Parker RTD exit election not on horizon

Sponsor says legislation to allow balloting could come back next year

Elliott Wenzler
ewenzler@coloradocommunitymedia.com
Posted 4/27/21

A bill that would have created the opportunity for Parker voters to decide if they want to remain in the RTD district was postponed indefinitely in an April 20 committee meeting. The Transportation …

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Parker RTD exit election not on horizon

Sponsor says legislation to allow balloting could come back next year

Posted

A bill that would have created the opportunity for Parker voters to decide if they want to remain in the RTD district was postponed indefinitely in an April 20 committee meeting.

The Transportation & Local Governments Committee, made up of 11 state House members, heard testimonies from Parker leaders and residents.

Rep. Kim Ransom (R-Acres Green), the sponsor of House Bill 21-1252, moved to indefinitely postpone the bill after hearing promises from RTD on addressing the town's frustrations with the district.

“I really do appreciate what I heard from RTD, I really want to make sure we give this a chance to play out,” she said. “I will be here next year and this bill will come back if RTD doesn't pull through with the promises that we all heard them make today.”

The town contacted Ransom about proposing the bill after years of frustration with the district's lack of transportation services in the town. In 2019, the town received a 29% return on investment from the taxes they paid to RTD, according to district data. 

The legislation for Parker was framed after a similar move by Castle Rock in 2005, in which residents voted to opt out of the district.

During the hearing, Mayor Jeff Toborg told the committee members that the town has tried to work with RTD for many years to increase their return on investment but the situation hasn't improved much.

“I'm not asking you to make an opinion on RTD or the services, ... look at how we've worked with them over the last 14 years and to allow our citizens the opportunity to vote, to have their voices heard,” he said.

Others who spoke in favor of the election included a resident, Town Administrator Michelle Kivela, Town Attorney Jim Maloney and John Fussa, Parker's community development director.

RTD directors Julien Bouquet and Doug Tisdale spoke against the bill, asking the Legislature to let the district work on improving the situation in Parker.

“Simply put, Douglas County has received the short end of the stick,” said Tisdale, who represents District H including Highlands Ranch, Littleton, Centennial, Greenwood Village and Cherry Hills Village. “I have pledged to fix that inequity.”

Tisdale said he and Bouquet have communicated their commitment to Parker to improve their services.

“We will back up our words with actions,” he said. “Please don't put a cloud over those efforts. Don't rain on our parade.”

Bouquet, who represents District G, including Parker, Lone Tree and portions of Arapahoe and Douglas counties, said he campaigned on promises to add services to the district and town.

“The solution is not for Parker to leave RTD but rather we at RTD deliver a reasonable and increased amount of service to the town,” he said.

Two residents, the RTD directors and Jamie Lewis with the Colorado Cross-Disability Coalition also spoke against the bill.

After hearing the RTD directors speak, Ransom said she had spoken with town leaders and some of her constituents and decided to postpone the bill at least until next year.

Next steps

The motion was approved with nine “yes” votes and one “no” from Rep. Kevin Van Winkle (R-Highlands Ranch).

The town planned to host Bouquet and Tisdale at an April 26 study session to discuss next steps, Toborg said.

“RTD made a number of promises in their testimony and I'm going to hold them to it,” he said. “And we will be back if not.”

After the bill was postponed, Bouquet said he saw the decision as a “major win” for Parker residents but agreed that RTD needs to increase services in the town.

“If we don't do our job with RTD or Parker doesn't see improvements … then they have every right to be frustrated and move forward with that bill in the future,” he said.

Bouquet said the first priorities for the district will be to bring back the P Route, which was a local bus route. He also wants to conduct a series of listening sessions to hear from residents and stakeholders about what services the district could bring to Parker.

That could include services like resident vouchers for private rideshare companies or discounted rates for the area.

“We have a new CEO at RTD, a new director representing Parker, we have a new board and ultimately we need to be given a chance to build back that trust with Parker,” Bouquet said. “I'm committed to building back that trust with Parker."

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