Letter: County commission districts: Bad idea | PostIndependent.com

Letter: County commission districts: Bad idea

Steve Smith
Glenwood Springs

The new fad notion of voting for county commissioners by district is foolish and shortsighted, and the Post Independent’s recent editorial encouraging further consideration of it is an unhelpful distraction.

The long-enduring, and democratically fair, model of candidates rising from their home districts but being voted on by all citizens is a primary tenet of the good-government reforms from the early 20th century.

This election format ensures that elected officials are distributed across all our neighborhoods, but that they remain answerable to all of us — not just those in their neighborhood or inner clique.

This was key to bringing down big-boss rule in government, replacing it with objective expertise and an emphasis on governance for the health and benefit of the many rather than the profit of the few.

Originally pressed by progressive leaders Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, Upton Sinclair, William Allen White, Samuel McClure, Margaret Sanger and a host of civic-minded locals across the country, reforms also included relying on expertise and science for government services (rather than on cronyism and swapping of favors), initiative and referendum to facilitate citizens’ direct involvement in governing, and the merit-based civil service system (rewarding government employees based on what they know rather than on who they know).

I cannot remember, in nearly 30 years living here, a majority vote by any combination of county commissioners with which I agreed — on land use, transportation, energy development, protection for wildlands and habitat, anything. I would love to have a county government more representative of my own progressive and environmentalist views.

The misguided attempt to artificially secure one liberal commissioner is not the way to do that. It is undemocratic and invites corruption.

Worse, it would not work. The token liberal commissioner would consistently to be outvoted by conservatives who are even more beholden to their narrow base.

The proper, and effective, path to better representation of progressives is the recruitment of strong candidates, well-organized and persuasive campaigns, and continued pressure on all elected officials to truly represent the entire county.


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