Vote NO to 2C Tax. Save Our Open Space.

Vote NO to 2C Tax. Save Our Open Space.

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Many Colorado Springs voters have expressed concern about both the increase in the TOPS tax and the mingling of the TOPS tax funds with the General Fund.  We agree and are formally launching opposition to the TOPS III tax 2C that will appear on the November 2021 ballot.  It’s important that we make informed votes with full understanding of the impact of those votes which often are obfuscated by political rhetoric and masked goals that are not in the best interest of the voters.  Our Parks and Open Space are what unites us -- it’s why many of us choose to live here and why so many visitors come to recreate in our stunningly beautiful scenery.  

Please take a moment to donate as these efforts are expensive.  We thank you for your support and cannot do it without everyone coming together to help.  

Number one reason to vote no: 2C will likely destroy the TOPS tax that voters passed in 1997 to create a fund dedicated to acquiring, protecting and maintaining Open Space.  The “TOPS III” tax has been so-named to cleverly confuse voters into thinking that this is similar to the original TOPS tax. Instead, 2C will create a legal measure for twenty years that erases the clear and intended separation between Parks funding and Open Space acquisition. The TOPS tax which Colorado Springs voters have long known and enthusiastically supported is fully transparent - we all know exactly how our money is being spent. Under 2C that transparency is gone. TOPS dollars will look no different than General Fund dollars as the two sources are merged and can be applied anywhere across the entire system.

While Councilmember Richard Skorman, who led the TOPS III effort, spent considerable time selling the idea that the intent of council is to continue to acquire and protect open space, even he argues that there’s not much open space left to acquire (a telling statement) -- unless, of course, we are buying corporate trash for parks which seems to be a never ending pattern.  (See the Broadmoor Land Exchange and recent overpriced quarry deal for which we paid $9.5 million - highly questionable in terms of the ability to mitigate that land for hiking much less a bike park.)  First, that is not accurate.  There’s always land changing hands with opportunities for additional open space purchases.  Second, our recent purchase of the quarry land at prices none of the experienced land developers could understand tells us all we need to know about both their fiscal responsibility as well as their sense of what parks and open spaces should be.  Once we mingle those funds, we lose control, and the money goes into a giant bucket that has no legal protections -- just political promises to use it wisely.  It is never a good strategy to allow politicians, whatever their political stripe, to have unfettered access to a bucket of money.  It’s why TOPS, in fact, was approved by voters - because it has guarantees on how that money is spent.  Once the funds are mingled, nothing stops TOPS dollars from being used however they wish.  The proper solution is to create an additional, separate tax to raise money for shortfalls in the parks budget; or, even better, make Mayor Suthers properly allocate his budget as we already pay for parks maintenance in our taxes as part of the General Fund. One other idea might be to stop increasing the costs of maintaining our parks.  Stop ripping out all the natural green grass and trees and replacing it with concrete and roadside attractions like a $330,000 self-cleaning bathroom or the tacky branded blue frame advertisement bolted into Garden of the Gods.  Our parks are becoming concrete plazas to monetize, not green spaces in which to relax and regroup.

Don’t take our word for it, here are their own words during the 7/13/2021 Council Work Session in which they discussed 2C:

Note:  A "Maintenance of Effort" is a term used in ballot initiatives to signal that a level of spending or effort will not dip below the current level.  In other words, it's voter pablum.

“I didn’t want to leave everybody with the notion that raising TOPS, doubling it, is going to solve it....It’s not enough, and we need to look at other funding piece is something that is not legally binding, but is what we put in place for all the other TOPS initiatives...a “Maintenance of Effort” what we don’t want to do is to tell the voters we are going to ask them for more money, you know very precious tax money, and then we’re gonna lower the General Fund below what we normally spend for TOPS...WE CAN’T BIND A FUTURE COUNCIL AND FUTURE MAYOR TO A BUDGET.”  - Councilmember Skorman 

“My concern is that with the current TOPS, there was not enough money going to my priorities dramatically increase the amount of maintenance going to virtually the whole system...I would give you a caveat about “Maintenance of Effort”.  I will not represent to the public that you’ll never see a cut in the General Fund budget of the parks below this amount.” - Mayor Suthers

In speaking about the "Maintenance of Effort" clause:
“It’s a tool that’s used for voters that is non-binding, and we used it for PPTA.  WE promised 10% for transit, and we went way down and so, I’m not saying I feel good about that, but it was what we needed to do to assuage the voters that we weren’t gonna rob Peter to pay Paul, and that’s the only thing I’m talking about...I know it’s not legally binding.” - Councilmember Skorman

As the wise Maya Angelou wrote, "When people tell you who they are, believe them."

If that’s not enough, here are a few other practical reasons to vote against 2C , the “TOPS III” tax.  The allocation of spending makes it quite clear who loses:

  • Administrative costs increase over threefold.  That’s a sure sign of a bad deal when you are ballooning staff headcounts for something that should be as low maintenance as it gets in terms of costs.  
  • Maintenance costs increase by eight fold.  Perhaps we should consider the wisdom of creating the Branson 2.0 parks with food courts etc which increase our overhead.  How about parks where water, fertilizer and trash service are all that’s needed?
  • Parks costs triple.
  • Trails costs double
  • Open Space spending is the only line item cut -- and it’s reduced by 25% in spite of doubling the tax.

We believe that voters would gladly consider a Parks tax that keeps our current TOPS tax intact and protects our open spaces which, ironically, are the most beautiful, natural parks and have the least expensive maintenance costs as compared to these more theme park approaches to park spending.  We also believe that the Suthers Administration has a proven track record of making incredibly poor choices regarding the future of our city park system, and think it’s time to tell him to stop.

Please join us in telling our leadership that we expect better.  We passed  TOPS for a reason and value our open spaces.

                                      VOTE NO ON 2C.  

Thank you.  Your comments and thoughts are most welcome.  Please leave one on  the petition.  Your voice and your vote count!  Take a sec to donate to the cause.  You can donate online or send a check to Cheyenne Central at:  P. O. Box 38603, Colorado Springs, CO  80937

Get a yard sign:
Call and leave a message for Bruce Hamilton, (719) 630-7965,or email him:

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