KUSA 9News reported on the beginning of construction on the FasTracks project in part by quoting the criticisms of Jon Caldara, president of the conservative Independence Institute think tank. However, the May 16 report did not mention that Caldara led an unsuccessful campaign against the transportation project.
During a May 16 report on a ceremony marking the construction phase of the Regional Transportation District's (RTD) FasTracks project, KUSA 9News quoted Independence Institute president Jon Caldara's criticisms without noting the conservative think tank's unsuccessful campaign against the project. As the Rocky Mountain News reported on April 19, "Caldara was a leader of the campaign against the November 2004 FasTracks election that increased the RTD sales tax 0.4 cents to a full penny on the dollar."
While 9News reporter Ward Lucas noted that "top RTD officials praised" the FasTracks rail and bus expansion and "promised it'll be done on time," he further noted that "RTD officials acknowledge[d] rising construction costs are going to be problematic." Following comments from two RTD officials, Caldara -- whom 9News identified only as "president of the Independence Institute" -- claimed that RTD was "not going to be able to deliver" the project. The report also noted that Caldara "believes fixed rail is a $4.7 billion boondoggle and will have to be over budget or drastically cut." 9News further quoted Caldara as saying that FasTracks is the wrong technology" for Denver and "RTD made a promise" that is "being broken."
In addition to not identifying the conservative agenda of the Independence Institute, 9News failed to report that Caldara, a longtime critic of RTD, campaigned against the FasTracks referendum in 2004. As Colorado Media Matters pointed out, Caldara also was featured in a misleading May 9 KMGH 7News "investigation" in which he was similarly critical of FasTracks but was not fully identified.
From the May 16 broadcast of KUSA's 9News at 6 p.m.:
UNIDENTIFIED VOICE: One. Two. Three.
WARD LUCAS (reporter): Today was symbolism, like turning the first spadeful of dirt, but hundreds of people turned out for it. RTD says it will actually begin construction this week on the first of 10 rail corridors to connect the whole metro area.
CAL MARSELLA (RTD general manager): This is just an absolute enormous enterprise.
LUCAS: One by one, top RTD officials praised the project and promised it'll be done on time.
MARSELLA: We are nine years and seven months away from completion of this entire program.
CHRISTOPHER MARTINEZ (RTD chairman): It's going to be a great day when we finish this project, because if you're a transit-dependent individual you can live anywhere in the metropolitan area and choose to work just about anywhere and know that you can take transit to get there.
LUCAS: The first rail line is the west corridor along the old tracks that parallel 13th Avenue from Denver to Golden. Supporters say when completed, it'll relieve the pressure of Denver's constantly growing traffic congestion. But there are critics.
CALDARA: They're not going to be able to deliver it. Right now is the time to fix this problem.
LUCAS: Jon Caldara is president of the Independence Institute. He believes fixed rail is a $4.7 billion boondoggle and will have to be over budget or drastically cut.
CALDARA: Here in, in, in Denver, Colorado, it is the wrong technology for, for the way we live and how we, how we get around. HOT lanes, HOV lanes are much more cost-effective. RTD made a promise; that promise is being broken. We could either fix it now, while it's still fixable, or we can wait a decade when it's unfixable.
LUCAS: RTD officials acknowledge rising construction costs are going to be problematic.
UNIDENTIFIED PHOTOGRAPHER: Big smiles.
LUCAS: But, like it or not, FasTracks is officially under way. This is Ward Lucas, 9News.