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NOREEN: Stop tap-dancing, commissioners, and 'fess up

By: BARRY NOREEN
November 18, 2010
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Unbelievable.

Just weeks ago, El Paso County commissioners were so infatuated with the idea of giving themselves another term in office, they got County Attorney Bill Louis to draft tricky ballot language for measures to extend officeholders’ term limits — including their own. The measures passed, but many voters now say they were hornswoggled.

Facing fierce blow-back since the election, the commissioners asked Louis to research whether the election can be overturned.

The commissioners directing their mouthpiece to contrive legal mumbo jumbo to overturn an election is the worst idea that has ever emanated from El Paso County government.

In an email Tuesday night, Commissioner Sallie Clark wrote:

“I wanted you to know that I have asked our county attorney for a legal ruling on whether the current board of commissioners has the ability to reconsider a referred ballot question that has been approved by voters.”

Clark (and her commissioner cohorts, Amy Lathen, Wayne Williams and Dennis Hisey) are wrong on a lot of levels. First, Louis is not a judge and is no more empowered to “rule” than is a bartender at the Ritz. Given his role so far, he is the last one they should consult.

Second, if the commissioners can over-rule election results, why have elections in the first place? While they are at it, they could get Louis to find a way for them to over-rule the failed medicinal marijuana dispensary ban, which they supported.

Everyone has an election result they don’t like. If we over-rule elections by executive fiat, we have become a banana republic.

Rick Wehner, an unaffiliated voter who has been steadily stirring the pot on the term limits measure, says the commissioners have created a credibility problem.

“This isn’t a concern about term limits,” Wehner said. “It’s about the nature of the wording.”

When he heard the commissioners were trying to find a way to overturn the election, Wehner said, “I was just totally stunned.”

Mr. Wehner, you are not alone.

On Thursday, the commissioners (credit Commissioner Jim Bensberg, who never joined the others on this) decided to schedule a public hearing on the issue. By doing that, they seem to be implying that yes, the ballot language was tricky. Other than taking a lot of flak and creating more headlines, the commissioners aren’t going to accomplish anything with a public hearing.

Sallie, Dennis, Amy and Wayne, you’d all be better off if you just admitted you made a mistake, that the language was tricky, that you’re sorry and that you’ll rectify this in an election as soon as possible.

And we’d be more convinced of your sincerity if the next term limits extension measure does not apply to anyone now in office.

Listen to Barry Noreen on KRDO NewsRadio 105.5 FM and 1240 AM at 6:35 a.m. on Fridays and read his blog updates at gazette.com

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