Response to Richard Skorman's Email Campaign
1. Richard's Claim:
"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."
Cheyenne Central Response: You bet we do not like the fact that the guarantees that exist in the current TOPS Open Space Program will be lost in TOPS III, but it is not the only reason we oppose 2C. Sadly, there are many other reasons to oppose it though this is certainly at the top of the list. Regarding the resolution, resolutions are not binding -- as Richard noted in his own words which we have excerpted for you on the home page of our website, but this quote sums it up best:
“WE CAN’T BIND A FUTURE COUNCIL AND FUTURE MAYOR TO A BUDGET.” - Councilmember Skorman 7/13/21 Council work session.
2. Richard's Claim:
"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."
Cheyenne Central Response: Yes, it is true that Richard has been actively involved in many park initiatives, but he was far from alone. Further, in the case of Save Cheyenne, which one of Cheyenne Central’s board members co-founded, Richard asked to join the group and be the front man as Save Cheyenne was garnering lots of media attention at the time, and parks are a popular, bipartisan issue. Richard benefited greatly from his affiliation with Save Cheyenne with lots of media coverage which helped him win his next election run. He benefitted personally. For the nameless volunteers who weren't running for office and some of whom are on our board, it was pure altruism as is this effort to stop the dismantling of our TOPS Open Space program.
3. Richard's Claim:
"“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.”"
Cheyenne Central Response: There’s a lot to dissect in this one. First, Open Space is THE ONLY category that gets cut - by a whopping 25%. 2C hurts Open Space acquisition and does not help it. It uses what was a fund with controls in place to fund open space to now fund maintenance of all parks which increases by 8X. It’s most definitely robbing Peter to pay Paul. Regarding the misinformation, we are delighted to and will correct any errors, but it’s hard to respond to general “disseminating lots of misinformation” slurs. Regarding the claim that we hope when 2C fails, there will be more money for open space, yes, we agree. We don’t want open space funding or controls taken from the voters. And, yes, we most definitely still believe Strawberry Fields and other decisions made by parks like PLDO letting developers pay money to reduce the amount of parkland they contribute to a new neighborhood, concreting our parks turning them into commercial plazas or spending $330,000 on self-cleaning bathrooms are all examples of dubious decision making.
4. Richard's Claim:
"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 master plans 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 Response: Richard provides no explanation for how he is deriving these numbers, so it’s hard to address this specifically, but here’s the truth. Any tax dedicated to acquiring and purchasing Open Space beats any tax increase that no longer has guarantees for acquisition and protection of Open Space. The proper way to do this was to have a separate tax for park maintenance, not co-mingle the funds and sacrifice the TOPS Open Space program for park maintenance. We are uncomfortable doubling the tax and losing the controls that are written into the current TOPS program.
5. Richard's Claim:
"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 response: We believe that the best insurance for Open Space acquisition and maintenance is the separate tax, TOPS, which has controls built into the tax. We believe the voters agree as that’s exactly why they agreed to tax themselves to create an Open Space fund for acquisition in maintenance. Parks funding comes from the General Fund. The "off-the-top" money doesn't address the reduction in acquisition of Open Space. Cannibalizing any voter tax is a concerning charge. We hope that our elected leaders and the bureaucrats they appoint/hire respect the legal constraints of the current TOPS tax and spend that money as the voters intended them to, but this charge must mean Richard believes we cannot trust our leadership to even do that? If that’s true, why on earth would you give them more money with less control? Seems like a very unwise choice to us.
6. Richard's Claim:
"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."
Cheyenne Central response: This one is partially true. One of our volunteer board members was working into the wee hours of the night and miscommunicated the Park Board issues. We immediately clarified point 6 of our 10 lists of reasons park supporters should vote no to 2c (see the list) to state that the Parks Board wanted controls written into 2C which were ultimately not accepted.
7. Richard's Claim:
"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."
Cheyenne Central response: Before taking a position against 2C, several board members and friends of Cheyenne Central reached out to Richard personally asking why we can’t do a separate tax and keep the TOPS Open Space program intact with the protections the voters want? Among many items discussed including Richard saying the polling didn’t look good (which is the wrong reason to sacrifice an existing Open Space program), he noted that there’s not that much land to acquire which we believe is incorrect and also telling as to where we are headed under the new, co-mingled funds.
We hope that helps clarify some of the accusations and misinformation presented regarding our position. Had 2C been a tax that left the TOPS Open Space program intact and was dedicated only to additional funding for our city parks, we would have gladly supported it. However, in no way can we support a program that doubles the tax and mingles the funds such that the controls which exist today in TOPS are lost.