2019 At-Large City Council and Mayoral Candidates e-Forum

2019 At-Large City Council and Mayoral Candidates e-Forum

2019 At-Large City Council Candidates and Mayoral Candidates e-Forum

Click on the questions to see the candidates' answers.

1. In 2007, 12 years ago, with a population of 390,787, Colorado Springs City Government spent $19,000,000 in general funds on all aspects of parks, opens space and trails. That represented 8% of the total General Fund. In 2019 with a population of 464,474 persons and a city budget that has recovered from the Great Recession, a total of 14.5 million or 5% of the general fund budget will be spent on parks, trails and opens spaces. TOSC believes that this represents a significant reduction in commitment to our needs as a community and in protecting and enhancing the asset that our Park system is to our city. What is your position on moving the City spending toward the levels that existed 12 years ago? How long before we can expect parity in this spending pattern?

1. In 2007, 12 years ago, with a population of 390,787, Colorado Springs City Government spent $19,000,000 in general funds on all aspects of parks, opens space and trails. That represented 8% of the total General Fund. In 2019 with a population of 464,474 persons and a city budget that has recovered from the Great Recession, a total of 14.5 million or 5% of the general fund budget will be spent on parks, trails and opens spaces. TOSC believes that this represents a significant reduction in commitment to our needs as a community and in protecting and enhancing the asset that our Park system is to our city. What is your position on moving the City spending toward the levels that existed 12 years ago? How long before we can expect parity in this spending pattern?

Mayoral Candidates

John Suthers: While General Fund spending going to Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services remains below prerecession levels, All Funds spending by the Department has continued to increase. I have submitted budgets that significantly increased General Fund spending for Parks over the last two years and hope to be able to continue to do so. How much progress we make will be determined by General Fund revenue increases in the next several years and competing budget pressures. For example, I believe unionization of the Fire Department (Issue 1 on the April Municipal ballot) will lead to widespread unionization of city employees and would not be in the interests of those who advocate for more Parks spending.

Juliette Parker: Parks are an important aspect of any community. We need to see existing parks maintained and improved to meet new ADA and ASTM standard and see new parks built. Spending on parks should be relative to growth in the city. Current spending does not reflect that and should be changed.

John Pitchford: As mayor this would be a top priority.   I am a supporter of Protect Our Parks.   I would ensure that a vote of the citizens would be required before sale or disposal of any Parker public space.  I believe too much sales tax revenue is being diverted to special-interest groups leaving the city chronically underfunded.   I believe once this problem is solved more money would be available to invest in our parks and public spaces.

City Council Candidates

Bill Murray: 2yrs with aggressive help. I still advocate for the Parks’ right to initiate ballot issues in their behalf. I still advocate for a Pikes Peak Park’s district that can govern itself, handle its own finances and ask the community for assistance without interference nor political considerations that hamper these processes.

Athena Roe: I need more information before I can address this issue. Some constituents wonder where the pot and lottery money is going, and the same holds true for spending more or less for TOSC. Many voters believe that funds are promised for one purpose or other, then when the lottery, or pot stores open, the money disappears to some other purpose.

Terry Martinez: I support restoring the levels that existed 12 years ago and promote increasing funding. We must rethink our investment in open space and parks. I will seek opportunities to re-invest in parks through existing sources, partnerships, developers and grants in order to leave a legacy for our future generations.

Val Snider: I will advocate for Parks budget to be brought up to at least 2007 levels. One of my campaign platforms is to increase Parks maintenance funding for the annual budget. I will work the current funding constraints for Parks, future-programming needs, then work the annual budget process for funding.

Tony Gioia: Colorado Springs’ parks are community treasures that we must pay to create and maintain. I would definitely prioritize funding increases, but we must remember that the budget is a zero-sum game, and any dollars spent here must come from elsewhere. Therefore, I would also support an increase in to TOPS.

Tom Strand: I am the past Treasurer of the TOSC Board. For my past four years on City Council I have supported every initiative, Resolution and Ordinance to fund, improve and maintain our parks, open space (OS) and trails. As Chair of Utilities, I voted for funding of Parks watering. I pledge to work to attain the 8% of total City Budget as soon as possible.

Dennis Spiker: We must increase our parks funding I would like to see that we at least return to past spending levels, as well as better use our budget. I want to see our parks at the minimum receive ten percent of our general funds.

Regina English: I believe that parks, trails and open spaces are essential, and I am for raising the funding as this is a vital part of our community thriving. The purpose of providing these services are to live, work and play in a safe clean environment which adds to life.

Wayne Williams: As a County Commissioner, I added over a thousand acres of parks and open space. I support the increases Mayor Suthers and Council have made to the City’s Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services budget and will work to continue to increase this funding.

2. TOPS, originally passed in 1997 and extended twice since then, is due to sunset in 2025. TOSC is committed to bringing the next extension to the voters in 2021. Do you support the TOPS sales tax and an extension? Would you support an increase in the .1% tax with spending dedicated to maintenance and capital development of our Trails, Open Space and Park system? Are there other funding sources for parks, trails and open spaces that should be considered?

2. TOPS, originally passed in 1997 and extended twice since then, is due to sunset in 2025. TOSC is committed to bringing the next extension to the voters in 2021. Do you support the TOPS sales tax and an extension? Would you support an increase in the .1% tax with spending dedicated to maintenance and capital development of our Trails, Open Space and Park system? Are there other funding sources for parks, trails and open spaces that should be considered?

Mayoral Candidates

John Suthers: If 2C is renewed for five years at a reduced rate of .57 (polls indicate a high level of support to do so) I would support renewal of TOPS at .15 as long as the additional .05 is dedicated to maintenance and capital development. I also support increasing the LART tax (Lodging and Car Rental tax) from 2% to 4% with the understanding that a significant portion of the new revenue be dedicated to maintain and upgrade parks and trails heavily impacted by tourists, to include Garden of the Gods, North Cheyenne Canon and perhaps others. I will also advocate that the voters be asked in November of 2019 to retain any 2018 revenue received by the city in excess of TABOR limits and that it be used for enumerated Parks’ capital development projects.

Juliette Parker: No, there are better means without increasing cost of living which is a major issue in Colorado Springs: streamline spending to reallocate finds to parks; stop giving subsidies to private businesses; divert fines to parks spending; require developer involvement with construction and long-term funding.

John Pitchford: Once again, I believe the solution is to be found by ensuring sales tax revenues end up in the hands of the people and not special-interest groups.

City Council Candidates

Bill Murray: Yes. Yes. Less tax incentives for Retail that could be used for these purposes!

Athena Roe: Possibly to part one. No to part 2. It is ridiculous to tax all residents of Colorado Springs, since not all people use the Trails and Open Spaces Park System. Perhaps, those who use the trails and open spaces could pay a fee for using these parks and trails. It is time that people understand the proper role of government.

Terry Martinez: I support the extension and increase of the TOPS sales tax. I will continually look for opportunities to invest from existing fund sources, work with partnerships and developers and through grants and other capital sources to invest in new recreation spaces to leave a legacy for our future.

Val Snider: Yes I support the TOPS sales tax and the proposed extension. Yes I would support an increase in the .1% tax dedicated to maintenance and capital development of our Trails, Open Space, and Park system.

Tony Gioia: I would support an increase, especially if the 2C renewal sees a decrease so that we do not have an overall increase in our city sales tax. I believe that the increase should be dedicated to maintenance. I would also support the potential of subsidizing water for parks from CSU.

Tom Strand: Without question, I support current TOPS Sales Taxes, and will advocate for ballot extension in 2021. I fully support a .1% Sales Tax increase with ballot language devoted to trails, parks, and OS maintenance/capitol development. Always on the lookout for funding sources for outdoor needs, I will exhaust Federal, State and Property Tax opportunities.

Dennis Spiker: I support a renewal of tops and its increase. I would also like to see marijuana to go on the ballot to help pay for our parks to be returned to their former glory.

Regina English:Yes, I do support the sales tax and extension for allocation of funding, and I would support an increase for maintenance and capital development. We must invest in what makes our city thrive and maintaining our trails, open space and parks are essential for vitality in our community.

Wayne Williams: I support putting the TOPS sales tax renewal before the voters. Maintenance and capital development should be prioritized—we waited more than two decades for Venezia to open. Garden of the Gods is the first place I take visitors—our low LART should be considered as a funding source.

3. TOSC is a supporter of Bike COS and is encouraged by the support the City recently has shown for this aspect of recreation and transportation through the Bike Master Plan, Plan COS and other plans. How do you envision bike lanes contributing to our community’s transportation systems in the future? Once elected, how would you address concerns raised in the community about the strategies the city has used to implement the Bicycle Master plan?

3. TOSC is a supporter of Bike COS and is encouraged by the support the City recently has shown for this aspect of recreation and transportation through the Bike Master Plan, Plan COS and other plans. How do you envision bike lanes contributing to our community’s transportation systems in the future? Once elected, how would you address concerns raised in the community about the strategies the city has used to implement the Bicycle Master plan?

Mayoral Candidates

John Suthers: Bike lanes will undoubtedly continue to be part of city master planning as the city becomes more urbanized and residents want greater bike and pedestrian accessibility. I have found the “bike lane issue” to be almost entirely a generational issue, and while I’m respectful of those who oppose bike lanes, given the city’s need to attract about 4,000 millennials a year to meet our workforce development needs, and given the fact that sophisticated traffic engineering issues are involved, including traffic calming, I do not believe this is the sort of issue that should be determined by popular opinion polls or referendums.

Juliette Parker: Current plan creates danger for cyclists/motorists, it can be done BETTER & needs re-imagining. I’ll address concerns by having impacted neighborhoods dictate the process, much like the process any individual must go through to make a change, I would shift focus to off street trails that service urban areas.

John Pitchford: I believe the bike Master Plan was very poorly implemented and has inconvenience and disrupted the lives of tens of thousands of people in the city of Colorado Springs on a daily basis.  I support cycling, but believe we need to look to other cities for solutions that don’t involve “road dieting”.  The system of bike lanes we had in downtown Colorado Springs is chaotic and dangerous.  Of all of the cities in Colorado considered to be bike friendly, Colorado Springs has one of the lowest rates of utilization.

City Council Candidates

Bill Murray:  We need better engagement with the communities. Our strategy should be to explain outcomes. Having witnessed the results on Research, which was not originally designed to be part of our Bike Master Plan, we blew an opportunity to demonstrate the overall successful implementation of a bike program. The bigger problem is in our transit discussion. No mass transit to Denver and no real transit plan for COS creates an environment of bike lanes scratching an itch rather than resolving a problem. We are still having difficulties with a property owner downtown in buying land for a new transit terminal. At the same time, we are watching the Olympic museum being built and discussions of a soccer stadium and hockey arena. Each increasing the prospect of bringing more cars to this area. Rebuilding roads to accommodate this expansion is not even being addressed. Was Cascade changed for bikes or for safety? But then what about Bijou? Heading north is one of the most confusing intersections and quite dangerous. In addition, I would like folks to consider rebuilding Nevada and make a two lane bike trail go down the middle of it. Then build out the landscaping from there. Also build a bike lane next to the sidewalk on both sides of Research. Just a thought, but there are clear areas of agreement and concern by all parties.

Athena Roe: This depends on who actually uses the bike lanes. Most people drive, older people feel safer in their cars. Many people drive when the roads are snow packed or icy. After speaking with hundreds of residents, it is a mixed bag on who likes and who does not like the new bike lanes. I would like to see the realization of the trolley that was considered back in 2015. Some great cities use trolleys as a inexpensive and green form of public transportation.

Terry Martinez: Increasing connections is one of my campaign themes as well as to create “complete streets” –streets that are designed to accommodate pedestrians, bikers, cars, and buses- which sets up for effective use of limited resources as we accommodate multi-modal transportation and to follow the master plan already developed and approved.

Val Snider: Bike lanes need to be part of the long-term transportation planning for Colorado Springs, planning for different modes of transportation such as: auto, transit, pedestrian, and bikes. Concerns raised by implementing the Bicycle Master Plan will be addressed by gathering feedback from the public, then evaluate the feedback and course correct as needed.

Tony Gioia: I support bike lanes throughout the community, but we must be more aware of neighborhood input on the location of those lanes. As we saw on Research Parkway and are seeing now on Cascade Avenue downtown, when the public’s input is ignored, there is a political price to pay.

Tom Strand: I support the Bike Master Plan and was a signatory to the 2019 Plan COS. The future is multi-modal (pedestrians, motor vehicles, bicycles and public transportation). We must balance differing transit options, especially changes to road utilization, and find compromises so that everyone knows they are listened to and their concerns are considered in future planning travel decisions.

Dennis Spiker: I want to see more bike lanes add to the city where possible. I also want to update the trails so that biking can be done off the streets as well. I think that we must look toward alternative methods of transportation so that we aren’t creating more pollution.

Regina English: I would envision bike lanes contributing to our community’s transportation by improving mobility and health while reducing traffic congestion. I would collaborate with the community in order to come up with a more informed solution to the bike lanes and keep riders safe. Reshaping the plan is necessary.

Wayne Williams: I attended the recent forum at the Pikes Peak Center. I would seek to broaden public input and to connect and improve our off-road trail system. Bicycle lanes on roadways can be appropriate where they do not adversely affect mobility or safety.

4. Substantial land dedication and funding for parks in new development comes from the developers of subdivisions in the form of land dedication and in some, but not all, cases, funds for park development including watering and maintenance. What is your position on expanding the requirements for developments not encumbered by annexation agreements that require park funding, especially in the Banning Lewis Ranch? TOSC very much supports a process to develop this mechanism.

4. Substantial land dedication and funding for parks in new development comes from the developers of subdivisions in the form of land dedication and in some, but not all, cases, funds for park development including watering and maintenance. What is your position on expanding the requirements for developments not encumbered by annexation agreements that require park funding, especially in the Banning Lewis Ranch? TOSC very much supports a process to develop this mechanism.

Mayoral Candidates

John Suthers: As I understand the question, I believe it relates primarily to the City’s proposed Park Land Dedication Ordinance (PLDO). Under the ordinance a developer must dedicate park land, pay fees in lieu of dedication or fulfill their dedication requirements by negotiating Alternative Compliance options with the city. While fees in lieu of dedication can be used for park acquisition and upgrades, Alternative Compliance allows for much greater flexibility including insuring operation and maintenance of metro district owned park land, City acquisition of trail corridors and open space and other needs. I believe Alternative Compliance can be a valuable tool for the city in regard to future development. I also support developers wishing to provide parks, trails and open space amenities in excess of the dedication requirements to provide a more attractive community for their customers. As to Banning Lewis Ranch in particular I am very confident the Park Master Planning process will result in substantial land dedication or donation for parks, trails and open space.

Juliette Parker: I support this. Developers must have community buy in. All new developments should have a number of parks relative to the size of the development and a means of ongoing funding for those parks via property tax assessments or, preferably, via the HOA to streamline changes in funding needs.

John Pitchford: I believe developers should provide and fund park systems within new housing areas.  I would believe this to be good common sense business practice and see no reason why the developer would oppose it.

City Council Candidates

Bill Murray:  I argued that before we allowed a change in the annexation plan to Banning Lewis that these issues be addressed. I was unsuccessful, but I put everyone on notice. I am requesting my re-election as an opportunity to continue this path and hold Norwood accountable to their offers, which will disappear without this specific information. I am very concerned that since none of these offers was in writing, the institutional knowledge will be lost. Our community needs must be fought for and not allowed to be subjugated to a developers’ ‘bottom line’. There is already a plan to reduce the requirements for developers to set aside land and reduce the cost of development in assisting with parks. Hold your Council accountable. I argued that if CSU paid for any of the watering, the city had to increase park funding the same amount. They did not do that. We need to keep pointing out the obvious and reminding the city of its responsibilities.

Athena Roe: The average American household is 75% poorer today than in 1950 because of regulatory accumulation. But for excessive taxes, licensing schemes, and regulatory drag, the Average American would have an extra $277,000.00 in their pockets for discretionary spending. I, like many residents in our beautiful and amazing community, would like our $277,000 back. The coercion and mandated hidden taxes, and regulatory constraints deny the individual freedom to choose how their money is spent.

Terry Martinez: New developments need to insure the necessary infrastructure, parks, schools, public safety, stormwater, and public amenities that provide a community the needed gathering and recreation. I favor of making sure all developments meet these needs not only for the initial development, but also for the full life of the park.

Val Snider: It is my understanding that Banning Lewis Ranch is already under a Council approved annexation agreement that includes park funding. Further refinement/adjustment of this funding mechanism is something worth considering as Banning Lewis develops and demand for parks increases with development.

Tony Gioia: In my time on the county planning commission, I supported the requirement for land dedication and parks fees. We must be careful, however, to avoid increasing the cost to build higher than it is already. Expensive fees on building have contributed significantly to our affordable housing shortfall.

Tom Strand: Economic opportunity and controlled growth encouraged me to vote in favor of a new BLR Annexation Agreement. Land dedication, funding and “credits” for Parks and OS are, and must be a critical element of future residential development. Protection and expansion of Parks and OS are essential to community quality of life. We must recognize land use balance with economic and land development realities.

Dennis Spiker: If developers are going to benefit from this city then they too must do their part and help create better parks. I will be pushing that each development be required to preserve a portion of land and funds with every project.

Regina English: I would support expanding the requirements as this is opportunity for more parks, trails and open space and it will create economic growth for the city over the years and with the amendment the developers will be responsible for the maintenance which is beneficial to the parks department.

Wayne Williams: There are many tools to use for parks in new communities–I used these as a county commissioner to add 1000+ acres. A metro district or other Alternative Compliance options permitted by the City might accomplish this. Playing fields using artificial turf (like Venezia) can minimize water use.

5. TOSC’s Strategic Plan supports the ongoing implementation of the Parks Master Plan, adopted in 2014 and the Plan COS Comprehensive Plan. Some of the major components of these plans advocate for the completion of trails and connections for our park system, upgrades to our extremely popular parks like Garden of the Gods and North Cheyenne Canyon, and other important programs. What would your priorities be for our park system over the next 4 years if you were to be elected?

5. TOSC’s Strategic Plan supports the ongoing implementation of the Parks Master Plan, adopted in 2014 and the Plan COS Comprehensive Plan. Some of the major components of these plans advocate for the completion of trails and connections for our park system, upgrades to our extremely popular parks like Garden of the Gods and North Cheyenne Canyon, and other important programs. What would your priorities be for our park system over the next 4 years if you were to be elected?

Mayoral Candidates

John Suthers: The Parks Master Plan and Plan COS are thoughtful and visionary documents and, as it relates to parks, trails and open space, I will continue to try to find additional revenue to accelerate implementation of the plans.

Juliette Parker: Parks increase quality of life. That is my focus as mayor. The more we upgrade these trail systems the easier alternate mobility will be without posing a danger. My main priorities would be off street trail connectivity and developer but in to the parks system.

John Pitchford: I believe the development of our parks and trail systems is one of the most cost-effective ways to attract the high-tech industries this city really needs.   Ensuring adequate funding and maintenance of our parks and public spaces will be one of my highest priorities.

City Council Candidates

Bill Murray: Continue to support their growth and development through application of protection (POPS- protect our parks initiative) and increases in funding. Asset management cannot properly be administered without a data base that allows everyone to see where, how and why each asset is maintained the way it is. I will strive to lash up the asset management group within CSU to assist this process. Please take the time to visit this group in CSU to see what I am talking about. I can make these arrangements. It is an eye opener.

Athena Roe: I would have those who utilize these parks, trails, and open spaces pay a $4.00 fee to enjoy this type of recreation. This excerpt was taken from The Gazette, and I would tend to agree, that those who use the parks should bear the financial burden to support their recreation. From the Gazette, the bottom line: “By the county’s math, that $1.8 million equals $2.74 spent per county resident. That’s your tax contribution to county parks for the year: $2.74. (Compare that, if you will, with the one-time $6 fee at Larimer County’s most popular open spaces.)”

Terry Martinez: My priorities are identifying and pursuing new funding sources and finding better ways to engage the community in our park system. I also want to change the conversation we have around parks – we need to think of them as economic drivers and invest accordingly.

Val Snider: 1. Work in my Council capacity to increase the annual budget for Colorado Springs park maintenance. More funding is needed to maintain what we already have. 2. Complete the Legacy Loop. 3. Implement Chapter 7: Majestic Landscapes of Plan COS.

Tony Gioia: As our population explodes, we must maintain what we already have to keep it beautiful. Overcrowding at our most popular open spaces is getting worse, however, so we must also prioritize adding new areas for outdoor recreation to accommodate those moving here for our healthy lifestyle.

Tom Strand: I was on the TOSC Board and now City Council when the Parks Master Plan and Plan COS were approved. These Plans had a comprehensive public process and stressed the importance of trails interconnection and improvements to parks. Going forward, I am committed to completing the Ring Around the Peak and connecting trails throughout the City. Large and small parks need immediate attention to maintenance.

Dennis Spiker: First, we must create a plan that will fix what has been neglected. Then, I want to start implementing updated equipment that will cut cost in the long run. Replacing old outdated pieces of our parks that are no longer the more efficient such as solar powered lights instead of traditional.

Regina English: My park system priorities would be to continue to support funding allocated to the park systems for up keep and expansion, staying engaged with community as their values shape the plan knowing parks systems adds quality of life to residents and are destinations for tourism which generates city revenue.

Wayne Williams: Renewing TOPS with an emphasis on maintenance and capital construction. Expanding LART (95% of which is paid by tourists) to help our city’s parks, particularly those heavily used by tourists. Accelerating implementation of the plans to the extent funding permits. Ensuring parks in newly developing areas.

A Note on our City Council e-Forum...

The Trails and Open Space Coalition sent questions to the candidates on topics like TOPS, Parks Funding, Bike Lanes and Park Priorities. Not all candidates chose to participate, but all were contacted and provided with the questions.

As a 501c3 non-profit, TOSC is not allowed to endorse candidates. These candidates’ answers are your opportunity to become better educated and decide if your values and their priorities share common ground.

View PDF: 2019 Candidates Questions and Answers

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