Fellow commissioners rebuff Clapper efforts to get on RTA
County Commissioner Patti Clapper’s attempt to be named as an alternate board member to the valley’s newest government entity – the Rural Transportation Authority – was met with stiff resistance and sharp words from her fellow commissioners.
Clapper was on the verge of tears yesterday afternoon when she was told by her colleagues that they wouldn’t even entertain the notion of putting her in a voting position on the RTA.
Clapper is the only elected official in the upper valley who opposed the RTA, which will levy taxes and operate bus service between Aspen and Rifle. The majority of voters in seven jurisdictions took the opposite view on election day, however, and supported the RTA and its promise of increased bus service.
The exchange over who among the county commissioners should represent Pitkin County on the RTA grew tense after Clapper opposed the nomination of Dorothea Farris. She based her opposition on the fact Farris is also seated on the board of the Roaring Fork Transit Agency, the current bus agency, and the Roaring Fork Railroad Holding Authority.
Farris and Commissioner Leslie Lamont, who both worked for the better part of a year on the intergovernmental agreement that laid the groundwork for the RTA, pointed out that Clapper had opposed the RTA.
“I did not oppose, in theory, the formation of the RTA,” Clapper retorted. “I was concerned with some of the language in the RTA agreement.”
In fact, Clapper has long maintained that bus service is good for the valley. But when the opportunity to back that position came up with the RTA election, she passed it up, siding instead with Jeffrey Evans and other rail opponents who were distrustful of the intentions behind the new agency. They believe it is just one more step in the effort to build commuter rail between Glenwood and Aspen.
Farris and Lamont wanted to know why Clapper was suddenly interested in transportation, when she had expressed very little interest in it for the last two years.
“I asked you to join us at the RTA policy committee meetings and RFTA meetings several times, and you didn’t go,” Lamont said. “If you want to get involved with the RTA, then you need to go.”
Clapper said she didn’t recall ever being asked to either organization’s meetings.
“We’ve all been busy, you know,” she said.
“I’m offended,” Clapper continued, “that you’re saying I don’t support the RTA because I was opposed to some of the open-ended language regarding rail.” Besides, she pointed out, it might be good to have some diversity of opinion on the RTA board.
No one else agreed, however. The rest of the commissioners appointed Farris as the county’s representative with Shellie Roy as her alternate.
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