Jerry Kopel

State Sen. John Andrews, R-Englewood, wants to end the elected Regional Transportation District (RTD) Board and replace it with an appointed board, pretty much under the control of Gov. Bill Owens.

Andrews, as a conservative, needs to remember that RTD became an elected board through a bill placed on the ballot by petitioners in 1980. As a conservative, he should allow voters in the state the opportunity to again make the final decision.

Getting RTD on the state ballot in 1980 was difficult. State Sen. Paul Sandoval, D-Denver, managed to get SB 88 passed in the Senate, 24 to 8. The measure was a referendum to require RTD board members to be elected from RTD sub-districts. Rep. Jack McCrosky, D-Denver, had a similar bill. Each measure was spurred by belief in the ineptitude of the appointed board.

Both measures were stuck in House Rules. House Speaker Bob Burford, R-Mesa, after admitting RTD lobbyists had some influence on his decision, refused to allow either bill to come out, "because" he told the Rocky Mountain News, "the issue is too emotional and clouded in side-issues. I know it sounds like BS but I don't like that kind of issue settled amid all that emotionalism."

That left supporters of an elected RTD board with one alternative, a petition drive. There were five names on the initiative, all legislators, three Republicans and two Democrats, listed in alphabetical order: Myself, Jack McCroskey, Betty Neale, Dan Schaefer, and Mick Spano.

We had slightly over 12 weeks to obtain 62,234 valid signatures. The state's title setting committee didn't provide approval until April 8th and the signatures were due to the Secretary of State by July 3rd. McCroskey was the catalyst, recruiting unpaid volunteers including state legislators and making sure we initiators were out gathering signatures. Betty Neale, Jack McCroskey, and I spent many days in front of the entrance to the Denver Zoo persuading citizens to sign on. Proponents ended up with 74,881 verified signatures.

The initiative was Amendment No. 6 and the organization to support the change was called "Citizens for An Accountable RTD." We had little money to campaign with. The opposition, "Citizens for a Responsible RTD" was led by former Gov. John Love who was joined by former U.S. Sen. Gordon Allott, Denver Mayor Bill McNichols, House Speaker Burford, Senate President Fred Anderson, plus seven other state legislators. They had lots of money.

Without enough funds, McCroskey made a hard decision to tie the campaign in with No. 4 on the ballot, the so-called Fair Amendment, which had lots of funds to spend but few volunteers. No. 4 dealt with the sale or transfer of real estate. If the property was already subject to financing or a security interest, there could be no acceleration of the debt or altering of the terms simply because of another sale or transfer so long as the original debtor remained responsible for the debt and the security was not "substantially" impaired.

The "Fair Amendment" lost 381,821 to 745,625. Amendment 6 passed 570,049 to 444,902. Adams, Arapahoe, Boulder, Denver, Douglas and Jefferson Counties supplied 106,000 of the 125,000 majority and El Paso and Larimer counties provided a 21,000 majority. The rest of Colorado (as a whole) voted slightly in opposition.

The Andrews bill, as presently publicized, would allow the governor to choose from a list of possibilities and appoint all seven RTD board members. It's not clear whether those appointments would be "with the consent of the Senate", but if the governor can appoint, then the governor can remove for "incompetency, neglect of duty, or malfeasance in office."

Unfortunately, based on past experience, such an appointed board would be more beholden to the various chambers of commerce and bond companies rather then the voters who pay the taxes that keep the board in operation.

In 1998, two bills were offered to end election of RTD directors. The RTD board opposed both measures. Their lobbyist was Tom Bastien and both measures were defeated. If a majority of the RTD board opposes the Andrews bill, chances are good his bill will also be defeated.

* * *

It had to be a mistake, but for some reason Stadium Management Company recently wrote to ask if I would be interested in leasing a luxury suite in the new Bronco stadium.

"Luxury suites all have a mid-level location offering the best sight lines in the stadium" read the offer. "Excellent for corporate entertaining, they will be the place to be come kick-off time." (Not exactly good grammar.)

In addition, "Priority parking with spaces close to the stadium, TV monitors to let you catch the action of other NFL games, full service catering, and suite passes for friends in reserved seats."

Then came the bad news. "Suite prices start at $80,000 per season". Well, if they "start" at $80,000, I'm curious to know where they "end". A further look at the brochure seems to indicate all the best suites (between the 30 to 50 yard lines) have been taken.

If I could figure out some way to have the government pay for my suite....but then, I'm not a corporation. And besides, I don't know if I have 20, maybe I'll pass and wait for the next Denver football stadium, which should be on the ballot in 2016.

Jerry Kopel writes a column for the Statesman based on 22 years past experience as a state legislator.

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