2020-08-21 GCC Special Meeting Report (form of government amendments)

The Grand County Council met in a special meeting at 2pm to consider amendments to Grand County’s current form of government. In the near future, MADAR will have a more in-depth article on this topic. This meeting report will be more concise.

Under consideration were three amendments.

The main purpose of Amendment 1 was to bring Grand County’s current form of government (FOG) into compliance with state requirements. A secondary goal of Amendment 1 was to clean up our FOG ordinance’s outdated references to state code sections which no longer exist. Amendment 1 required a 2/3 majority to pass, but did not require further voter approval. It passed unanimously, 7-0. Grand County is now an “expanded commission” form of government.

Amendment 2 would change the number of seats from seven to five. In addition to a 2/3 majority on the GCC, it would require voter approval. So a vote in favor of Amendment 2 was, in effect, a vote to let voters decide this question. not an endorsement of five seats over seven. This amendment passed 6-1, with Greg Halliday voting no.

Amendment 3, like Amendment 2, requires voter approval (so again a yes vote was not an endorsement of the substance of the amendment, but rather saying that voters should decide). Amendment 3 would eliminate districts and have all seats elected at large. It passed 6-1, with Greg Halliday voting no.

In summary, all three amendments passed, but amendments 2 and 3 take effect only if voters approve this November. The ballot will contain three yes/no questions: (a) Approve Study Committee plan? (b) Approve Amendment 2 (5 seats)? Approve Amendment 3 (all seats at large)? Depending on how people vote in October/November, we could end up with:

  • A five-member council-manager form, with all seats at-large (if voters approve Study Committee proposed plan).
  • A seven-member expanded commission form, with districts (very similar to our current FOG), if the Study Committee plan does not get a majority and people vote no on Amendments 2 and 3.
  • A five-member expanded commission form, with all seats at large, if the Study Committee plan does not get a majority and people vote yes on Amendments 2 and 3.

At the beginning of the meeting, Study Committee member Walt Dabney spoke about the thorough process the Study Committee had gone through. Similar points were later made by SC member Judy Carmichael. Doug Fix (one of the authors of Grand County’s 1992 plan) commented that removing some advisory language from the current (1992) plan (as Amendment 1 does) was not a significant change, since the language was just advisory. Kevin Walker commented that the main effect of the amendments was to give voters a wider array of choices, and that was clearly a good outcome.

Some Council members expressed concern with the rushed time frame of adopting the amendments. County Attorney Christina Sloan explained that looming ballot deadlines dictated the scheduling of this vote. In hindsight, things should have started earlier. She also added that she will draft a legal memo that addresses the constitutional and other legal points.

Evan Clapper expressed some uneasiness with Amendment 1 removing some advisory language which encouraged the council to delegate authority related to day-to-day operations of the county. Curtis Wells said he preferred to keep a clearer distinction between council-manager forms and expanded commissions, and wanted to leave the details of delegating various executive functions to the future commission.

Jaylyn Hawks remarked that although the Study Committee consulted (via surveys) with approximately 300 voters, placing these FOG options on the ballot would allow an additional 5000+ voters to weigh in.

Several council members acknowledged the Study Committee’s dedicated and hard work, and pointed out that the meaning of a yes vote on the Study Committee’s recommended FOG has not changed. The amendments considered today only have an effect if the Study Committee plan fails to pass in November.