For over the last dozen years, I have been involved in public transportation policy. For 10 of those years, I was a member of the Salt Lake County Council and fought for a better revenue stream to fund both light rail and the Frontrunner. For most of that time, I have had the pleasure of being the attorney for Local 382, Amalgamated Transit Union, the union which represents almost 1,400 UTA employees. This job has required me to study the UTA budgets in detail.
Obviously, I have read with interest the recent reports of high salaries and bonuses for executives, junkets to Europe, and a request for a sales tax increase. I have strong opinions on these subjects but I have kept my mouth shut until I read Mayor Ralph Becker's op-ed piece ("The success of Utah Transit Authority," Opinion, Aug. 3) That opinion contained so much misinformation and UTA "spin" that I must respond.
First, it is a tired UTA cliché that UTA has completed all its capital projects on time and under budget. The fact of the matter is that, when the Great Recession hit UTA's revenues very hard starting in 2009, the UTA should have done what every other government entity did: slowed down its construction scheduling to reflect its decrease in revenues. Instead, the UTA sped up construction, reasoning that, in the long run, the lower interest rates and lower construction costs during a recession would benefit the UTA.