Response to “Letter to the Editor” published in the May 7, 2015 Lone Tree Voice

May 12, 2015

To:  Editor of the Lone Tree Voice

From: Kim Monson
Lone Tree City Councilwoman, District 2

Re: Response to “Letter to the Editor” published in the May 7, 2015 Lone Tree Voice

In a recent “Letter to the Editor” in the Lone Tree Voice, the writer states, “Dissent and free speech are welcome when they address city issues and [Councilmember Kim Monson’s] dissents do not.” 

In America, dissent and free speech are welcome at any time.  These important building blocks are the bed rock of our society.  The idea that, because we disagree, we shut down or constrict the parameters of what others say is of great concern.  Fervent debate should be encouraged, not squelched.

Secondly, at issue is my concern regarding partially funding the extension of the Light Rail with federal grant money (i.e. tax dollars).  Federal money is the driving factor in increasing the estimated cost of this project from $157million to $207million.   When city related organizations pay for trips to Washington for council members to lobby for federal money and when the city spends staff time, energy & money to lobby for federal money, this local issue becomes a federal issue.

As the writer of the letter indicates, 2004 voters approved a sales tax increase for Light Rail Expansion.  In October of 2014, a Denver Business Journal report states that voters approved adding a 0.4 percent FasTracks sales tax to be the main source of funding for the project.  The report also states, “And the original $4.7 billion budget estimate in 2004 by the fall of 2008 had soared to $7.9 billion.”  Elected officials must be continually transparent with our busy citizens about the way their tax dollars are being spent.       

My dissenting vote regarding the intergovernmental agreement is a vote for:

Fair and Just Transportation.  It is not fair, equitable nor just that people who will never ride this light rail should pay for it -- including our neighbors in California and our children and grandchildren.  Projects that benefit a region should be paid for regionally.

Accurate Data in Which to Make Financial Decisions.  Early this year, I asked for light rail ridership data; how many pay full fare, ride at reduced costs and ride for free.  What I received were numbers from a 2011 RTD customer survey.  I must ask you, who spends $207million based on four year old data?

Better Efficiencies from Our Government.  Per RTD, only 22% of the ticket fare covers the operating costs of light rail.   This means that the $10.00 round trip fare from Lone Tree to Denver actually costs about $45.00.  For a family of four to go to a Rockies or Broncos game, the actual cost is $180.00.  Our neighbors are paying the difference.  I think we can do better.

The letter writer stated, “Congress approved the money,” indicating we should not refuse it.  I hear this from elected officials all of the time.  Actually, it has not been approved.  Congress will vote on this for the 2016 budget.  And, Congress doesn’t have the money.  We are spending money that we don’t have and passing the buck on to the next generation.  A 2013 Pew Research Center Survey indicates that 2 in 3 respondents said when today’s kids grow up they will be worse off financially than their parents. 

Recently, I was talking with a millennial, a young man with a wife and darling two year old son.  He said, “Mrs. Monson, you seem like you are working really hard.  Could you please do something about the 30% that government is taking from my pay check?”  I said, “I’m working on it.”