Our view – Granby home rule: What’s the hurry?
April 1, 2010
The powers that be are asking town voters to start down the road toward making Granby a home rule town. The notion may well have merit, but town officials have skipped a critically important step: educating and involving citizens.
Instead, town officials want voters to approve formation of a charter committee without first having had the requisite discussions.
Among the problems with this approach is that once the committee is formed, the clock begins ticking and deadlines for completion of committee business begin kicking in, giving taxpayers little time to deliberate. Plus, the committee meetings would be conducted during the summer months, when public attendance is likely to be minimal at best.
Finding a citizen-observer at Granby Town Board meetings is as rare as a Republican vote for ObamaCare. What makes trustees think anyone is going to participate in charter committee meetings when they could be trying to tempt big trout to rise to a fly instead?
Elected officials – that is, the policymakers – say they are forbidden from “promoting” a ballot issue and so cannot discuss specifics of the initiative. In other words, “Trust us, this will be good for the town.”
In the meantime, upwards of $36,000 will be spent on legal fees and other costs associated with developing a town charter if voters approve the initiative.
Home rule offers local governments potential advantages – and, yes, potential pitfalls – compared with statutory status.
Granby, for instance, might be able to shift part of its tax burden from local taxpayers to tourists. Any increase or change in taxes would, under the TABOR amendment, require voter approval.
Fees, however, could be another matter. Under home rule status, the town might gain more leeway to impose new fees without voter approval, depending on what devils are dancing on the head of a pin in the charter.
Another problem is the potential makeup of the charter committee.
Seven of the 11 candidates running for the nine seats on the committee are town board members. This is no way to go about developing the legal document that will determine how the town is governed for the foreseeable future. It would be vastly preferable to include a more diverse cross-section of the community.
Then again, we’re not surprised, given that this effort has been confined primarily to the vacuum of Town Hall, with little effort to enfranchise citizens.
If home rule truly does offer Granby an appreciable advantage, it will continue to do so later this year or next. And certainly the end result would be better if citizens were educated and involved in the process well before being confronted with a ballot issue.
Granby voters, take your pick: You can roll the dice and hope something positive comes from forming a home rule charter committee; or, you can reject this measure and actually have some idea of what’s at stake the next time the issue lands on a ballot.
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