EDITORíS DESK: Restore trust? Itíll take more than talk

       It all comes down to money.
       Colorado Springs Parks is wondering what happened to the trust it used to have with citizens, and that's my sound-bite response. Bureaucrats like to use the term "crown jewel" to describe any project they think is special - well, City Parks used to be Colorado Springs' crown jewel. It had visionary leaders and a budget to pay them what they were worth and to back up the ideas they brought forward. The city trail system, Rock Ledge Ranch, flowered medians, community centers, the purchase of strategic open-space, the philosophy of putting parks next to schools... These are just some of the amenities that sprouted from a well-funded department over the years.
       We all know what happened next: the economic downturns. But let's not forget how politicians rigged the game even before that. Two biggies are the TABOR spending limitation (a great idea, and I like being able to vote on tax increases, but flawed in terms of government revenue rebounding) and the Gallagher amendment (another poorly considered, crowd-pleaser state law, which punishes commercial enterprises disproportionately anytime there's a property tax increase).
       All this came to a head two years ago under an unimaginative City Council, which, when faced with severe revenue shortfalls, saw Parks not as a crown jewel but as low-hanging fruit for budget-balancing. Everyone knows about the unwatered parks, the weeds and the near-shutdown of Rock Ledge and the Westside Center. Even now, the budget is only half what it was in 2008. But less noted was the loss of key personnel. Parks Director Paul Butcher resigned, and so did his second in command, Chris Lieber. Those left behind are good-hearted folks, but they've inherited a mess, with increasing user demands and independent-minded volunteers doing the work (such as on trails and at the Garden of the Gods) that salaried people once did. Restore trust? Fine. But one of these days, how about restoring the budget?

- K.J.