RTA Chair calls for cooler emotions

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By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter
By Bryce Potter By Bryce Potter

As the strike by Teamsters Local 104 enters its fourth day, the chair of the Regional Transportation Authority Board says emotions need to cool down and she is urging any discussion about the possible takeover of Sun Tran by the RTA be tabled until that happens.

Sahuarita Mayor Lynne Skelton serves as chair of the RTA Board.  Her comments to Fox 11 this morning came after an alleged incident at the Tucson City Council meeting Wednesday where RTA Executive Director Gary Hayes threatened Tucson City Manager Mike Letcher with elimination of funding for the modern streetcar project after the city council deferred action on a Memorandum of Understanding which would have begun the process to move Sun Tran to the RTA control.

The move is favored by the Teamsters union, claiming RTA has a better long-term funding base than the City of Tucson.

Letcher confirmed the threat to the Arizona Daily Star.  Video from the city's Channel 12 of the two in the audience during a recess following the council decision clearly shows Hayes jabbing his finger into Letcher's chest.  No audio of their conversation can be heard.  As Hayes leaves, you can see Letcher return to the council table and speak with Tucson City Manager Mike Rankin.

Mayor Skelton told Fox 11 News today she is very concerned about the emotions and plans to talk with "one or two" other RTA Board members and seek guidance on how to deal with it.  She says the riff between the City and RTA must be healed before any future discussions are held on regional transportation or the Sun Tran move to the RTA.

She also responded to a call from Tucson City Council member Regina Romero that the council and RTA Board negotiate directly.  "That is not a good idea", she said.  "We should rely on our respective staff members to follow our policy and direction and negotiate terms of any agreements."

Back on the strike front, Sun Tran today is continuing to run buses on just seven of 40 routes and only between the hours of 6 a.m. and 7 p.m.  It also has announced it will not run any buses this weekend and the three transit centers will be closed on Saturday and Sunday.

It announced on Thursday that the number of "passenger trips" it provided on Wednesday was up to 14, 207 -- or about 21% of normal.  That's up from the 18% of normal on Monday, the first day of the strike.

Suntran General Manager Katrina Heineking said in a news release, "Our working employees are striving to provide our customers with as much service as possible.  The passengers have been very patient and we would just like to say 'thank you'".

Full details on all these developments tonight on Fox 11 News at 9.