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 have moved in and have added a great energy to the city.
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 and 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 that it is now trying to be something it is not. Our city is, at it’s heart, a town for families and a waterfront community. 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 small businesses, families and neighborhoods.
As you may know, for far too long, the city was dealing with budgets only from one term to the next and getting closer and closer to bankruptcy. The current government will tell you that they have turned this around. Fine. But remember that it’s also largely the same people who got us into trouble in the first place! Plus, they have performed this trick by partnering more and more with the airport for large development projects. But it is the same airport which is making life more and more dangerous with the increases in noise and pollution; not to mention the loss of property values for home and businesses. Do not believe the myth that the Port provides ‘jobs and economic growth’. For Des Moines, this is simply untrue.
We have to start planning for a future without the Port and with the help of a vibrant small business community and fully engaged residents. Des Moines is now a city of almost 33,000 people. We need to start planning five, ten, twenty years out when it comes to our Downtown, our Marina, our neighborhoods and most of all, our children’s futures.
I believe I’m up to these challenges. 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. It is mid-October as I update this post and by now I’ve “doorbelled” over 6,000 homes because I really wanted to hear what you have to say. If I happened to miss you when I visited your street, 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.