Looking at anti-discrimination measures
By Katherine Nettles
After Alpine Express had to deal with an incident involving alleged hate speech being broadcast by one of its bus drivers last month, the Gunnison Valley Rural Transportation (RTA) board will review and discuss its driver policies and determine if the current policies are adequate to protect public safety and avoid discriminatory language.
A Gunnison County resident brought the issue up at the most recent RTA board meeting, sharing an experience she had on the free bus this summer that the RTA provides between Gunnison and Mt. Crested Butte through operator Alpine Express. Board members and Alpine Express staff discussed the best way to prevent such incidents in the future.
Erin Ganser addressed the RTA board during the public comment portion of their August meeting and related that during a morning commute on July 10, traveling from Crested Butte South to Crested Butte, the driver was playing “a hate talk show” with commentary that included “gay and trans bashing, pro-life vitriol and hostile discussions of gender therapy,” said Ganser. “Multiple passengers told him it was inappropriate and asked him to turn it off. He didn’t turn it off, he just turned it down and told us to lodge a complaint.”
Ganser said she had spoken with RTA executive director Scott Truex about the matter, but also wanted to bring it to the attention of the board.
“I’m sure you know that this is totally inappropriate for a public bus. Transit is a public space. People need to feel safe emotionally and physically. There should not be hate radio, or attack radio played,” she said, and encouraged the board to take swift action “to ensure drivers know they cannot play whatever they want.”
John Galley, vice president of operations for Alpine Express, said they had been notified and the driver had been disciplined. He and Truex said they had also reviewed their policies that drivers should choose unoffensive music or audio material.
The board discussed that this policy, as written, could be hard to interpret or apply in the individual situation.
Board member Steve Morris said, “we’re trying to put a term on art,” which, he argued, is a subjective matter.
“What I consider to be ‘family friendly’ may not be to someone else,” he noted.
Board member Laura Puckett Daniels asked to see the full set of policies. “I think we’re all talking about other people’s summaries of them. I don’t know if we have them, but we should have an anti-discrimination policy,” she suggested, in addition to a safe ridership policy.
Truex found the exact policy in question, which reads, “If drivers play the radio, CD or MP3 music player, the volume must be reasonable and the choice of music must not be offensive. Drivers must follow the same qualifications the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) requires for radio stations.”
He summarized, “Basically, use common sense about the music you choose.”
Puckett Daniels maintained that it could be a helpful discussion for a future meeting if the board had a chance to read through all relevant policies for drivers and riders. “If we don’t need to change them, we don’t need to change them. But if we do, we can have that discussion at a later time to make sure we’ve addressed Erin’s concerns– and frankly those would be my concerns too: that everyone feels safe on the bus,” she said.
Other board members agreed.
Truex said he would include the full set of policies in the next meeting packet for board members to review in advance of the meeting. The board will then discuss them at their next meeting.