2024 Leg Session, Columnists, Elections, Jon Caldara, Transit, Transportation, Uncategorized

Caldara: Democracy dies one unelected board at a time

(You can listen to this column, read by the author, here.)

The people making the most noise about former President Donald Trump being a threat to democracy are working to take away democracy right here in Colorado.

It would be comical if it weren’t so ugly.

The Regional Transportation District (RTD) has a 15-member, directly elected, nonpartisan board of directors. I was elected to that board and served as chairman many years ago. I had to answer directly to my constituents, many unhappy with me. And, boy, could they always get a hold of me. Or at least get into tomato-throwing range of me.

Sadly, the usual suspects in the Colorado Legislature don’t trust voters and despise this type of directly elected accountability. They would much rather have a centrally controlled, prearranged board of directors to do their bidding without all that pesky interference from those constituents who pay for it all.

Keep in mind, less than 6% of RTD’s revenue comes from the fares riders pay. A gobsmacking 94% of their revenue comes from you the taxpayer, in one form or another.

These legislators are pushing a bill to silence taxpayers and local communities. Voters would no longer elect RTD board members.

Their dream is called “new urbanism.” Basically, they want to force people to live and commute in the manner they prescribe; make driving unbearable, force people out of their cars by gunpoint, and make them live in pack-n-stack housing served by the government-owned transit monopoly.

Maybe this is great policy (actually, it’s horrific policy and hurts poor people more than anyone else, but let’s just go with it). To rip away the right to vote from more than 3 million people just to have a compliant board of hand-picked social engineers is an affront to democracy.

And if I’ve been reading all the recent news correctly, we, um, well, we don’t like that kind of thing. You know what’s more disenfranchising than to require people to have a photo ID to vote? Maybe taking away their right to vote entirely.

You see, though only about 4% of people commute here on transit, 100% of the money comes from us.

Just like your city, county and school district, RTD is a government of its own. In fact, it’s one of the largest in the state. It has the power to tax, raise fees, go into debt and condemn property for its own uses.

This current proposal forces RTD to be run not by citizens, like every other government in the state, but by complete bureaucratic insiders and social engineers.

They include a position for the head of the Colorado Department of Transportation, and positions for people from the Denver Regional Council of Governments (DRCOG), that mysterious pseudo-government of planners responsible for our transportation debacle, and, get this one, an “expert in either transportation planning, development or electrification.”

Ah, yes — the expert elites know what’s best, certainly better than those rabble at the ballot box.

RTD was created to provide mobility for transit-dependent people, the folks who cannot afford or, for some reason, cannot drive a car.

RTD is no longer there to help poor people, mostly brown and black, with their physical mobility. Instead, the system has been perverted so this 94% subsidy goes to people who already have cars but don’t want to pay for parking when they go to work or a Rockies game.

Show me a man whose mobility is limited to how far his legs can take him, and I will show you a man in despair.

Show me a man whose mobility is limited to how far public transit in Colorado can take him, and I will show you a man who will forever be on the lowest rung of the economic ladder. These transit-dependent people do not need another free bus pass. They need a car. They need the power to vote.

These are the people who will be disenfranchised should direct elections be killed by the Democratic Socialists in the Legislature, despite the token requirement the governor appoint a person to represent disadvantaged populations, as if disadvantaged populations speak with one allotted voice.

Maybe Jim Crow does live.

This bill is just another in a long line of laws and regulations to centralize power away from localities and into an all-powerful state government.

Local control is becoming a thing of the past in Colorado — along with your right to vote.

Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute, a free market think tank in Denver.


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