Turning down $38 million | AspenTimes.com

Turning down $38 million

Dear Editor:

Regarding a petition to use local tax sources for a state highway project, in this case the entrance to Aspen, Jon Busch claims to be concerned “that it only taxed Pitkin County residents,” and suggested: “Let Eagle and Garfield counties ante up. It’s only fair.”

One of the more interesting aspects of using local funding for state highway projects is that when state funding finally becomes available, the local source can be reimbursed.

Last spring, I approached the board of Roaring Fork Transportation Authority (RFTA) to request that it revise its charter to include a petition process which would allow the public to pose just the sort of question Jon has suggested. RFTA has considerable untapped sales tax capacity in eight different political jurisdictions (including three towns within Garfield County) that could provide funding solutions for items ranging from the Glenwood Springs bypass to in-town shuttles for Basalt and Carbondale ” all the way to the Entrance to Aspen.

The letter from RFTA legal counsel advising that the board did have the power to adopt such a procedure was placed at the end of the agenda for that day, and there no longer was a quorum present when it came up. The lack of a quorum was not the problem. In the world of RFTA, you need six out of eight votes to take any significant action. The three upper valley representatives for Snowmass Village, Aspen and Pitkin County declared that there was no need to discuss my proposal because they never would support creating a procedure for resident-sponsored petitions for the use RFTA’s taxing authority.

By shutting down debate and sending me packing, the three Pitkin County jurisdictions eliminated potential funding for a new Entrance to Aspen and the opportunity for RFTA to become the eventual beneficiary of the $38 million needed to build it.

I don’t know how much longer Snowmass, Aspen and Pitkin County can continue to treat RFTA as “their” bus system, but the other five jurisdictions have yet to rebel, in spite of the fact that the downvalley area is responsible for most of the growth in transit ridership. One would think that the loss of $38 million, combined with the inherently undemocratic attitude of the upvalley elite, might be cause for some serious discussion at RFTA’s upcoming retreat.

The latest news is that Pitkin County political leaders have chosen to violate the state constitution and reject a petition proposing that Pitkin County property taxes be the source of funding for a new entrance to Aspen. Under this proposal, state reimbursement would benefit the county road system, which pretty much kills Jon’s contention of any unfairness.

Jeffrey Evans