Open space board avoids RFTA’s tax increase proposal |

Open space board avoids RFTA’s tax increase proposal

Eben Harrell

Pitkin County’s Open Space and Trails Board decided yesterday to stay out of politics, declining to take a position on the Roaring Fork Transit Authority’s proposed tax increase.The decision came despite a promise from RFTA to provide millions of dollars for trails if the proposal passes in November’s general election. In a joint meeting with the Pitkin County commissioners yesterday, the open space board said it will remain neutral on the RFTA issue despite its involvement with the initiative during its planning stages.The open space board had lobbied publicly through the summer for RFTA to include language in its November ballot that would bind the authority to spend nearly $4 million on trails. Instead, it received a verbal promise from the RFTA board that money would be spent on trails.On Nov. 2, RFTA will ask voters in Basalt, Carbondale, Glenwood Springs and the Roaring Fork Valley portion of Eagle County to approve a 0.2 percent sales tax increase. Voters in Pitkin County will be asked dedicate another 0.165 of its existing transportation tax to RFTA; it’s not a new tax in Pitkin County, but a reapportionment. Those areas already belong and contribute to RFTA.Voters in New Castle, Silt and unincorporated Garfield County will be asked to join RFTA by approving a new sales tax.County Commissioner Jack Hatfield said yesterday that he was pleased the Open Space board has decided to remain neutral, but expressed concern over public comments made by Open Space Director Dale Will during the planning stages of the initiative. Will spoke both at RFTA meetings and to The Aspen Times about his desire to see funding secured through ballot language.”I do not believe Dale [Will] should be making political comments about this ballot initiative. As commissioners we should decide to do that,” Hatfield said.Open Space board members defended Dale’s involvement in the planning process, saying as program director he had the authority to represent the views of the Open Space board.Commissioner Mick Ireland also supported Will, but added it is important for Will to distinguish whether his public comments represent Pitkin County or the Open Space board, both of which Will represents.Eben Harrell’s e-mail address is