Petition drive

Signatures sought for ballot question to remove term limits except for county commissioners

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When presented with a resolution a month ago for a ballot initiative to eliminate term limits for all elected county officials except for the commissioners, the commissioners said they wanted more community input before they made a decision.

Two local residents have taken it upon themselves to gather that input.

Residents Saud Tayyara and John Ponikvar have started a petition drive to get the question on the ballot.

"They said they wanted more input and this is a way of getting it to them," Ponikvar said. "A lot of people are interested in this issue but they don't have the opportunity to go to meetings."

Right now the two estimated they have between 250 and 300 signatures.

Their goal, they said, is to gather 600 to 1,000.

If they can get 5 percent of the voting population to sign the petition, it would automatically go on the ballot.

But they plan on presenting the petition to the Moffat County commissioners Friday morning, when the commissioners are scheduled to make a decision on whether to put the question on the ballot.

At the May 20 Moffat County Commission meeting, Tim Jantz, chairman of the Moffat County Republican Party, presented a resolution on behalf of Republican Party members who voted at the Republican County Assembly this spring calling for the removal of term limits on all elected officials except county commissioners.

"We feel obligated to get all the information we can," Commissioner Marianna Raftopoulos said at the meeting. "We need more facts, but as far as we're concerned the commissioners can be left off the ballot."

Commissioner T. Wright Dickinson agreed that the resolution should be taken under advisement.

"I respect this grassroots process," he told Jantz when presented with the resolution. "I personally believe from the information given that we should take this under advisement and look at it."

Tayyara said he and Ponikvar are trying to provide the commissioners with the feedback they wanted.

"We're doing them a favor by presenting them with the input," Tayyara said. Ponikvar said the history of Colorado voting has shown that if the commissioners are included, the question doesn't pass."

"People see a commissioner as holding a political office," Ponikvar said. "They don't see it as a career. They see the other elected positions as careers."

These positions include county clerk and recorder, county treasurer, county assessor, county coroner and county sheriff. Commissioners make policy, while the other elected officials enforce policy, Tayyara and Ponikvar said.

Tayyara said those officials who do a good job in enforcing policy are often forced out of their positions by term limits.

"When eight years is, up we're losing some good people," Ponikvar said. "We don't want to lose that experience."

Tayyara said better-qualified people might strive for the position if term limits are removed.

"People don't want to take a job if there's no future," he said. "People in these positions might want to work harder because they want to make a career out of it."

If they don't work hard the people can still vote them out of office, Tayyara said.

The pros and cons of term limits can be discussed later, Ponikvar said.

"The important thing right now is getting it on the ballot and then let the debate begin," Ponikvar said.

Tayyara agreed.

"It is important to realize that people have a desire to see it on the ballot," Tayyara said. "The ultimate goal is to give the power to the people to decide in November."

People wanting more information about the petition can call Tayyara at 824-6846 or Ponikvar at 824-3284.

They can also stop by NAPA Auto Parts where the petition is posted.

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