Folska would also like to create jobs within RTD, and she's already helped make that happen. While accompanying Tobiassen on a tour of the RTD Telephone Information Center, Folska heard a manager say they were hiring. She asked if they'd consider hiring people with disabilities, and connected the center with the Colorado Division of Vocational Rehabilitation, which helps employers put in place adaptive technology that allows people with disabilities to do their jobs. RTD spokesman Scott Reed reports that the center has since hired two people.

In addition, Reed says RTD is looking into a suggestion by Folska to put an audible tone on its blue-light emergency phones so visually impaired people can find them.

Folska also has a plan to keep RTD strong for generations to come. She calls it "Grow the Rider," and it consists of giving a free annual RTD pass to every high-school freshman in Colorado and teaching them how to use the system.

Claudia Folska is blind, but she's got a clear vision for the future of public transportation.
Anthony Camera
Claudia Folska is blind, but she's got a clear vision for the future of public transportation.
RTD boardmember Tom Tobiassen encouraged Claudia Folska to run for the District E seat.
Anthony Camera
RTD boardmember Tom Tobiassen encouraged Claudia Folska to run for the District E seat.

Folska doesn't have many critics. Even her opponents recognize her vast experience with RTD. The one person who's aired doubts about her is Tom Grushka, a candidate running to represent District H. Grushka is also blind. He says he decided to run for RTD after meeting Folska and learning of her campaign. But Grushka worries that she'll be pressured to vote the way the boardmembers who support her want. "She's been an inspiration to me," he says, "but I don't think it's enough for [the board] to say, 'We've got Claudia. We can rest on our laurels.' I'm concerned about Claudia becoming part of an establishment that's not working."

It's true that Claudia enjoys overwhelming support on the board. At the beginning of a recent RTD meeting, held in the bowels of the district's headquarters on Blake Street in a windowless conference room fragrant with the smell of roasted potatoes from a board-members-only buffet, she's greeted exuberantly by Bill McMullen, the man who currently holds the seat she's running for. McMullen is term-limited.

"Hey!" he calls out. "How's my replacement?"

However, those who know Folska say she's a leader, not a follower. Accomplishing what she has takes a magnitude of stubbornness and trailblazing that would intimidate most people, they say. When Folska talks about herself, she often uses the word "independent."

"I have an independent mind and I'm curious about things," she says. "I'm not afraid of too many things." Including disagreement. But to prove that, she'll have to win.

******

On a recent Monday afternoon, Folska hitches a ride to the Colorado Secretary of State's office with Tobiassen, who is running unopposed for re-election. In an upstairs conference room, two election officials are preparing to determine in which order the RTD candidates will be listed on the ballot. Their tools include an empty red Costco-sized coffee container and several circular felt pads — the kind you put on the bottoms of chairs to keep them from scratching the floor — on which they've stuck pieces of paper printed with the candidates' names. Their plan is to literally pull names out of a can.

Folska and twelve other people, most of them candidates, have come to watch. The officials shake the can. "It's like Yahtzee or something," Folska whispers.

In a down-ballot race like RTD, most political observers agree it's an advantage to be listed first. Folska looks nervous as one official rolls up his sleeve and reaches into the can. "Jeff Bjorlin," the other calls out. Folska is picked third. It turns out that the candidates in her race will be listed in alphabetical order. "Alphabetical is good," she says afterward. "I'm fine with it."

In the downstairs lobby, Tobiassen jokes with her. "They should've had the blind girl pick them," he says.

"I know!" Folska says. "I was going to suggest it, but then I thought, uhhh..."

"Especially if you came out on top."

"Well, how would I know?" she says. "Blind luck!"

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8 comments
jbelef
jbelef

I've had the opportunity to meet and hear Claudia Folska speak on the issues.  Even without her unique experience as a disabled RTD user, her credentials to be on the RTD board far outweigh all the other candidates combined!. See more here: http://www.claudia4rtd.com/

John
John

She's very cute!

tjtobiassen1
tjtobiassen1

Claudia Folska is very dynamic and multifaceted.   Check out Claudia Folska’s TV cooking show appropriately (on several levels) called “Cooking In the Dark”.  The out-takes are funny!  http://www.cookinginthedark.com/  …  

Juan_Leg
Juan_Leg

I too , share Folska's reliance on public transportation . My service dog & I wouldn't leave home w/o RTD's assistance . My ailments that prevent my driving are relatively new . I became dependent on the bus & for the most part , am pleased w/ it's services and understanding of needed expansions .

RTD , for the past 15 + yrs ,   has striven to keep up w/ Denver's exploding population growth . If I were to grade the system as a whole , I'd give them 9 out of 10 stars . The addition of Folska could bring it to 10 out of 10 !

Tom Tobiassen
Tom Tobiassen

Claudia will be an asset on the RTD Board of Directors! Her knowledge and vision for RTD is second to none for this volunteer position. Claudia relies on RTD's buses and light rail for work, school, shopping since she does not drive or own a car. Claudia understands the needs of the rider. She clearly is the best qualified and most knowledgeable candidate.

tjtobiassen2
tjtobiassen2

Check out the videos about Claudia Folska at www.Claudia4RTD.com  ....  

Tom Tobiassen
Tom Tobiassen

Claudia will be an asset on the RTD Board of Directors! Her knowledge and vision for RTD is second to none for this volunteer position. She clearly is the best qualified and most knowledgeable candidate and does not need the "sympathy" vote!

 
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