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Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Momentum Builds for Having 5 Jeffco Commissioners, Not Just 3

[Published August 8, 2013, in the Jeffco editions of the Denver Post's YourHub section and in five Jefferson County weekly newspapers]

In today’s world, everything comes down to politics, and this is as true for real estate issues as anything else. It’s the Board of County Commissioners (“BCC”) that has the ultimate say on all land use issues in the unincorporated areas of the county.  Urban sprawl? It’s the county commissioners who can control it.  Transit oriented development? Completing the beltway?  Buying (or selling) open space parcels? These are all decisions made by just three county commissioners.

Many voters are surprised to learn that Colorado’s most populous county is run by only 3 commissioners who theoretically represent three districts but all of whom are elected at large. You probably don’t even know which of the three districts you are in or which commissioner represents that district. 

When the county was formed, it was a rural area and three commissioners were elected to run the county. When the population reached 70,000, the board of commissioners could be enlarged to five.  Today, there are 540,000 residents of Jeffco — about the population of Wyoming — and we are still represented by three commissioners, all of them elected county-wide.

A group of Jeffco citizens, mostly from the northern part of the county, have organized under the name Jeffco5 and meet regularly to press for enlarging the BCC and — more importantly — having the commissioners elected by district instead of at large.

Why is this important?  It has to do with us citizens having a voice.  The electoral process is what gives us our voice.  If a commissioner has a district of 100,000 citizens, but is elected by 500,000 citizens, he or she doesn’t have to worry so much about responding to the interests of those 100,000 citizens.

Not surprisingly, the current commissioners (except Casey Tighe) oppose such a change, but their reasons for doing so are specious and cover up their real concern which is making it easier for persons to run against them. Currently, if you want to run for  one of the commissioner seats, you have to convince a plurality of all voters in the county, not just the voters in your district.  It’s little wonder that no one ran against one of the commissioners (Faye Griffin) last year. 

The Jeffco5 group has a website, www.Jeffco5.com, which explains the issues and allows you to be added to their email/newsletter list.  They are hoping to get supporters in every ZIP code of the county, and since this column appears in every ZIP code, I offered to publicize their worthy efforts.

This is not a partisan (Democrat vs. Republican) issue or effort. Members of both parties have joined the Jeffco5 group and see the value of making the BCC more accountable to all sections of the county. 

It doesn’t matter where in the county you live.  There is little reason for “your” commissioner to cater to your local needs and concerns, because you are such a small part of their electorate.  Wouldn’t it be great, for example, if there were one commissioner accountable to your fifth of the electorate?  That accountability only comes with the kind of change which the Jeffco5 group is promoting.

 

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