Reader clarifies confusion on home rule

Dear Editor,

The topic of Home Rule did not suddenly appear. Since my arrival in Salida in 2001, I have heard frequent discussions concerning the pros and cons of Home Rule. Being the talk of the town for years, last August your Council members decided to allow all of Salida’s citizens to participate in the discussion. That’s the job of our Council members, to bring to Council meetings what they have heard on Salida’s streets and in the coffee shops.

Following Colorado state statutes, Council members voted to begin the process that allows voters to choose whether or not they wanted to create a Home Rule Charter. [Notice that this step DOES NOT ask whether or not a person wants Home Rule.] In the January 15, 2013, election, voters will be asked to (1) vote for or against creation of the Home Rule Commission and (2) select up to 11 potential commission members. If the creation of the commission is approved, the elected 11 members will get to work.

The Home Rule Charter Commission would then spend the next 180 days creating a document specifically for Salida. According to the CML Municipal Home Rule handbook, Salida citizens would be constructing their own “self-government.” Once completed, this Home Rule Charter/document will establish the rules and procedures by which our City Council will be governed and operated with regard to issues of local control.

All Salida citizens will have sufficient time this spring and early summer to carefully analyze and evaluate the proposed Home Rule Charter. An election will be scheduled in late summer, and Salida voters will indicate whether or not they want THAT Home Rule Charter. Then and only then will Salida’s citizens vote, in an up-down format, on Home Rule for Salida.

The January 15th vote is ONLY to decide whether or not we should elect a committee to create a Home Rule Charter. Many, many Salida citizens are confused about the process required by Colorado state statutes. Hopefully, this explanation is helpful.

As a statutory city, Salida currently is obligated to follow Colorado state statutes for all proceedings. A locally created Home Rule Charter would allow Salida citizens to create their own statutes/rules for all City Council proceedings, sunshine laws would still apply, and voters must continue to approve any new taxes.

Finally, I want to encourage Salida’s citizens to remember to be civil when disagreeing. To those who make inflammatory comments and attempt to create fear in our friends and neighbors, please stop. Give every citizen accurate, unbiased information and then let each voter decide what is best for Salida.

Eileen Rogers
Retired Educator
Salida City Treasurer

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.

2 Responses to “Reader clarifies confusion on home rule”

  1. Billy Carlisle

    Study the CML handbook. Every caution they give about reasons not to embrace home rule fits our Salida situation. Everything they say that should be done prior to forming a charter committee shows me the things we have not done. Read these quotes, look at the handbook and then tell me what you think. 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 non-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 non-profit group's 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 non-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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