage of any additional taxing provisions that are available to non-statutory cities
    - Require more than 50% of the vote to raise taxes, say 60% or 67%

    Those are some things, many of which cannot be done under our current status.

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  27. Billy Carlisle

    Bill, are we advocating for a flexible charter that gives the government more flexibility to govern, or are you advocating for a constraining charter that will limit the council? Are you discounting the fact that the council can still make ordinances? Are you discounting the fact that the council will have easy latitude to bring amendments? What about a bill of rights for the citizens? I have two fears: 1.) We will be in a never-ending cycle of dualing amendments and ballot initiatives. Not unlike giving up Christmas to debate home rule on a shedule the council picked for us. Imagine Salida going through a home rule ballot initiative or two every year from now on. 2). The courts are reluctant to go against local home rule charters. Citizens with civil rights and legal diffrences with the city may fight all the way to the Colorado state supreme court only to find that deference is given to the home rule charter. Justice and fairness will be out the window.
    All this competition will be us, Salidans, fighting over taxes and fees, each others money. It will be us fighting to make silly little rules to regulate each others lives. The pettiness that will evolve out of this process will surprise even you. Your friends and neighbors will be getting fines over little things that a quiet rural town like ours typically over looked.
    You think it won't change our lives and that we will make only the good choices. The petty little people are the ones that want to regulate your life and they are the ones that will be tormenting the salt of the earth people who would prefer to be left alone.
    Some of us came to the mountains to be free. Others, I am beginning to think, came here to change us and regulate us. I hope we don't give them the home rule tool they so desire to regulate our lives.

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  28. john

    Just passing along an observation from my brother-in-law (a former city manager and municipal administrator in various communities in New Mexico) visiting Salida for the holidays, upon seeing all the anti home rule yard signs: "Why the heck would anyone be against home rule?"

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  29. Billy Carlisle

    Why not HOME RULE? BECAUSE IT IS GROTESQUELY UNFAIR!! It is a way to get higher sales taxes and more fees out of the community. The sales taxes in particularly fall hardest on seniors on social security and lower income working families. Low income folks pay 8 to 14% of their income on sales taxes, while, upper middle and upper income folks spend only 1 to 4% of their income on sales taxes. To make it doubly unfair the most frequent uses of the added and higher taxes are for up scale city amenities that the lower income people cannot afford to utilize.

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