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Thursday, December 6, 2012

Bringing Democracy to Jeffco's Board of County Commissioners

[Published Dec. 6, 2012, in the Denver Post and in four Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

     I had a chance to sit down with Jeffco Commissioner-elect Casey Tighe last week, and we discussed an important issue which is nothing less than bringing democracy to the Board of Commissioners. There are three commissioners, each representing a third of the county, but each is elected at large — that is, by the entire county.

     Why aren’t they elected only by the residents of the district they will supposedly represent? There are two major consequences of electing all the Commissioners at large. The first is that each commissioner does not need to worry about being accountable to his (or her) district. John Odom was the perfect example of this, because his “district” was Golden, which is adamantly against completing the Beltway. If he answered only to his district constituents, do you think he’d have been so pro-Beltway?

      The second impact of the current at-large voting is that potential candidates are discouraged from running because they have to campaign across the entire county instead of just in their own district.  I suspect that’s why the Democrats failed to find a candidate to run against Faye Griffin this year.  She ran unopposed.

      The current board, when asked, wouldn’t even consider doing away with at-large voting or enlarging the board to five Commissioners. "We don't have the office space for two more commissioners," was the response.  Casey Tighe told me he’ll make sure the Board considers these proposals and bring more democracy to Jefferson County. Adding two more commissioners does cost money, but changing from at-large to district voting should cost nothing.


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