Who is running for City Council in Your District?
The Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) has championed increased funding for Colorado Springs Parks Department since 2009 when general fund support for parks fell from 18 million to 3.2 million.
- General fund support for city parks, trails and open space remains less than it was 15 years ago. (2006 – $19,144,000; 2021 -$14,898,000)
- Our TOPS (Trails, Open Space and Parks) Tax is the lowest of cities and counties along the front range. One penny for every $10 spent in Colorado Springs. Increasing the TOPS sales tax from .1% to .15% would cost the average household $7 more per year. Increasing the .1% to .25% would cost the average household $36 per year.
- In addition to City Council races, voters will decide Issue 1. TOSC has taken a position in favor of Issue 1 because voters in Colorado Springs deserve the same transparency and accountability in ballot language afforded all other voters in Colorado.
TOSC asked candidates to answer three important questions:
1. Do you consider parks a critical city service?
· Jim Mason: Yes. I consider Parks and Open Spaces to be essential and a quality of Life imperative. Likewise, I think maintenance and upgrade of them should be a budgeted priority line item. Once and for all, we must ask for and receive Public commitment stating such.
· David Donelson: Yes. As a former Trail Crew Member and Wilderness Guard in the Bob Marshall Wilderness in Montana, and current trail runner who has run the Pikes Peak Ascent, runs trails in Palmer Park and can often be found on the Santa Fe Trail I know the value of our parks.
· Glenn Carlson: 100%, without a doubt. As an outdoor recreation mecca; our parks, trails, and open spaces are quite possibly the most important attraction to COS. Our outdoor spaces are important for our physical and mental well-being and our quality of life.
· Dave Noblitt: I am sad for the decision to reduce what has been a recognized as one of the greatest reasons to come to C/S, our parks/trails. Our founders envisioned our city full of parks. Plan COS is supposed to create that multi-model transport capability. Within my district I see sprawl, very little if any connectivity built in; and a park reduction.
· Dave Geislinger: Without parks, trails and open space we would not be Colorado Springs. Short-sightedness during 2007-2014 led us to ignore who we are for short-term instant economic gratification. It’s parks’ turn to return to pre-downturn levels of support. I am committed to establishing a long-term, sustainable, parks funding plan.
· Randy Helms: Yes, TOPS creates an attractive and livable city. This past COVID year our parks were critical to the health of our citizens. When our founder, General Palmer laid out his vision for this beautiful city he included parks and open spaces.
· Richard Skorman: There is nothing more important to provide for our “superuser” population, particularly if we want to attract and retain good jobs. It’s also never mentioned that we share our mountain backdrop Parks and Open Spaces, with 20 million tourists, in a non-COVID year and County residents (there Park department is woefully underfunded as well). Finally, we have not only had a huge funding deficit for well over a decade, but we are also now placing on our Parks department our critical urban forest deficit, as well as vitally important wildfire mitigation.
· Arthur Glynn: Part of the draw and magic of Colorado Springs are the parks and open spaces. They marry well with the healthy and outdoor lifestyle we profess and are therefore a critical element of our city.
· Olivia Lupia: Yes, I do consider parks to be an important service. Our parks and open spaces are one of the many unique features that make our city such a wonderful place to live and visit, and it is our responsibility to be good stewards of these resources.
· Yolanda Avila: Yes, I consider parks a critical city service. They contribute to our quality of life, our health, and our environmental well-being. This is especially in District 4 where our life spans are less and there are few green spaces to be physically active. We need spaces that everyone can enjoy without digging into their wallet.
· Regina English: Yes, I do consider parks a critical city service. Our parks play an instrumental role in healthy families, healthy communities and healthy neighborhoods. Our parks should be kept clean and safe for everyone to enjoy.
· Nancy Henjum: I do consider parks critical to our community. Being in Colorado one of the largest priorities for residents is enjoying the outdoor space we have. We must keep up with the maintenance of current parks and trails and make sure we are holding developers and builders accountable when new developments are put in place.
· Matt Zelenok: Yes. Parks and open space are part of the Colorado Springs lifestyle and what makes Colorado Springs a great place to live and visit. People travel and move here because of all of the wonderful areas that exist in Colorado Springs, and we must continue the efforts made to expand and improve our parks.
· Karlie Van Arnam: Yes. Colorado Springs is a beautiful place to live and our citizens, myself included, value our trails and open spaces. believe our park and trail systems are vital to a healthy community and lifestyle. I believe in maintaining free, clean and accessible open space for generations to come.
· Justin James-Fletcher: Yes, parks are a critical city service. Many people come to Colorado Springs because of our wonderful trails and open spaces! Being a native to COS I can tell you first-hand how important it is to protect these areas and expand on the success we have had creating new spaces and trails.
· Mike O’Malley: Yes – it’s a national treasure.
2. Would you support an increase to the TOPS Tax?
· Jim Mason: Yes, for the reason previously stated. We are beating ourselves up over a ‘quality of Life’ imperative that we all agree with. By doing so, we make the decision partisan and social-economically inflamed unnecessarily.
· David Donelson: Yes. As I wrote in the previous question, I’ve worked on trails, run on them now, and will be running the Pikes Peak Ascent again this year. Our city is at the foot of Pikes Peak because of the unique beauty of this area. We need to maintain this asset.
· Glenn Carlson: I would support this increase provided we are not in the depths of pandemic closures like we’ve recently seen. I believe we are on the other side of COVID-19 at this point and the future looks much better than it did a year ago. I believe the right time to present this increase is in the near future.
· Dave Noblitt: I am running on a platform to represent. The priorities for our city are out of skew and this city is going to have to make a decision in what it wants. Dollars to growth and nothing else, or to actually make this a place where we want to live. I honestly support parks and would look to see what the constituents would support to honestly bring forward to care for our city.
· Dave Geislinger: I expect TOPS supporters to be part of the working group drafting the parks funding plan proposal, and TOPS to be integral in that. I won’t commit to supporting an increase in the TOPS tax until hearing the proposal(s), but support considering it as a potential part of the plan.
· Randy Helms: I could support asking voters for an increase in funding for this important city service. I would like included maintenance for the park system we have. I am concerned about our city’s current tax/utility rate burden on the taxpayer. TOSC’s ask to the voters should consider those paying the bill.
· Richard Skorman: A strong YES. TOPS is very popular, and so it’s the best mechanism to ask for a small increase for Park’s sustainability. If we can get rid of the 30 word limit this April, we should have a good chance at increasing TOPS, and making more flexible.
· Arthur Glynn: We are coming out of the worst recession since 2008 and have yet to experience the true fallout for our city. I believe it is unconscionable to ask our taxpayers to pay even more taxes/fees currently when so many are suffering.
· Olivia Lupia: I do not support an increase to the TOPS Tax as increasing funding for parks and open space maintenance should not be a high priority for the city, especially during a time when our focus should be on fully reopening city so our citizens can resume their livelihoods.
· Yolanda Avila: Yes, I would support an increase to the TOPS Tax. There is no question that our parks are under-funded and the TOPS tax is one way to get additional funding. However, as a city we need to look at long-term solutions to funding essential city services, like parks. Sales taxes are regressive by nature – and are less predictable when we have an economic downturn. Eventually, we need to consider a balance of sources to fund city services.
· Regina English: Yes, I would support an increase because I believe that people will invest in what they enjoy doing which is spending time outside with family and friends on trails, open spaces and parks that are clean, safe and accessible.
· Nancy Henjum: Yes. Colorado Springs has a reputation for being tax-averse, but our citizens have shown a willingness to support taxes for a specific, well-justified purpose. A love of the outdoors unites Coloradans. I would also value looking for longer term strategy for how we fund parks and open space.
· Matt Zelenok: While I support the current TOPS tax and its extension, it is difficult to say without having the ballot language in front of me whether I would support an increase to the tax. If I were to support an increase in the TOPS tax, I believe there should be some flexibility in the spending requirements. There are circumstances that may arise where acquisition may be difficult and maintenance is a higher priority – and it may be appropriate to divert funding from acquisition to maintenance for a period of time.
· Karlie Van Arnam: While I support dedicating tax dollars to TOPS, I do not support a tax increase of any kind at this time. Our citizens and small businesses are suffering from the financial impacts of COVID-19. Ensuring our community recovers from the pandemic must take priority. When appropriate, I would not oppose allowing voters to decide if they want to increase the TOPS tax.
· Justin James-Fletcher: At this time I would not support an increase. The current tax put in place is not set to expire until 2025. Even though it would be a small increase I do think we should hold off on any tax increases until we are completely on the other side of the pandemic.
· Mike O’Malley: No – raising taxes is not the answer.
3. Do you support Issue 1?
· Jim Mason: Yes, I will vote in favor of Issue 1. I have lived with this problem for 7.5 years as a Director, CS School District 11 Board of Education. It is a must…we cannot honor our Citizens, when unable to explain in common language what, when and why of initiatives.
· David Donelson: Yes. I believe our citizens prefer to get a reasonably thorough explanation for a request to increase tax or bonded debt. With voting being done over several weeks, and at home, there is no need to keep the 30-word limit to speed things along in a voting booth.
· Glenn Carlson: I support Issue 1, wholeheartedly. The language restrictions currently in place are outdated and do not allow transparency to thrive. This change will allow an initiative, whether you are for or against, to better explain its purpose. This change is in alignment with state guidelines and is a win for transparency and voters.
· Dave Noblitt: Yes! It is a really sad position brought forward by a sad person. Our citizens do well when informed and directed to where the funds will go. Allow that to be placed onto the question when it is asked.
· Dave Geislinger: It is patronizing to suggest Colorado Springs voters cannot read and understand a ballot, particularly where we don’t need to ‘speed up the process’ due to mail-in voting. This question took 50 words to explain. Voters should have the same right to explanation of ballot issues.
· Randy Helms: One of the planks of my platform is transparency and accountability. As I understand it, the goal of Issue 1 creates transparency. As long as this continues to honor the core principal of TABOR, voter approval I can be supportive.
· Richard Skorman: Voters have no idea what they are voting for when there are only 30 words, and 14 of them are prescribed. It’s critical that we get rid of this “harness,” that no other city in the country has. It was put into place by an anti-tax crusader who wanted no information in front of the voters so any tax or bond increase would fail.
· Arthur Glynn: I firmly support the passage of Issue 1. It is important measures be clearly articulated, especially tax measures. The original intent was to force clear language and avoid confusion. Hopefully, with Issue 1 passage, the language of future measures will be clear, enabling voter discernment.
· Olivia Lupia: I do not support Issue 1 as it is a subversion of the stricter TABOR measures already in place within the city charter. Though it is marketed as further transparency, we would actually be lowering ourselves to the state level of TABOR, not rising to a higher level of accountability.
· Yolanda Avila: Yes, I support Issue 1. We need to be able to clearly explain why tax increases are needed so voters make informed decisions.
· Regina English: Yes, I do support issue 1 and I believe that people should have clarity, transparency and accountability for things that we have to vote on.
· Nancy Henjum: Yes. Citizens absolutely deserve transparency and accountability in government—and especially in fiscal matters. I find it utterly incomprehensible that anyone would think it’s a bad idea to make it easier for citizens to know what they are voting specifically for or against.
· Matt Zelenok: Yes. I am a proponent of transparency in government, especially in our government’s finance. I believe issue 1 will make a positive contribution to financial transparency and assure tax-payers their money will be spent efficiently and specifically.
· Karlie Van Arnam: I support Issue 1. While clear and concise ballot language is important, the 30-word limit is unduly restrictive. Issue 1 will allow for more transparency and enable our voters to make a well-informed decision when voting on important financial issues.
· Justin James-Fletcher: Yes I support issue 1 as it adds more transparency for the voter and adds accountability to ballot language.
· Mike O’Malley: Yes – already on the record for putting it on the ballot.