Mayoral and City Council Candidates
1. Do You Support Issue 1, the TOPS 20-year extension – yes or no?
Sallie Clark: YES. I have supported TOPS throughout the years, including placing on the ballot when I was on City Council.
Longinos Gonzales Jr.: Yes. It is an existing funding source that has received strong support from residents in the past, and which I believe has been a valuable tool for our parks and our community.
Tom Strand: ABSOLUTELY, Yes. As a former TOSC Board Member and Treasurer, and a 2022 TOPS-2 Committee Member, I am committed to supporting the 2023 Issue 1 20 Year Tops Extension on the April 4th Ballot.
Andrew Dalby: Yes, I support the TOPS extension. I have always said that the city government has only three legitimate functions, Public Safety, Public Works, and Public Parks. We live in Colorado for a reason. We need public spaces for recreation and building community, as well as simply living a good life. However, the people are the ultimate judge on how much should be spent on these services, and it isn’t my job to try to undermine them.
Wayne Williams: Yes. I lobbied to place Issue 1 on the agenda and the advocated and voted to submit it to the voters. I also voted to place the prior extension on the ballot and served on the YES for Trails, Open Space and Parks Committee where I helped strategize and raised money for the campaign.
Yemi Mobolade: Our open spaces, trails, and parks are arguably some of the most beautiful in the country. The beauty of our natural scenery inspired the founder of our city, General William Jackson Palmer, 151 years ago to envision and create a great city. We must ensure Colorado Springs families today, as well as future generations, have access to well-maintained and safe parks. Therefore, I support Issue 1 on the April 4th ballot to extend the TOPS sales and use tax for another 20 years, without raising taxes.
Lawrence Martinez: Yes I support tops.
Darryl Glenn: No. I support the TOPS program. I do not support a 20-year extension. I do not believe that committing to a 20-year tax extension in this economic climate is fiscally responsible. I would support a shorter extension until 2031.
Jim Miller: No, I do not support the Tops 20-year extension.
Christopher Mitchell: No. I am a strong supporter of “the conservation of open space” and “community park development.” At the same time, I am committed to
“fiscal responsibility and accountability in Government.” Therefore, concerning this issue, I am opposed to the TOPS tax extension. I confronted the Trails and Open Space Coalition (TOSC) about their “need”, and they cannot produce a minimum plan for specific use of funds. I require a plan before I can buy in. I believe the Parks System needs to exist within its City-designated General Fund budget, and stop burdening the residents at large with ill-conceived backdoor taxes (e.g.
TOPS tax, LART, PPRTA). Colorado Springs residents are already over taxed.
Katherine Gayle (At Large) : I support the extension of TOPS. Further, I would demand better oversight of the monies collected. With TOPS, we are taxing ourselves because we believe that the preservation of Open Spaces is a vital to who we are and what Colorado Springs represents. We must ensure that these monies are not redirected to pay to pave and maintain municipal parks.
Roland Rainey (At Large): Yes I do support, with voters’ consensus.
Jaymen Johnsons (At Large): Yes absolutely.
David Leinweber (At Large): Of course.
Lynette Crow (At Large): Yes, I am running this Campaign.
Brian Risley (At Large): Yes I support TOPS because it has been an extremely successful program for our community. Through the TOPS program, thousands of acres of open space have been acquired, many trails have been expanded, maintained and repaired, and many improvements to neighborhood parks were
accomplished. The extension of TOPS is key to continuing this good work and will allow us to work toward many of the remaining goals in the park system master plan. One of the things Colorado Springs and this region is known for is the incredible beauty and outdoor recreational opportunity and TOPS is
central to the preservation of these key community assets and helps maintain the high quality of life we are accustomed to. Many people are drawn to Colorado Springs for our outdoor amenities, so parks, trails and open space are an important driver to the overall economy.
Glenn Carlson (At Large): Yes, 100%. TOPS is wildly important to our region.
Michelle Talarico (District 3): Yes.
Scott Hiller (District 3): YES.
Jane Northrop Glenn (At Large): No, 20 years is too long to commit to that.
2. How should new parks be paid for and how should we address the backlog of capital needs? If you become Mayor, what solution would you support?
General Fund Support, LART (Lodging, Auto Rental Tax), PLDO (parkland dedication ordinance), PPRTA 3 (Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority); all provide limited resources for specific park related capital projects with the general fund providing the largest portion. At this time there is not sufficient funding to build the 15 promised parks (including Coleman Community Park now in the final stages of planning) or meet the 163 million backlog of parks, trails and open spaces capital needs called out in the 2020 Jacobs Study.
Sallie Clark: As our city grapples with a growing population, I will convene a coalition of stakeholders to strategize a path forward for new parks and trails in Colorado Springs. We continue to see an increase in homeless camps that are impacting the ability to enjoy our parks, trails and open spaces. Combating homelessness is one of my top three priorities in making our city safe. In the first 30 days of my administration, I will carefully review the budget, work with citizens to prioritize and look for alternative funding sources at all levels of government, nonprofits and private businesses to support our parks. I am the only candidate that has a track record navigating and working in local, state and federal governments. Following the Waldo Canyon fire, I co-chaired and established the Waldo Canyon Regional Recovery Group to bring needed restoration and mitigation dollars to our city and county. I will do the same to address our park funding issues and this is just one example of how my experience will be beneficial to doing the same for our City Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services.
Longinos Gonzalez: I am committed to increasing funding to our parks department and I believe there is room in the city’s General Fund to do so. Since 2019, the city’s budget has increased 36% and also included a 2021 TABOR retention, approved by residents, that I believe provides an opportunity to better support our underfunded parks and open spaces. I will also bring the public and our community stakeholders together to identify where that increased funding should be prioritized to address the backlog.
Tom Strand: Should I become Mayor of Colorado Springs, I would support a tri-part program: of placing a new LART ballot issue increasing the LART sales taxation to 4% for local lodging and 2% for rental vehicles; using $ 2 million of the City General Reserve account funding annually for four years; and expanding both private/public partnerships and Federal and State Grants to improve, maintain and provide 15 new parks and equipment, and additional trails and community open spaces.
Andrew Dalby: Before we spend money on new parks, we should take care of the ones we have. In 2010, the city faced a budget crisis. The city council asked the citizens for a blank check tax hike in the middle of a recession. When they didn’t get it, they spitefully unscrewed the streetlights and killed the city parks. Even though city tax revenue has set records for several years in a row, the city parks are still neglected with no trash service, locked bathrooms, and weeds and hypodermic needles instead of grass where kids can play. Several of the people in the race for mayor were elected officials at that time. Until the city shows that it can be trusted to maintain existing parks, we are unlikely to gain the trust of the people in asking for additional money to acquire new ones. I would use general fund resources to rebuild trust with the public, and avoid the temptation to try to circumvent the voters with anti-TABOR “fees”. Once we have shown competence, then we can ask the people if they would like more parks.
Wayne Williams: We’ve increased general fund support for these areas during my four years on Council and we’ve added over a thousand acres of parks and open space. We also added more than a thousand acres for El Paso County when I served as a county commissioner. To be specific, the Parks and Forestry General Fund Budget when I joined city government was $14.8 million. The 2023 budget we adopted allocates $20.5 million for Parks and Forestry – an additional $5.7 million – a 38.7% increase in four years. In addition to increasing the general fund, I’ve also consistently sought additional ways to fund parks, including:
(1) obtaining voter approval of ballot issue 2B in the November 2019 election, which allowed the City to keep $7 million in excess 2018 TABOR revenue for park improvements;
(2) allocated a portion of LART revenues to parks used by tourists (such as the new restroom building in Garden of the Gods);
(3) supported TOPS ballot issues (see above);
(4) supported partnerships with the state, nonprofits, and others to obtain funding for parks;
(5) increased the rates for fees in lieu of land in our parkland dedication ordinance from $76,602 per acre to $98,010 per acre for community parkland and from $76,602 per acre to $137,694 per acre for neighborhood parkland; and (6) worked with Parks staff to ensure we are using funds efficiently and effectively.
At the appropriate time, I also favor placing a LART issue on the ballot providing long-term funding for parks frequently used by tourists. As mayor, I will continue my work to address these needs. I’m also open to other suggestions and options to address these needs in the future.
Yemi Mobalade: The Colorado Springs Parks, Recreation and Cultural Services Department has been underfunded since the budget was cut in 2010 due to the Great Recession. Colorado Springs has the lowest dedicated sales tax for parks of any community on the Front Range. The need for more funding is clear as our Parks Department is facing an almost $270 million backlog after years of insufficient funding. As mayor I will support the various efforts for additional parks funding to include funding through the Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority and increasing the Lodging and Auto Rental Tax for tourists using our large regional parks. While I don’t have any plans in the immediate future to increase taxes, because of high inflation and the tight economy, when the times are more favorable, I will engage the people of Colorado Springs to vote to create the community they envision for themselves and their families. I will urge citizens to reconsider increasing the Trails, Open Space and Parks (TOPS) sales and use tax to allow more funding for our playgrounds, community parks, open space and sports complexes. In addition, I will champion and support City Council’s President’s Commission on Sustainable Park Funding, established to identify funding options for our park system.
Lawrence Joseph Martinez: Park foundations corporation advertisement corporate signage and state park lottery games. Budget reform community involvement start with the least expensive project save left over items so as to use them on the next project. See which construction companies will do it for a profit of only 20% over cost. Request that developers pay a stipend then invest that stipend in the market so as to get the fund growing.
Darryl Glenn: I view our parks system as a critical element in my overall city growth and development philosophy and goal of creating the safety city in the nation. I will implement a more balanced infrastructure improvement plan for our streets, sidewalks, curbs and gutters, and parks. Our older neighborhoods will be elevated to the same standard as our newer developments. My plan involves reallocating resources away from non-essential services and reinvesting them into our infrastructure. My infrastructure plan for our park system will honor the intent of the voter approved TOPS proposal.
Jim Miller: We do not need any more new taxes. It’s hard enough for people day to day to survive. The money should be budgeted well, so it can be spent wisely and efficiently. Everyday, regular people are asked to spend their money wisely, however, the government is never asked to spend it’s money wisely. There should be fundraisers, products to sell to help create revenue, and utilize donations to take care of and help with the parks already that exist. I don’t like to even take my kids to the parks, because of all the garbage I see on trails and hypodermic needles, and I spend more time picking those things up than enjoying the trails. If it’s something you really care about, then you’ll find a way to budget all of this. Instead of asking for the working people’s money. We have more important things to worry about. We should worry about keeping the pedophiles, rapists and sex traffickers away from all schools.
Katherine Gayle (At Large): I would double or triple LART. That way the tourists who come to enjoy our outdoor spaces would share in the costs of obtaining and maintaining them. This is a matter near and dear to my heart. My father is an emeritus professor of Forestry and Wildlife Biology at CSU. Open Spaces are critical to preserving biodiversity, promoting tourism and healthy lifestyles, and improving our property values.
Roland Rainey (At Large): The backlog of capital needs should be prioritize based on community size and capacity of the park to offer several activities. We need to explore other prospects to fund TOPS. The up-keep and backlog of development needs continues to be an issue ever since the previous park’s department budget cut from $19 million to $6 million. We need to explore all potential sources of funding, such as extending the TOPS sales tax for the next 20 years with no increase to the tax (which will be on the April ballot), increasing the Lodgers and Auto Rental Tax to include money for the large regional parks that draw the most tourists and other options, such as grants. I also believe we need to explore more philanthropy to fill the gaps in park funding, as well as nonprofits. Parks are usually cleaner, nicer, and offer more amenities when nonprofit groups play an active role and have more latitude and are often more creative.
Jaymen Johnson (At Large): Admittedly disappointed by the voter rejection of 2c, I would seek solutions through our partnerships with local developers. Perhaps considering additional mill levies on special districts.
David Leinweber (At Large): General Fund Support- I believe we could do better here and should match what other cities allocate for parks. LART (Lodging, Auto Rental Tax) – I believe LART should be increased and within that increase dollars set aside for our tourism parks (GoG) PLDO (parkland dedication ordinance) -I support it PPRTA 3 (Pikes Peak Rural Transportation Authority) – I would like to see if bus routes could include trailheads. There is not going to be one single solution and I believe everything should be on the table when it comes to investing in our community and providing access to the outdoors.
Lynette Crow (At Large): Parks funding is very important, and as our city grows, it will continue to be a high priority for our community. As a city councilman, when the City Has excess reserves After Public Safety, I would agree to give excess money to Parks Capital Needs. I would also support TABOR Refunds to go directly
to Parks, as well I would work directly with the Development community to help support Parks. Public Private Partnerships are Key to Success.
Brian Risley (At Large): Funding for new parks and reducing the back log of capital needs is a complicated issue and requires a multi-pronged approach. Several considerations include: Within the general fund allocation, the department does have a variety of funding sources to work with, however, many of them have limitations that hamstring the department’s ability to make the most of those dollars. Perhaps the administration should look at reducing the restrictions or allowing more efficient ways to deploy available funds. Because of the massive cuts in parks funding in 2010 as the city struggled with the Great Recession, the
department is still in recovery mode. As a result, many funding sources are still being diverted to operations and personnel which makes it difficult to focus on capital needs. Directing additional parks funding within the general budget would obviously help this, although we all acknowledge there are limited resources that must be shared among all city departments. I would suggest reviewing the work completed by the citizen group and department staff that had evaluated a variety of funding sources and see if there are sources or ideas that came from their effort that can be moved forward for additional discussion. I would also suggest evaluation of how general funds can incrementally be restored to free up special funds such as TOPS and Conservation Trust Funds (CTF) to target backlogged infrastructure projects across the city and build parks such as Coleman Community Park, which you reference. As I said, this has to be a multi-prong approach and I look forward to working with our Parks Advisory Board, TOPS Working Committee, TOSC, parks advocates and the Parks Department to determine the best path forward from their perspectives.
Glenn Carlson (At Large): I’ve fought for our parks, alongside many of you, for years now. I will always lobby for our fair share of the budget, but I also believe we need to take a look at PLDO. Though well-intentioned, most developers have chosen to pay fees in lieu of dedicating land and unfortunately, most of these fees are sitting in a fund, unexpended. In laymen’s terms, the funds are sitting idle while land costs continue to increase and potential parkland evaporates. I believe we need to take a fresh look at PLDO and need to be creative in how we use it, among other things.
Jane Northrop Glenn (At Large): Decades ago, large employers built parks and maintained them. It was important for the employers to feel like they were contributing to the quality of life for many of their employees and to give back to the community in which they operated. My parents grew up in the Detroit area and Ford Motor Co. did just that. I would like to see the city eliminate dowries to bring large corporations to the city, and instead, require them to build or maintain a park or parks if they choose to come here. In addition to that, I would like to see the city reallocate funds to cover these projects. I’m confident that
we can streamline departments and eliminate some roles and functions that may fall outside of the purview of local government to do so.
Scott Hiller (District 3) Until about 2007, the city of Colorado Springs set aside approximately 8% of its total General Fund Budget for parks. This provided for a robust parks program that created much of the infrastructure we enjoy now. The Great Recession saw that percentage dwindle to the 4%-6% that it is today. And, while the needs of our parks continue to grow, the most recent budget shows that we are planning to spend $5 million less in 2023 than we did in 2022. We cannot maintain and grow our parks and open spaces by spending less on them. One of the reasons Colorado Springs is a special place is because of
our parks and open spaces. They are an integral part of our city and we must always prioritize them. My goal will be to ensure that the parks budget returns to 8% of the General Fund Budget.
Michelle Talarico (District 3): I support an increase in LART to 8% and 4%, I also know it most likely wouldn’t pass so therefore I would be pleased to support and champion 4% and 2%. We have one of the lowest LART Taxes in the country. I believe we need to increase as soon as possible More resources for our parks, I will fight to do all I can to lobby my fellow council members to support an increased budget. My opponent mention he would support at least an increase from the current budget to 8 million, I would argue that it needs to be higher.
Some candidates chose not to respond.