CORRECTION: Mary Smith originally was misidentified in this story.
The Boulder County Community Rights Network plans to proceed with collecting petition signatures for an election that would ask voters whether they'd agree to take initial steps toward potentially converting the county to a home rule form of government.
Members of that recently formed organization convened a Tuesday news conference outside the downtown Boulder courthouse on the Pearl Street Mall to announce that they're about to begin that petition drive, although they're not quite ready yet to start circulating those petitions.
Mary Smith, one of the organizers of Tuesday's event, said the Community Rights Network is working with the county attorney's office, the county clerk's office and the Colorado Secretary of State's Office on coming up with the appropriate language and format for the petitions.
"We want to make sure we have all our legal ducks in a row," Smith said after the news conference.
The boards of commissioners in Colorado's only two other home rule counties, Weld and Pitkin, referred charter-creation proposals to their counties' voters, Smith said.
Last weekend, Boulder County's board members announced they'd decided against the Boulder County Community Rights Network's request that the county hold a special July 15 election to ask voters whether they'd approve having a special 21-member panel draft a proposed charter that would subsequently be submitted to voters in a separate election.
On Tuesday, Tom Groover, another member of the Community Rights Network, said, "Today we will begin our petition campaign to adopt a Boulder Community Rights home rule charter which contains the enumeration and clarification of our community rights to self-determination and self-government."
Groover said that as a non-home rule county — a "statutory" county that's subject to the restrictions of what state laws allow it to do — Boulder County "does not provide us with the legal authority to protect and advance the health, safety and welfare of ourselves, our families and our communities."
Boulder County Community Rights Network activists have complained, in particular, that as a statutory county, state laws do not allow Boulder County to ban the practice of hydraulic fracturing to free up underground oil and gas deposits.
That, Smith said, is one reason "we will now be proceeding forward with the citizen initiative and collecting signatures from registered voters in the county to schedule a special election to advance the home rule process."
If voters approve creation of a panel to draft a charter, and elect the members of that panel to the charter-writing posts, the charter that's written to present to voters in the subsequent language might or might not include the "community rights" concept. But Smith and the other activists pressing for the charter say they hope it would.
"A community rights-based home rule charter would include language that will define and assert our rights as natural people and give us legal sanding to prohibit activities that violate those rights," Smith said.
State law requires proponents of the home rule ballot question to get petition signatures from at least 5 percent of the county's registered voters. That would amount to at least 12,352 signatures of the 247,040 voters on the county's registration rolls as of Monday.
Boulder County attorney Ben Pearlman said Tuesday that even then, it still would be up to the Board of County Commissioners when to schedule a countywide vote on the question of proceeding with establishment of a home rule charter-drafting commission.
The county board could call a special election or could wait and place it on a November general election ballot, Pearlman said.
Commissioners Cindy Domenico, Elise Jones and Deb Gardner have said that, according to the legal advice they've received, becoming a home rule charter county wouldn't give Boulder County any more power to permanently prohibit fracking than it has now, which they've said is none at all.
The commissioners wrote members of the Community Rights Network last Saturday that state law would still limit a home rule county to the authority given by the state, "which does not include the power to ban fracking or implement other environmental regulatory authority."
Tuesdays news conference and rally attracted more than 40 people, several of them bearing home-made signs with such messages as "Community Rights Thru Home Rule," "Community Rights Over Corporate Profit" and "Have Your 'Say' with Community Rights."
Contact Times-Call staff writer John Fryar at 303-684-5211 or email@example.com