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Why I’m Running

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I love Des Moines. I think it’s an absolute jewel. I started sailing and going to church here over twenty years ago when I first moved to Puget Sound. And when I bought my own house in 2005, I wanted it to be in Des Moines near St. Philomena and the Marina and the Downtown.

Then the Great Recession hit. I saw how the neighborhoods and families and businesses were hit very, very hard. A lot of people moved away and a lot of businesses simply boarded up. But a lot of new people moved in and have added a great energy to the city.

Then several years ago the regional economy began to recover. And the airport was ‘expanded’ (boy was it ever!)

But have you noticed? Des Moines, despite all its obvious assets doesn’t seem to be sharing in the recovery nearly as much as the rest of the region. Our Downtown still looks much the same as it did five years ago with many businesses still shuttered. Many homes are untended because there is no Code Enforcement to speak of, our Marina arguably our most important asset is in need of essential repairs.

Then there is the airport. The Third Runway is turning out to be not just an annoyance, but an absolute disaster, not just in terms of noise but in terms of damage to our health–and that of our children. Worst of all, unlike other cities, we get no compensation or relief for the ever increasing levels of traffic and pollution. We can do better, not just for ourselves but for the next generation. We cannot let them down.

For the past thirteen years I’ve been a gadfly at so many City Council meetings I’ve lost count. And there comes a time when one has to decide to either put up or shut up. So I’ve decided it’s time for me to try to do something about these problems.

It is my belief that what ails Des Moines is two things: trying to be something it is not and a lack of long term planning. The first problem is that our city is, at it’s heart, a town for families. Somewhere along the way I think the government lost sight of that. There have been an almost constant series of grand schemes that have almost completely occupied the attention of the council while largely ignoring the needs of families and neighborhoods.

The second problem is that for far too long your government has been dealing with budgets only from one term to the next. We have to start taking the long view. Des Moines is now a city of more than 31,000 people. We need to start planning five, ten, twenty years out when it comes to our Downtown, our Marina, our neighborhoods, the Airport, and most of all, our children’s futures.

I believe I’m up to that challenge. I’m making an effort to put down my ideas here so you will know how I feel about the issues I think matter most. And over the next few months you’ll be seeing me pounding the pavement because I also really want to hear what you have to say. And if I happen to miss you when I come by, I strongly encourage you to contact me any time. My goal is to be the one person you can count on in Des Moines to really listen and then to take the long view.

Crime

Posted on Categories Policy, Public Safety

If I know my Des Moines voters, you probably clicked here first. 😉

I don’t have all the answers right now. Nobody does. But I do think I’m asking all the right questions and I’m going to give you what I’ve learned. You may not like it. 😀

I’ve been where many of you are. A few years ago, two of my neighbor’s houses were sold and turned into rentals. And for the next five years my street endured a string of terrible tenants–criminals, couples with chronic family abuse, and meth addicts. Almost every week was an adventure in bad behavior. Usually, the cops could only shrug–not because they didn’t care but because there was little they could do. Worst of all, the landlords were completely unreachable. And as terrible as the problems were, they were either not ‘criminal’ or they were criminal, but only petty misdemeanors, so the person would be back on our street in just a few days.

Things finally resolved themselves with the one house being burned down by a tenant and the other when the tenant was evicted after doing $26,000 damage to the owner’s property. Two of my neighbors, who are great friends of mine, moved out. And my house still has a couple of bullet holes in one window as a reminder. So I get it. In fact the reason I am running now if because I was so appalled at how the city handled these problems. There are a lot of things that happen in our neighborhoods for which we currently don’t have good solutions.

My point is this: By far the largest chunk of crime that residents complain about is caused by people with drug addiction and/or mental health issues. And, let’s just get this out of the way now: we cannot arrest our way out of these problems. Or rather, we can, it’s just that we can’t simply “lock ’em up and throw away the key” or just drive them to the city limits and dump them somewheres else. Not possible. There’s this pesky thing called ‘the constitution’. And yes, I know that’s a tough pill to swallow.

New Facilities

First off, we need a whole new type of facility to take care of people with mental health or drug problems. When people are arrested for most misdemeanors (which again are the biggest chunk of crime in the area) they are booked into the SCORE facility. And that place becomes their detox or mental health care facility; which is ridiculous. On any given day between fifty to eighty percent of inmates at SCORE are either mentally ill or have a substance abuse problem. It is those problems that drive the criminal behavior. And jail is not a place to correct either of these problems. So the people are then released back into the community without the help they need and then they are likely to re-offend. So what we need is a different kind of institution which is designed to not only keep these people off the street, but also to give them the proper help they need so they stop re-offending.

The kind of institution I’m talking about requires State funding. So the city needs to start lobbying hard, both regionally and in Olympia for that to happen. Right now.

Code Enforcement

I know this is a dull subject. Des Moines used to have a dedicated Code Enforcement Officer who’s job was to check that all properties were up to code. So, theoretically, if a property was obviously not being take care of, she could ticket them. Unfortunately, Des Moines has some of the weakest code in the entire state as far as property upkeep goes. You can literally leave junk on your lawn for months at a time without incurring any penalties. I decided to run for office in order to fix this problem. If Des Moines had had these kinds of ordinances back when I was having my problems, the city would’ve cited the owner and the tenants would’ve been evicted. Problem solved.

Community Engagement

If you’re on Facebook, you’ll see several community groups which are sharing info on problems on their street and in their neighborhoods. And often, the city and the police are right there as well, taking information and trying to be responsive. This is something that the city should do a lot more to encourage.

What we often find out is that people on the same street are having similar problems, but they don’t realize that it’s a trend because, frankly, a lot of us aren’t as in touch with our neighbors as we should be. But almost all of us now are on the Internet, getting our news and information from computers and phones. The city can start engaging more directly with residents, encouraging them to post problems on social media and to the council and police. This creates a ‘virtuous circle’. The more we can get residents to engage with the city, the better the city can determine where problem hot spots are. And at the same time, residents can realize that they aren’t alone, that people on their street are there for them.

I’ve seen first hand how well this can help with exactly the kinds of problems I was experiencing. Someone reports a problem on social media and immediately other people chime in, “I have that problem too!”. And once that happens? Believe me, the police take note and problems get solved. What we need to do is get everyone in Des Moines involved.

More Bodies

OK, this is the part you want to hear. I do support increasing staff; not so much to increase ‘boots on the ground’, but simply to give officers a break. They currently run twelve hour shifts and often do overtime. No department can sustain effectiveness and morale under those conditions. This is actually one area where I am in agreement with the current government. We need to gradually increase the number of officers to where they can run full shifts and have at least a few extra officers to handle unexpected emergencies. That has to be done within the limits of a tight budget; it won’t happen overnight.

Zoning

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy

Zoning is one of those ‘little’ issues that rarely gets talked about in campaigns. But it is an issue that is very important in a city like Des Moines. Zoning needs to be handled with great sensitivity for existing homes and green space.

Here is just one example. A friend of mine owned this property for many years. Before retiring, he divided the property, keeping the small house on the right to sell and also selling the portion of the property on the left to a developer to build a new home. But before selling the small house, he was assured by the developer that any new house they built would be built in such a way as to be respectful of the existing small house.

But the developer has a standard model of house they want to build so they went ahead and put that up. So now the two houses are less than three feet from one another and the new house looms over the old. The developers were able to do this because city code has no limits for this type of situation.

So now the new owner of the small house is quite upset. And I couldn’t agree more. By being so close, the new house simply overwhelms the older house.

I’m definitely pro-development for Des Moines. We need more good homes for families. But this is the sort of zoning nightmare that happens in Des Moines far too often. Properties are developed according to some fixed plan, ignoring common sense.

There must have been some way the city could’ve worked with the developer to build the new house in such a way as to be more respectful of the owner of the existing smaller house.

I want to find ways to build the new homes and businesses we desperately need, but do so in a way that is in harmony with existing structures and open spaces.

Candidates Night At Seattle South Side Chamber Of Commerce

Posted on Categories Airport, Campaigning, Policy

The Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce is hosting a Candidate’s Night event on September 27 at the Red Lion hotel in Seatac. I hope to see many of you there as it will give you a rare chance to see and hear and meet all the candidates.

To further educate you on all our positions, last month, all the candidates for City Council (save Anthony Martinelli) and Port Commissioner submitted their answers to a list of questions from the chamber. The above link gives you all our answers. At first, a lot of their answers might seem fairly pat. But if you squint, you can definitely see the very real differences between us.

One item I want to point out: I am the only candidate for office in any capacity who mentioned the problems of the airport as being of major concern. I find this absolutely stunning. One might make the case that candidates were responding to a set of questions from a pro-business organization and that might have caused them to downplay environmental problems. But most candidates did not mention the airport at all, or only in the most positive terms. And this actually frightens me a little.

I’m running because I feel the city is headed in the wrong direction on several levels. The other candidates will tell you that fixing the city’s finances is the number of obligation of a council member. I fundamentally disagree. The number one obligation of a council member is to protect its residents and the city. Full stop.

The seems so obvious to me I almost can’t believe it needs saying. If I were forced to choose between balancing the city’s books and keeping you safe? The answer is a big ‘Duuuh’. The pollution and noise generated by the airport is so egregious that it is already giving Des Moines some of the highest rates of cancer and respiratory disease in the nation–not to mention the fact that our property values and per capita income are the lowest of any waterfront community in the region. The airport may be an ‘economic engine’ for some, but it is the residents of Des Moines who suffer to make it happen. And I want to change that.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t also value the fiscal health of our city. I certainly do. But to hear the other candidates speak, one would get the impression that the only way for Des Moines to prosper is by creating ever greater partnerships with the airport. Other candidates also prioritize the environmental impacts of the airport far below that of economic development. I simply disagree. Your health; your childrens’ health and the health of our land, water and sky will always matter most to me.

I believe it is a false choice to assume that we must depend on the airport for our economic prosperity. Des Moines has some of the most beautiful natural resources in the entire region. Our location with respect to the various transportation arteries is almost ideal. We can and must leverage these assets to build a diversified and sustainable economy that is independent of any single industry and certainly not one that is so damaging to our health and property.

August Primary

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I Voted!
I voted! Could it get any cheesier? I don’t see how 😀
Well, the results for the August Primary are (mostly) in. In Des Moines, congratulations are in order for Matt Pina, Anthony Martinelli, Harry Steinmetz and Traci Buxton.

What concerns me is that the voter turnout in Des Moines was soooooooooo LOW–less than twenty percent. Now there are over 17,000 registered voters in Des Moines and yet only 3,000 actually bothered to mail in a ballot. That is a truly pitiful achievement. Some people will look at the results and think, “He who bought the most yard signs wins!” And that is partly true–the candidate who spends the most money usually does win. But that’s something of a red herring.

The unpleasant little secret of local politics is that, even if candidates did not spend any money on signs and ads and whatnot, you’d probably see the similar results because there tend to be two kinds of people in the world: The Voting People and The People Who Don’t Vote. The people who vote, always vote. And the people who don’t vote, rarely vote.

And why this state of affairs is a problem is because it almost always skews the results towards one particular type of candidate. In other words, those people who vote tend to have similar opinions in any given town and so you tend to get the same bias over and over.

The usual solution to this problem for candidates is to BUY MORE SIGNS! That is, spend more money than the other guy. That makes sense: more name recognition might equal more votes. Of course that also means that the candidate with the deepest pockets wins. But I’m not sure that’s entirely right because, as I said, the People Who Vote, tend to vote whether one has lots of signs or not. They already know who they’re going to vote for; they do their research.

Now, if you like the direction the city is going in, you may not worry about this too much. Because hey, if The People Who Don’t Vote don’t vote? Forget ’em, right? If they can’t be bothered, then that’s their problem. But I would suggest that regardless of your personal views, you should be concerned. It is simply un-democratic and un-American to have such small turnouts over and over because you get results that don’t reflect the will of all the people. And that matters to me. If I win in November, I’d like to think it was because it was because the majority of voters wanted me in–not just twenty percent of the voters.

In the past, one would say that it’s up to each candidate to promote voter turnout. But ironically, that’s getting harder to do with mail-in voting. Also, let’s face it: there is a growing apathy among the electorate; the sense that your vote doesn’t matter. But think about it: voting couldn’t be much easier now, right? You don’t have to take time off of work. There’s no schlepping to the polls. If you know who you want to vote for all you have to do is take or or two minutes to fill out the form and drop it in the mail. So if people can’t do something that easy, there is a real problem.

In fact, I think the problem of low voter turnout is now so severe that we should consider taking active steps at the city, county and state levels to turn it around. There needs to be a bit more active encouragement (or ‘nagging’ if you will) to get people to learn about the candidates and then take those two minutes to get it done.

One idea I think we should borrow from other countries: Public service announcements on TV and radio and even text messaging–small periodic nags to get it done. This makes perfect sense to me in an age when so many of us now rely on reminders from our smartphones or computers to keep us on schedule. I am constantly seeing reminders on social media to attend various events and they actually do help me to stay on track. I wouldn’t mind an occasional nag on Facebook or Twitter to take a look at the ballot I left on the shelf.

I’m sure there are a number of other things we can do to improve voter turnout. But most of all, I’m sure that we need to do something, and soon, to increase voter participation. Because no elected official can honestly say they have a real mandate if it’s from less than twenty percent of eligible voters.

Coffee With Port Commissioner John Creighton

Posted on Categories Airport
Photo Courtesy: David Clark

Port Commissioner John Creighton held a re-election coffee in Burien this past Friday. I sat down with Burien City Council Member Debi Wagner and Seatac Council Members Peter Kwon and Kathryn Campbell plus several members from the Quiet Skies Puget Sound group of Des Moines, Seatac and Federal Way. For all my complaints about the Port of Seattle, I have to give the Commissioner credit: he took some pretty tough questions for two solid hours and with a friendly demeanor.

I wish more people could show up for events like these. The Port is the most powerful government agency most people know almost nothing about and if you do show up, you get to talk directly to someone who has as much power in government as any State Senator or Congressman or Representative.

I’m new at this so as I (mostly) watched the experienced people. My impression was mainly one of the Council Members was this: how much patience and perseverance it takes. For example, Debi Wagner has been fighting battles with the Port over pollution and noise for twenty years and yet she remains positive, friendly, constructive. I have a lot to learn.

Me being me, I did vent a bit, of course. 😀 And I did make a couple of proposals, the first of which was quickly shot down as bush-league non-starter, but I’ll tell you about it anyway because I’m going to keep working on it. The Port operates a dozen ‘official’ (and many other unofficial) noise monitors throughout the area from which they gather data on the loudness of airplane traffic. That is the source of the noise studies you may have heard about. But this data has not been updated in many years because it is only used for official environmental impact studies. I would like to see those noise monitors re-purposed now and I would like even more monitors added as far as Federal Way since the noise problem has obviously extended so much further south in the last few years.

What I propose is that the Port publish a web page something like the Tidal Charts that sailors use in spreadsheet format. But in this version the chart would show the average noise for each monitor on the hour for each day of every month, plus the number of flights during each hours. So for example, you might see that Woodmont had 22 flights averaging 54dbA on Tuesday July 11 during the 2PM hour while North Hill had 17 flights averaging 61dbA on Friday June 24 during the 6AM hour.

Uses? A couple come to mind. First, real estate. I think buyers should have useful ‘noise numbers’ when searching for a house. Currently even buyers savvy enough to look up the available (and outdated) noise data would not find it very useful. You can’t trust a single number. But if you had the charts I propose, you actually could comparison shop. You could easily see which neighborhoods were noisier during a given time period (and by how much). One objection I can foresee is that the Port numbers might be low-balled (ie. that their decibles might be low.) To which I reply, ‘So what?’ Because even if they are fudged, at least they are standardized. You’re comparing apples to apples (neighborhood to neighborhood) so for the purposes of comparison shopping its still useful.

Second use? I think everyone appreciates having a certain degree of control over their life. And the first step to having any control is knowing what is actually going on. Look, when someone gets sick, what is the first thing most people want to do? Try to find out as much information as possible. We have a right to have current loudness data–especially since the equipment is already in place. And again, even if the numbers are lower than we might think is ‘real’, at least they are standardized.

My other idea had to do with an off-hand comment Mr. Creighton made during the conversation. He said something like, ‘Should we be thinking more about buyouts?’ and I furiously raised my hand in a half-comical way. But as the meeting was breaking up I said to him privately, “I’d probably want a million dollars for something like that.” Since the Commissioner is a lawyer, my thinking is was along the lines of a settlement where I would want to be made ‘whole’. I wouldn’t want replacement cost for my house–which is all I’ve ever seen offered in such settlements.

Now my house is not worth anywhere near a million dollars, of course, but I don’t think I’m being outrageous, either. To find a house with the same quality of life and amenities as many of us have enjoyed in Des Moines–just with fewer airplanes? (In other words, life with the clock wound back just a few years) Realistically, that would cost a lot more than market value.

Now, do I ever expect such compensation to occur? I’m not holding my breath 😀 But everyone is always trying to quantify ‘mitigation’ and I think that’s the wrong question. The question for me is, “How much would it cost to make you whole.” And as we move down the road towards holding the Port and other institutions accountable for the damage they have done to our community, that’s the bar I’m looking at; not ‘mitigation’.

Downtown

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy1 Comment on Downtown

The Des Moines Theater DowntownThe core of the Des Moines downtown is defined by the two traffic triangles on Marine View Drive, the ‘head’ being the entrance at the flag pole on Des Moines Memorial Drive and the ‘tail’ being the traffic light Kent Des Moines leading into Zenith. And when I moved here that length was anchored by two businesses: the QFC Grocery to the north and The Des Moines Movie Theatre to the south. Sadly, both are now gone since the recession and I think their absence says something about the state of our downtown. To me, downtown still feels like a bit of a patchwork. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like we’ve still truly recovered. Many business remain, but some shops seem hobbled and a few are still boarded up.

The Des Moines Movie Theater was, like all local movie houses was kind of funky and shabby (was it ever). But I have fond memories of Saturday nights with popcorn in hand at the show. During those years I really felt like our downtown was coming together with new shops and a sense of community. But now? The fact that we still haven’t figured out what to do with that space since its closing speaks volumes for the current state of downtown.

As we can see from other recent theater closings throughout Puget Sound, icons like The Des Moines Theater are likely no longer viable. However, a unique and dynamic anchor must be a part of our downtown’s long term strategy. We cannot leave such a prime location to whatever business just happens to come along. We need a fresh plan for the area that will be a magnet for visitors and a gathering place for our residents.

As for the other end of Marine View Drive? Like many of you I was very upset when I heard that QFC was leaving. I felt that a series of very public meetings should’ve been held to discuss what could be done to try and retain QFC and failing that, to discuss the future of that space for the community. It all felt very sudden.

That said, I’ve heard good things from some locals about its replacement, The Dollar Store. However–I want to say this as carefully as I can–I have to say in all honesty that it would not have been my first choice for that key location. Again it has nothing to do with that business or its owners. It’s simply that for so many residents QFC was such a key part of the fabric of the community. It was our grocer and I still miss it.

The downtown is key to the developing a successful vision for Des Moines. And it is my view that certain anchor spaces are crucial to realizing that vision. These spaces are about more than just finding a buyer, collecting sales tax and hoping for the best. The community should have a voice in that. And then real urban planning skill need to be brought to bear to turn that into a fully realized vision.

Over time, too much of Marine View Drive has been left to the whim of one business or just plain happenstance. Sometimes it’s been good luck, but more often not so much. Given the unique gifts of our waterfront, it should be the policy of the city to develop the downtown thoughtfully and with a deliberate strategy. And at every step of the way we should engage the community fully in that process. Our goal should be to make the Des Moines downtown live up to the unique potential of our waterfront for residents, business and visitors.

Time Management Woes

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I call this little trip to the whine cellar “Time Management Woes”

I keep getting nagged by Facebook to ‘post something’ and this begs a question of ‘time management’. There just aren’t enough hours in the day to ‘doorbell’ -and- do the research I’d like to do on your behalf -and- post here.

One of my PET PEEVES is not just the lack of transparency in local government, but the endless cycle of indifference on both sides. The City makes almost no real effort to engage citizens and frankly citizens make no effort to engage the City–unless there is a personal problem of course. I may be tilting at windmills but part of my job is to tilt that balance. I have to -try- to EDUCATE and ENGAGE and ENCOURAGE people to GET INVOLVED. And that all takes time.

Most people in government at this level simply doorbell to get elected the first time and then simply put out signs thereafter. In the thirteen years I’ve lived in Des Moines I’ve literally -never- had anyone come to my door… and neither has anyone else on my street who is a registered voter. I’ve talked with many City Council people and they stare blankly at me when I discuss the notion of ‘engagement’. It simply doesn’t -register- as a useful idea. In their minds, most people do not -want- to engage with local government. Most people view local government a bit like the power company: I only call you when there is a problem and then I expect you to show up jiffy quick. And I don’t expect there to be too many problems!

I disagree. I think Des Moines works a whole lot better when more people get involved.

Anyhoo… you know how some people seem to be able to (cough) ‘Tweet’ a billion times a day -and- meet with a hundred people -and- watch TV -and- do this that and the other thing? That ain’t me.

I’ve been at this for just a couple of months and I can barely write something once a -day-. And most days? It’s not all that ‘newsworthy’. It’s mostly just: knocked on a bunch more doors. Oh, I get some juicy anecdotes for sure. But they’re private. One thing I can tell you: I have already learned more in two months about Des Moines than I ever thought I was -ever- going to know. 😉 You can learn a lot just walking around doorbelling, let me tell ya. (More of my fellow candidates should join in the fun.) Only four months to go!

Personality Transplant

Posted on Categories Campaigning

This is probably my last post as ‘JC Harris’ for a good while. Bye bye, JC! Aloha, personality!

You know you’re in trouble when you’re worried about quoting Al Franken, but some of the best quotes I’ve recently heard about politics have come from Al Franken who is peddling his memoir “Giant Of The Senate”. It’s about how, after a lifetime as an entertainer he had to train himself to behave like a ‘real politican’ in order to get elected. People in his state simply would not take him seriously so he worked like crazy to change voters’ perceptions. And love him or hate him, he won his last election very comfortably, so they must have worked. And those are some lessons that I really need to learn. Fast.

Because I too have spent a lot of years as an ‘entertainer’–as a musician–and I really struggle adopting the persona of being a politician. It is waaaaaaaaay harder than I thought it would be.

OK, first of all? No comedy. I’m taking a last ‘mulligan’ on that one, like the last cigarette before ‘finally quitting’. No really, Bernice, this time I mean it, honey. This is killing me. It’s a total straitjacket having to avoid irony and jokes. My lower lip will need soon need stitches from all the biting. But sadly, residents simply do not appreciate getting a three minute floor show along with my spiel on parks, public safety and code enforcement. Now what’s frustrating? Is that they turn on the TV and they see a guy do the same gags and they fall over. But if I provide it for free? They don’t get it. Ingrates! Apparently the electorate is not ready for a boffo-amusing politician. Just trust me on this.

Next? No profanity. I don’t give a hoot what you think you may have garnered from the recent election, this is an anomaly that will soon pass into history. You cannot doorbell using the same language that you actually… er … ‘use’ in real life. You want to be yourself with people. But not really. Not here anyway.

You gotta, gotta, gotta, use short sentences and small words. I know how that just sounded and I am soooooooooooo sorry. But I actually (mostly) believe in this one. You gotsta keep it simple. You thought I meant using Masterpiece Theatre English Major words? OK, I did. But you can just as easily lose people using technical terms like a scientist or a boring accountant. You gotta keep self-editing while you speak to make sure you’re CLARO. And that added mental effort can make you look to the outside world like Obama did during those last few years. You know: Where… every… sentence… seemed… to… take… twenty… minutes… to… get… out… It’s exhausting to say (and to listen to!)

Oh… and NO SLANG. No Urbanisms, neologisms, down-home-isms, contractions, etc. But don’t sound too white-bread either. If you can help it.

Look, I’ll make it even simpler. er. You really should consider visiting Switzerland shortly before your candidature begins (nb: only Europeans say ‘candidature’ or use ‘nb’ D’Oh!) So you can have that Personality Removal Surgery you may have heard so much about on Oprah.

Because the reason most successful candidates are such colorless beings is because a winning candidate tends to represent THE LOWEST COMMON DENOMINATOR. Like it or not, ‘boring and inoffensive’ is not a bad strategy and a winning candidate does need to reflect their entire constituency. If you have too much ‘personality’ of any kind? It likely means that either your area is super-crazy gerry-mandered or that you’re probably going to lose. Big time.

When I ‘doorbell’, I’m keenly aware of the ‘dance’ going on. It’s a lot like dating in that there is so much ‘sincere lying’ going on. I mean you know that old expression “All’s fair in love and war”? Well they should throw voting in there somewhere too. For example, the people who aren’t trying to immediately get me off their porch are often not listening to a word I’m saying. They’re not being mean. But there is this little smile and I can tell that what they’re really wondering is “Democrat or Republican?”. Now I’m supposed to be non-partisan. And the funny thing is that’s exactly how I feel about it! But nobody believes that of course. So like dating there’s this odd mix of cynicism and wanting to believe. Our system is so odd in that way. All politicians are jerks. Except for you, JC. (Until the next person comes along, of course). We want to believe.

But it cuts both ways. I thought I’d be cool with politics because as a professional musician I thought that there was nothing the world could teach me about cynicism. Plus, I like policy and hey, who enjoys ranting more than me? (Or is it I?) But I discovered something: As much as you think politicians lie to you, you, Dear Public, lie to us waaaaaaaaaay more. The public are the biggest fibbers ever. I mean since they invented ever. And that’s exactly the way you like it! One big reason that politicians at even my teensy level tend to be the way we are is because the public is what it is. Promises are not kept. Donations don’t come in. But the candidate has to show up. That sounds like whining, but that’s just the deal we all make.

(And my personal pet peeve of all time!!!!!!! people who spend HOURS every week SCREAMING about Trump this or Hillary that! Stuff that is THOUSANDS OF MILES AWAY… But never sent me that $25 *payable to JC Harris for Des Moines* to fix something that we can actually do something about!–notice the clever way I weaseled in sincere outrage and guilted you into following through on that check ya cheap so and so? That’s how politics works. It’s exhausting and humiliating and it never stops.)

And I mention all this because the process has the Darwinian consequence of making candidates tend to be either people who have something to gain or those who are certifiably insane. Normal people just don’t put up with it. America sure is great, but ‘the public at large’ can be truly awful. And that makes it hard to have the candidates that we really need. Yes, even at this picayune level.

But still I believe in it. Because it has to work. Or maybe I’m too negative. Maybe you would be a lot more positive because the skills would come much more naturally to you. Maybe you’re like one of those animals that absolutely thrive living next to those steaming underwater volcanoes. If so, I encourage you to go for it!

Where was I? Oh yeah. Vote for me in November. No wait that’s not quite right. Make your tax deductible contribution of $25 payable to JC Harris For Des Moines now. Then vote for me in November.

And whether I win or not, I’m taking my personality. BACK! (Not that I’m being insincere or anything at the moment. 😀 )