Latest News – January 26
Politics: The Road to Public Safety or Pedaling Politics?
The 2016 Colorado State Legislative Session is underway! One of the most debated and discussed issues at the state capitol involves the Colorado Department of Transportation’s (CDOT) distribution of funds and the governor’s list of special transportation projects.
And while it’s important to stay apprised of what Leadville and Lake County legislators will be introducing and voting for (see below), Leadville Today found Representative Clarice Navarro’s editorial on Governor Hickenlooper’s “$100,000,000 bicycle effort” an interesting discussion. Remember, reports indicate that about 60% of Lake County’s work force drive over treacherous mountain passes to earn a living at neighboring resorts. Maintaining these highways is essential to the public safety of Leadville residents.
Of course, LT also includes in this political update post, Rep. Millie Hamner’s CDOT updates, as well as Senator Kerry Donovan’s “Public Land Use” status. It’s all about politics on Leadville Today – enjoy!
Better Roads or Bike Trails – An Either Or?
By State Representative Clarice Navarro
The population in Colorado is rapidly increasing, and the quality of our roads is significantly decreasing. It is more important than ever to find strategic ways to improve the quality of local streets, roads and state highways. Colorado’s Governor has suggested that we need to increase taxes in order to fund these large-scale and critical infrastructure projects. I can assure you that a lack of revenue is not the problem. Coloradans can’t afford an increase in taxes and yet we need to prepare and plan to for the volume of people that will continue to use our deteriorating roads.
In 2009, the Colorado State Legislature passed SB 09-108, Funding Advancements for Surface Transportation and Economic Recovery Act better known as (FASTER). The purpose of this bill was to increase revenue by implementing fines and late fees on motor vehicle registration. Sixty percent of the revenue generated from FASTER goes to the Colorado Department of Transportation (CDOT) and is to be used to support construction and maintenance of transportation projects.
With such a large portion of the FASTER revenue going to CDOT, it is crucial that we take a serious look at what projects are being funded and how the money is being allocated. In August 2015, The Office of State Auditors (OSA) found that CDOT’s process for selecting projects to receive FASTER funding was not “thorough, integrated, or strategic.” It was also reported by OSA that projects receiving funding from FASTER may not have met legislative requirements. It certainly makes you wonder where our tax dollars and transportation fees are going. This is why I won’t be supportive of giving the Governor the proverbial “blank check”.
According to the OSA findings, “CDOT could not confirm how an additional $6 million of FASTER revenue was allocated or spent,” and “CDOT did not maintain complete and accurate information on FASTER transit revenue and expenditures.” This isn’t the accountability that the taxpayer deserves. I have a hard time swallowing the pleas for more money when the State isn’t taking care of what it already has.
The OSA audit of CDOT sheds light on a major problem that has a lot of Coloradans feeling a sense of distrust when it comes to the Governor and the Colorado State Legislature pushing to raise taxes, and I don’t blame them one bit. Instead, the first step that must be taken before we consider raising taxes, is to carefully analyze the State’s allocation of existing revenue and ensure appropriate usage.
We also need to find logical and strategic ways of prioritizing projects. In September Governor Hickenlooper announced a four-year plan to increase bicycle infrastructure. This project will require over $100 million. This effort is being pushed so that Colorado is “the best state for bicycling.” CDOT has agreed to spend 2.5 percent of the Department’s budget on programs for bicycles and pedestrians. For some reason I’m doubting that this is the priority of constituents living on county roads across this great state.
As Coloradans, we certainly value being outdoors and having places to walk and bike, however, we are in a time when we are watching our transportation infrastructure crumble. We need to look at what projects should be high priority, and what projects may need to be reconsidered as lower priority. I simply can’t see how a $100,000,000 bicycle effort is the priority of those at a standstill on I-70 or I-25. Give me a break.
The risks of turning a blind eye to this, and not holding CDOT accountable for the misuse of FASTER revenue is that roads and bridges will continue to rapidly deteriorate, and one study suggests that traffic delays will increase by 158% which would make a 17 minute commute turn into at least a 44 minute commute. Improving transportation infrastructure is a high priority and raising taxes to accomplish this goal is simply the road most travelled.
Before we board the speeding train to raise taxes and increase the size and scope of government I’d appreciate some accountability to those that are paying the bill, and that is the Colorado taxpayer.
Contact State Representative Clarice Navarro: (719) 469-3484, Claricenavarro47@hotmail.com. To learn more about Representative Navarro please visit www.clarice47.com. Or follow her on Twitter @ClariceHD47
Senator’s ‘Public Lands Day’ Stalls, Per Chance To Die
Senator Kerry Donovan’s “Public Lands Day” bill, recognizing the “importance of federally-owned public lands” in places like Lake County, which often touts its 75% public land attribute, was sent to a “kill committee” last Wednesday, Jan. 20. However, recent posts via the senator’s Facebook page report she’s still hopeful that tomorrow’s assessment will have a different outcome.
Sen. Donovan along with Rep. Diane Mitsch Bush, a Democrat who represents Eagle and Routt counties attempted to designate March 4 as “Public Lands Day.” According to Donovan, the bill designates the fourth Monday in March as ‘Public Lands Day’ to recognize the significant contributions that national public lands within Colorado make to wildlife, recreation, the economy, and to Coloradans’ quality of life.
While largely symbolic, the political duo was attempting to combat Republicans who are currently exploring the transfer of control regarding federal lands in the West to state control. Their intention is to have more local say in how those lands are managed, particularly as it relates to ranching, logging and mining. Democrats fear such industrial activities will adversely impact the environment and the outdoor recreation industry. But last Wednesday’s action will likely see the measure die a quiet death in committee. Stay Tuned!