Clarifying 2C From Its Naysayers

From: Richard Skorman 

Dear Friend, I wouldn’t be writing you about this if it wasn’t necessary. I’m writing to set the record straight.

An ad hoc group has formed to oppose the TOPS III ballot measure on this November’s ballot (Cheyenne Central) because they are upset about one issue: there wasn’t a guarantee in the ballot language that enough money will be set aside for purchasing “open space” in the future.  

Council did pass a resolution stating that guarantee when we placed 2C on the ballot, but these new TOPs opponents don’t trust that a next Council “would change that” during tough economic times.

As you may know, I was one of the authors of the original TOPS, co-led all 3 TOPS campaigns, and led the effort to raise $1.6 million (the most extensive land protection campaign in our County’s history) to save Stratton Open Space. I was a key player in saving Red Rock Canyon and what is now Cheyenne Mountain State Park from developers. I also chaired Save Cheyenne to fight the Strawberry Fields Land Swap and led over 1400 on hikes on the property. I’m not bragging — I just want you to know how much I care about saving open space.

And yes, I also care about building new trails and fixing our crumbling parks (our Park Funding was decimated during the recession) as we grow. And yes, I also really care about replacing our dying urban forest, mitigating parklands to protect against fire, and funding Community Centers for our minority neighborhoods and seniors. In other words, I am a big park supporter because of all of the above.

Yet voting no on 2C will hurt all of the above in a colossal way. And yes, it will hurt our ability to purchase open space too. Cheyenne Central has taken on the “Save Open Space,” Vote “No” on 2C campaign, disseminating lots of misinformation.  They hope that if 2C fails, it will come back with more money for Open Space and less for everything else in the near future.  They are also still angry about Strawberry Fields and other decisions the Park Board has made. Here are the facts.  

Despite stating there will be less money for Open Space acquisition if this passes, that’s fuzzy math. There will be more, and for many more years than is in our current TOPs tax today, even if extended. As written today, it will produce $110-125 million more dollars for Open Space acquisition and development for 20 years, and that doesn’t include grants. We will also use TOPS III to fund a new study of the open space and trails masterplans and justify setting aside more if we need to. So TOPS III will finally ensure that there will be money for those studies.

TOPS III will also produce $5-6 million for trails annually for 20 years (or $110-125 million total without grants). That is double what we spend today from TOPS even if we just extended what we currently have.

Cheyenne Central claims that you can’t trust the Parks Board, the TOPS Working Committee, or City Council not to cannibalize the Open Space category for maintenance and master planning. Yet, if TOPS III passes, we finally have money for that off the top. If TOPS III doesn’t pass, and even if we just extend TOPS II from 2003, there will be even more motivation to cannibalize open space acquisition funding. In other words, if Cheyenne Central gets their way, they will likely fulfill their own worst fears.  

Cheyenne Central claims that all but one of the Parks Board didn’t support TOPS III. That’s not true. They all support TOPS III.  Yes, they wanted Council to put more guarantees for Open Space, but they enthusiastically hope it will pass because they know how critical its passage will be for their job on Park Board and our City’s future. 

And finally, Cheyenne Central claims that I, as one of the founders of TOPS, said there aren’t many open spaces left to purchase, somehow justifying not having more. That’s also not true. I said we had purchased most of our original open space candidate areas. We needed to do an extensive study to learn what we need to buy next. Our original Open Space Masterplan was done in 1994. And by the way, if TOPS III passes, we will have money to fund that promised study. 

Don’t let hysterical naysayers take away what is unique about our City because they want a few more guarantees for Open Space, are angry at the Park Board and staff for a few decisions they have made, and Strawberry Fields.

If 2C loses, it is not likely to come back quickly. So please don’t say no to a half-billion of badly needed money for 20 years for our whole park system.  By the way, I am still angry about Strawberry Fields, but I also care about our City’s outdoor and recreation future.

That’s why we need to pass TOPS III to Save Open Space and everything else we care about.

  • Colorado Springs Mayor John Suthers
  • District 1 City Councilor Dave Donelson
  • District 2 City Councilor Randy Helms
  • District 3 City Councilor Richard Skorman
  • District 4 City Councilor Yolanda Avila
  • District 5 City Councilor Nancy Henjum
  • District 6 City Councilor Mike O’Malley
  • At-Large City Councilor Tom Strand
  • At-Large City Councilor Wayne Williams
  • At-Large City Councilor Bill Murray
  • The Trails and Open Space Coalition
  • Medicine Wheel Trail Advocates
  • Pikes Peak Outdoor Recreation Alliance
  • Visit COS
  • Housing & Building Association of Colorado Springs
  • Police Protective Association
  • RISE Southeast
  • YMCA of the Pikes Peak Region
  • Bike Colorado Springs
And Dozens More!
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