[boxed_content title=”City Council refuses to stand up to Mayor on parks funding.” type=”coloured” custom_bg_colour=”#2E64FE” pb_margin_bottom=”no” width=”1/1″ el_position=”first last”]

On Tuesday, City Council voted 6 to 3 not to allow a small tax increase for parks to appear on the April ballot. Council members Strand, Gaebler and Murray voted in support. The Mayor (represented by Chief of Staff Jeff Greene) and Dirk Draper of the Chamber of Commerce spoke in opposition to the one-tenth of one percent increase. (That means one penny on a ten-dollar purchase).
We had excellent support from the Council of Neighbors and Organizations, Friends Groups, and other leading parks advocates. They asked Council to simply let the people decide. They reminded Council that the city’s financial support for parks is less than it was 10 years ago and that polling results indicate the public would support a slight tax increase.
Thank you to the many, many supporters who called and emailed Council and the Mayor. Decision-makers’ voicemail and email boxes were filling up with messages. We had the opportunity to present to Council because of YOU. Even though we didn’t win, both Council and the Mayor are on notice that the people want real solutions to the problem of underfunded parks.
What now? We’re tired of hearing our leaders say they support maintaining their parks while being unwilling to support solutions. We can follow their example and ignore the underfunded parks problem and hope it goes away. We could plan to petition the initiative onto a future ballot. Or we could elect new leaders and try again to work within the system. More conversations to follow.

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The Trails and Open Space Coalition, along with the City of Colorado Springs Parks Department, the Trust for Public Land and many other partners, have been meeting for the past year to help find a solution to funding for parks. It’s become clear that the current funding level isn’t going to fix the problems, and there isn’t any hope of new General Fund money coming in the near to mid-term future. 
We spent thousands of dollars to poll voters to find what they would support, and came up with a workable solution. The Mayor had indicated that he supported this process, and when we found that 65% of voters surveyed supported a one-tenth of a percent sales tax dedicated to parks, we thought we had found the solution, and asked to put the measure on the April ballot.
Now the Mayor says that since there is a large TABOR refund issue on the April ballot, he won’t support putting the parks funding measure on as well. The Mayor’s priority is Stormwater, and while we believe that water management issues are important, we believe that the voters can understand and support two issues at a time. If this measure does not go on the ballot in April, it may be years before we get an increase in parks funding.
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City parks, trails and open spaces receive less public money today than they did 10 years ago.

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  • City parks, trails and open spaces receive less public money today than they did 10 years ago.
  • There will be no additional general fund support for parks for years to come because of multi-year infrastructure commitments.
  • A just-completed poll showed that voters would overwhelmingly support a dedicated parks sales tax of just one-tenth of one percent (about $13 per household).
  • We would see more money spent on restoring forested land to reduce the risk of wildfire and floods, better maintenance and water conservation.
  • It would mean more money spent on protecting our quality of life and our major attraction to tourists and businesses—our beautiful outdoor spaces.

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…We asked council candidates, “Would you give the community the opportunity to vote on a parks tax increase…?” They all said yes.

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Please tell our elected officials that you support our trails and open spaces and you want this measure to go before the voters this April.

During the last election, we asked council candidates, “Would you give the community the opportunity to vote on a parks tax increase if polling indicated support?” They all said yes.

Hold them to that answer.

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Jsuthers@springsgov.com     John Suthers, Mayor              385-5900

Mbennett@springsgov.com  Merv Bennett                          385-5469

Jgaebler@springsgov.com    Jill Gaebler                              385-5483

Hcollins@springsgov.com     Helen Collins                           385-5492

Kcking@springsgov.com       Keith King                                385-5470

Dknight@springsgov.com      Don Knight                              385- 5487

Tstrand@springsgov.com      Tom Strand                             385-5486

Apico@springsgov.com         Andy Pico                                  385-5491

Lbagley@springsgov.com     Larry Bagley                            385-5493

Bmurray@springsgov.com     Bill Murray                               385-5485

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The Mayor issued a statement in response to the many calls and emails he received on the parks funding issue:
“Colorado Springs has a robust parks system, which we must continue to support and maintain. I recognize the value of our beautiful outdoor assets to the community as a whole. However, at this time, the city must remain laser-focused on its two urgent infrastructure needs – fixing our roads and resolving our stormwater issues.  Our total sales tax is currently 8.25%. Raising it any higher could jeopardize the city’s ability to resolve our infrastructure issues in the next few years.  For these reasons, I am not recommending the referral of a Parks-based tax increase to the April ballot.  The final decision rests with the City Council.”
[/spb_text_block] [spb_text_block title=”Letter from one of our members” pb_margin_bottom=”no” pb_border_bottom=”no” width=”1/2″ el_position=”last”]
The issue of Parks and Recreation funding being on the upcoming ballot is an important one. The ballot measure needs to be put forth to the citizens so they can have a choice. Why NOT give the people the choice? It seems ridiculous that we can’t even have the choice to vote for what we want our city to be.
I’ve worked for several years as a crew leader in Ute Valley Park. I’ve seen first hand the maintenance that needs to happen in the park. Much of that work is left undone year to year because there’s not enough funding for staff and there’s not enough volunteers, crew leaders and time in the day to get it done with the generous time donated by volunteers. And you have to realize the Ute Valley park ranger is responsible for many other properties too, not just Ute Valley!
For example, do you know the trash can at the Popes Valley trailhead at Ute Valley can’t be emptied by parks staff because they don’t have time? Most people want to use their parks and want them to be taken care of, but don’t have the time to come out and volunteer. In my experience, in lieu of volunteering, most people are willing to spend money to make sure their parks are taken care of.
I think you’ll find that if the ballot measure is put to the people, the majority will vote to increase funding for the care of our parks. It benefits everyone for a very small cost per person.
Please consider putting the Park Funding ballot measure to the people this April.
N. C.

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