Recently, state Rep. Bob Marshall did exactly what he said he was going to do when he ran for office — he introduced a bill that would require large counties to expand from three- to five-member boards of commissioners. If the bill is approved, that would mean Douglas County will go from three to five commissioners.
Arapahoe County already has five commissioners, which means they would not be impacted by the bill. However, Arapahoe County operates without a lot of in-commission fighting, has good discussion and debate and is a great example of why a five-member board can be a lot more functional.
When it comes to party lines, I would like a better balance of Republicans and Democrats on the Arapahoe board, given there is currently only one Republican, but that’s not a huge complaint.
In Douglas County, the current commissioners are great evidence of why a three-member boards is not good in representing a county with 360,000 people and growing.
The argument against the bill is that it “creates more government,” not less. I get not wanting more government, but is having two more commissioners added to a currently dysfunctional board a bad thing?
I have never been a fan of the all-yes boards. I like my elected boards to have a balance of voices and opinions. If all members of a council, commission or school board have the same thoughts, beliefs and ideals — you will get a lot of rubber-stamp voting without thoughtful discussion and debate.
Local city and town councils, with fewer residents than all of Douglas County, currently have more elected officials looking out for their best interests.
In Douglas County, residents currently have George Teal and Abe Laydon deciding where and how money is spent. They are making decisions on zoning, land use and water. If Commissioner Lora Thomas does have an opposing view or opinion — it doesn’t seem to matter as the two men on the board have clearly formed an alliance.
This alliance means if one supports a project — the other will get in line to do the same. These are schoolyard games that should never been the norm on a local, elected board.
This alliance has cost taxpayers plenty of money in approving investigations against Thomas that have yielded nothing more than tens of thousands of dollars in wasted taxpayer dollars.
At the very least, two more commissioners being asked to approve another frivolous investigation might ask questions and vote against it.
With two more commissioners, decisions might still end the same way, but I bet there is more discussion, fewer alliances and probably a healthier representation of what residents in Douglas County deserve.
What I love about Rep. Marshall introducing the bill, House Bill 23-1180, is that he can’t be bullied. He is at the state level and the two-member majority can’t just quash it. Do I think the bill will pass? It’s early and hard to say. The argument of having more government oversight could win out in halting it in its tracks. However, I do hope our elected officials at the state level give it true thought and consideration.
If it is passed in the 2023 session, counties that would be affected by the bill are Jefferson, Larimer, Douglas, Boulder, Pueblo and Mesa, all of which are counties with three commissioners.
Thelma Grimes is the south metro editor for Colorado Community Media.