Jeffco Commissioner Casey Tighe was the first county resident to sign a petition to let voters decide if the Board of Commissioners should be expanded from three members to five.
Tighe signed the petition during a news conference by the Jeffco5 group outside the Golden Library on Jan. 11.
“They asked me to (be the first to sign),” Tighe said. “I’m proud of the work the board is doing. I think we’re doing a good job. But I’ve heard from a number of people that they would like to have a little more representation. And I just feel like I want to support people having that opportunity to weigh in on this.”
Jeffco5, the grassroots group behind the petition, tried unsuccessfully in 2013 to persuade the county commissioners to put the question on last November’s ballot. Tighe, the board’s sole Democrat, was supportive, but Republican Commissioners Don Rosier and Faye Griffin voted no.
As a result, Jeffco5 decided to try to get the proposal on the ballot with a citizen initiative, which requires collecting about 17,500 signatures of registered voters. The group has until June 30 to submit the signatures to the Jeffco clerk and recorder.
Along with signing the petition, Tighe took a form home to gather signatures himself.
“I feel like since I supported referring it as a member of the board, I said I think we should give the people an opportunity to vote on it; I feel like this is just an extension of that,” Tighe said.
Jeffco’s three commissioners serve four-year terms and represent three geographic districts, but they are elected by all Jeffco residents.
Jim Smith, a Realtor in Golden and a member of Jeffco5, said the current method of electing Jeffco commissioners would be like the governor of Colorado also being voted on by residents of New Mexico and Arizona.
“How responsive would he be to the voters of Colorado if he also has to win the votes of New Mexico and Arizona? That’s the situation we have here in the county with three at-large people,” Smith said.
Proponents of an expanded commission believe that five commissioners would better represent the county’s half-million residents and more effectively grapple with its urban and rural issues.
The proposed ballot measure would ask voters if the board should be expanded to five commissioners, and how commissioners should be elected.
Voters would decide if the county should expand to five districts, with commissioners being directly elected by voters in each district, or if three commissioners would be elected by their districts and two by the county at-large.
The Colorado Constitution allows for counties with more than 70,000 people to have five commissioners instead of three. In the 2012 census, Jeffco’s population was 545,358.
Tighe wasn’t the only politician on hand to sign the petition. Edgewater City Councilman Kristian Teegardin and Golden City Councilwoman Saoirse Charis-Graves were the second and third to sign.
Contact Ramsey Scott at email@example.com or 303-933-2233, ext. 22, and follow him on Twitter @RamseyColumbine.