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My duties include creating legislation and providing oversight of our City government. But my job is also to listen to you, the people, businesses and organizations of Des Moines. City Council positions are at large, which means that I represent all of Des Moines. No matter where you live, I’m here to serve you.

If you have questions, concerns or suggestions about how we can make Des Moines better place for you, your family, your business or your organization, I urge you to contact me.

Some quick notes:

Weekly Update: 01/23/2022

Posted on Categories Airport, Policy, Transparency, Weekly UpdatesLeave a comment on Weekly Update: 01/23/2022

Public Service Announcements

And just in time for the holidays: OMICRON! Fortunately, the current vaccines are effective, free and you can get your appointment today here and here , including walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. Get your four free at-home COVID tests from the Federal government now! But wait, there’s more! You can also get more free at home COVID tests from the State Of Washington Department Of Health!
  2. Saturday January 22 10AM-Noon Trout Unlimited salmon fish plant in Normandy Park contact John Muramatsu
  3. Saturday March 12 10AM-Noon Downtown Cleanup. Sign up with Destination Des Moines!
  4. Here is a video link to the 24th Avenue Road Improvement Project Open House and ways you can comment.
  5. On Saturday January 15 there was a Tsunami Alert. Not a bad time to remind you to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan, sign up for the King County Emergency Alert Program and join the Trusted Partner Network
  6. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoineswa.gov.
  7. The Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  8. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  9. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  10. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  11. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  12. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Tuesday: Port Commission (Agenda) One highlight is a discussion of the WSDOT SR-509 property along 216th that the City Of Des Moines has handed off to the Port for expansion of the Business Park.

Thursday: Association Of Washington Cities Action Days. About 100 years ago before COVID, this was a multi-day event in Olympia to meet with legislators, colleagues from across the state. I believe I mentioned at the time that I was committing myself to becoming a better schmoozer. After an irritated comment from a reader I started cataloguing “words that are so annoying they were worth commenting on.” I’m imagining a solid red pencil.

Thursday: 5:00pm City Council Meeting (Agenda) Sign up here for public comment. Watch the meeting on Youtube here. There is a proclamation re. Black History Month and Human Trafficking Awareness Month.

The best comment I’ve received in years, came from Rick Johnson. And I’m outing him because he’s the only person in town other than myself who has consistently attend City Council Meetings in person over an extended period. I know maybe 50-100 watch the meetings on Channel 21, but you cannot ‘get’ what is going on unless you sit in those plastic chairs and look at the big steering wheel. And here is his comment:

“I’m not getting my money’s worth.”

By which I think he meant that it did not seem to him that the Council was doing very much these first few meetings. I could not agree more and it’s something I’ve ranted about many times. The meeting calendar is unbalanced. There are large swaths where not much at all seems to happen, then these periods where waaaay too much material is jammed into just a few meetings. And then starting in October there is this race to the end of the year to cram waaaaaaaaaaaaay too much really important stuff onto each agenda.

And I’m sure some may say, “How dare you! Proclaiming Human Trafficking a serious problem is important.” Absolutely. It also takes three minutes to read that Proclamation into the record.

Meeting agendas are developed by the administration. Internally, they must have some sort of calendar that spans the years, even as Councilmembers (and Mayors) change. That planning should be made public–as it is in other types of corporations–and the Council should have a say in creating agendas that balance our work more evenly across the year.

I understand that they run the City day to day, but we cannot provide any meaningful oversight if some of our meetings have nothing to ‘oversee’ while others are jammed with multiple issues requiring hundreds of pages of reading.

Last Week

Monday: Destination Des Moines meeting. The group is welcoming a new board member and setting it’s agenda for the year. The hope is that 2022 will (finally) be a return to Wine! Fireworks! You know… normal. 🙂

Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines. The group’s long-time facilitator Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan will be moving on soon so it will be interesting to see where things go from there. I want to thank her in case I forget because the program provided me with evidence of how to reduce teen crime and improve outcomes without bazillion dollars and without guns and badges. It’s an important message. Based largely on events in other parts of town, the current direction is towards more guns and badges. But Reach Out Des Moines works. The big problem with the program is that it isn’t available everywhere in Des Moines. Yet.

Thursday: 30th Legislative Elected Call with Senator Claire Wilson, Rep. Jesse Johnson and Rep. Jamila Tayor. The call mostly concerned the legislation being worked on. I think you can get a good overview of things by watching their January 20 Public Town Hall

Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation…

To the residents of Des Moines:

I’ve lived here long enough to see several scandals on our City Council. And the thing I’ve learned is that the public has all the tools it needs to handle them; quickly and efficiently. The best thing colleagues can do at those times is to stay out of it. That is tough because there is an irresistible urge to make a statement of values (especially for people of faith such as myself.) But the moment colleagues weigh in, the issue instantly becomes politicised.

My lived experience tells me that councilmembers should avoid even the appearance that they might be using scandal for political ends. There is a risk of engendering cynicism and that in turn actually hinders a resolution. I understand that will sound deeply unsatisfying to many. But my interest is always to find the best approach and, unfortunately, sometimes that will not be the popular approach.

I would remind the public that Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation was never subject to the City Council. State law wisely makes it the voters’ responsibility to change our City Council–either by election, recall or public pressure. If it were otherwise, council majorities would certainly abuse that power.

So I want to thank you, the community. It is your voice that has resolved this issue. In my opinion it was harder than it should have been and took much longer than it should have done. For that I am sorry.

I also want to thank Anthony Martinelli for hearing that community voice. Some of you may mock that sentence, but many politicians today seem to have lost the ability to hear that voice entirely.

As to the substance of the issue: if you are a regular reader, you will notice something missing in this article: the hyperlinks. Unlike every other article, where I scrupulously attempt to provide citations for everything I describe, this contains only two. My hope is that you will notice them, understand why I provided them, and avoided all others. For the first, I said everything I have to say about domestic violence a long time ago.

The second link contains some observations on our shared working relationship over the past two years, including a difference in philosophy that I think is important to make clear. Then follows a timeline of the past four months from my point of view. I include it because every day I am reminded how much the public misunderstands what happens off the dais. They correctly assume that it is significant. I believe that, to the extent possible, and without betraying confidences, we should provide a window into at least a portion of that world. It contains no hyperlinks.

Now what?

I believe the public voted for change in 2019; a set of positions and not any person. I also believe they were voting against something: the status quo. That only makes Councilmember Martinelli’s failure an even greater disappointment.

But if you share my deep disappointment, I ask you not to become (more?) cynical. Bear in mind that any significant change requires a willingness to fail. (And if you don’t believe that, just go to Youtube and look at how many test rockets blow up before even one gets off the launch pad.) In my opinion, the worst lesson the public could take from the past four months is that choosing someone ‘different’ is a mistake.

Instead, take this as a cautionary tale that Des Moines desperately needs more choice and new blood. There are many people here of great ability who are not active in civic life and it is time for them to step up.

I’ll have more to say about that soon, but for now:

  • Think about applying for the vacant position on the City Council. Even if you do not think this is your time, if you have considered public service, going through the process is, in itself, a way to get started.
  • Or tell me about someone in the community you think would be great for the role. Same advice applies.
  • And call me if you have questions about any aspect of the process or what the job of Councilmember entails. You know where to find me. (206) 878-0578.

The City Clerk will shortly post an application for filling a vacant seat on the Des Moines City Council. If you want to get a head start on that? Email Bonnie Wilkins. Go get ’em.

As always, it is my honour to serve you.

Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation

Posted on Categories Transparency

To the residents of Des Moines:

I’ve lived here long enough to see several scandals on our City Council. And the thing I’ve learned is that the public has all the tools it needs to handle them; quickly and efficiently. The best thing colleagues can do at those times is to stay out of it. That is tough because there is an irresistible urge to make a statement of values (especially for people of faith such as myself.) But the moment colleagues weigh in, the issue instantly becomes politicised.

My lived experience tells me that councilmembers should avoid even the appearance that they might be using scandal for political ends. There is a risk of engendering cynicism and that in turn actually hinders a resolution. I understand that will sound deeply unsatisfying to many. But my interest is always to find the best approach and, unfortunately, sometimes that will not be the popular approach.

I would remind the public that Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation was never subject to the City Council. State law wisely makes it the voters’ responsibility to change our City Council–either by election, recall or public pressure. If it were otherwise, council majorities would certainly abuse that power.

So I want to thank you, the community. It is your voice that has resolved this issue. In my opinion it was harder than it should have been and took much longer than it should have done. For that I am sorry.

I also want to thank Anthony Martinelli for hearing that community voice. Some of you may mock that sentence, but many politicians today seem to have lost the ability to hear that voice entirely.

As to the substance of the issue: if you are a regular reader, you will notice something missing in this article: the hyperlinks. Unlike every other article, where I scrupulously attempt to provide citations for everything I describe, this contains only two. My hope is that you will notice them, understand why I provided them, and avoided all others. For the first, I said everything I have to say about domestic violence a long time ago.

The second link contains some observations on our shared working relationship over the past two years, including a difference in philosophy that I think is important to make clear. Then follows a timeline of the past four months from my point of view. I include it because every day I am reminded how much the public misunderstands what happens off the dais. They correctly assume that it is significant. I believe that, to the extent possible, and without betraying confidences, we should provide a window into at least a portion of that world. It contains no hyperlinks.

Now what?

I believe the public voted for change in 2019; a set of positions and not any person. I also believe they were voting against something: the status quo. That only makes Councilmember Martinelli’s failure an even greater disappointment.

But if you share my deep disappointment, I ask you not to become (more?) cynical. Bear in mind that any significant change requires a willingness to fail. (And if you don’t believe that, just go to Youtube and look at how many test rockets blow up before even one gets off the launch pad.) In my opinion, the worst lesson the public could take from the past four months is that choosing someone ‘different’ is a mistake.

Instead, take this as a cautionary tale that Des Moines desperately needs more choice and new blood. There are many people here of great ability who are not active in civic life and it is time for them to step up.

I’ll have more to say about that soon, but for now:

  • Think about applying for the vacant position on the City Council. Even if you do not think this is your time, if you have considered public service, going through the process is, in itself, a way to get started.
  • Or tell me about someone in the community you think would be great for the role. Same advice applies.
  • And call me if you have questions about any aspect of the process or what the job of Councilmember entails. You know where to find me. (206) 878-0578.

The City Clerk will shortly post an application for filling a vacant seat on the Des Moines City Council. If you want to get a head start on that? Email Bonnie Wilkins. Go get ’em.

As always, it is my honour to serve you.

Councilmember Martinelli: Timeline

Posted on Categories Transparency1 Comment on Councilmember Martinelli: Timeline

Two years ago…

Anthony Martinelli and I were both elected in 2019. We both defeated incumbents (which was almost unheard of over the past three decades) and shared many broad policy positions. But there was a real difference in philosophy. In one sentence: I was interested in the long game; he seemed focused on helping people now.

A good example of this distinction was the ARPA Stimulus discussion in September.

  • My colleagues in the majority were following the City Manager’s recommendations. Simple.
  • Anthony successfully advocated for straight dollar amount grants for businesses, eviction relief, etc. Simple.
  • In contrast I’m objecting to the entire notion of spending $9,000,000 in three hours. And on every line item I’m complaining: Why are we using one time money for salaries? Show me some stats on actual need. When can we get money out the door? How do we insure equity? What’s the process? Basically, I’m the ‘Dad’ asking my colleagues to behave responsibly. Goes over great with teens. Goes over even better with electeds.

The main thing we seemed to have in common was being mistreated as Councilmembers from day one. He and I disagreed on how to manage that reality. Ironically, he accepted that as ‘part of the game’ and from my point of view bent over backwards to be non-confrontational. If you look at his *social media it is unfailingly optimistic about all City actions except in two cases where he agreed to co-sign a letter I wrote. He went so far as to avoid submitting performance reviews of the City Manager. Drove me nuts. 😀

He also served on the Public Safety Committee.  When he chose to, he had no difficulty objecting to language he felt needed improvement and providing specific and useful edits. It was notable because that’s exactly what CMs are supposed to do and frankly I wish it happened more often.

My points being:

  • Much of the animus directed against him began long ago. People hold grudges here and it is a shame that there is no price to be paid for doing so. But none of it had anything to do with this scandal or the way he conducted his official duties.
  • He felt his approach was the pragmatic way to help people now.

The incentives to get something done now are incredibly strong; on all ends of the ideological spectrum. That is why almost everyone goes to such extraordinary lengths to avoid difficult discussions, even under the most challenging circumstances.

We’ve all heard the expression, “You can’t fight city hall”. It would be truer to say we choose not to. Some essential change requires at least minimal confrontation and a willingness to defer gratification. There is no other way.

And if that sounds like some hippie agitator crap, I will tell you that, no, that is just another common sense Dad Lecture:

  • Sometimes you have to complain. Repeatedly. It’s not you. It’s them.
  • You should balance your checkbook and review your spending. You can save a lot of money that way.
  • And sometimes you have to put off that spending in order to save for something much better down the road.

But very few people, both the public and electeds, find any of that a particularly entertaining prospect when it comes to government. In our private lives, sooner or later we pay a very high price for not listening to Dear Ol’ Dad. But when it comes to government, both the public and electeds have every incentive to pretend that these rules do not apply.

An uncomfortable reality is that Councilmember Martinelli lost his seat for an issue in his private life. We all agree that the accusations are beneath contempt. But by the same token, the entire City Council can make absolutely monumental screw-ups with your money and suffer absolutely no consequences. Hell, we may even get a plaque on a building. And you may not even know the truth until after we retire down to Boca.

That is the ceiling of what is possible; not ‘city hall’.

Martinelli navigated that ceiling as best he could because his goal was to help people now. I disagreed with that approach. In contrast, I was and will continue to try to punch through it.

I went through all this to tell you one simple truth: if you too have ever complained “you can’t fight city hall”? That’s the reason. It has nothing to do with ideology or character or age or anything other than the fact that the system incentivises all of us electeds to behave like that and then tell the public it’s the best we have to offer.

Four months ago…

Within minutes of Councilmember Martinelli’s arrest in October, then Mayor Pina issued a press release claiming to speak for the entire Council. That was not true. But if he had asked my advice, I would have reminded him of 2015. At that time, the Council, of which he was a member, handled a comparable situation with restraint. The public responded immediately with an outpouring of letters of outrage. Shortly thereafter the Councilmember understood that it was best to resign. Her legal woes dragged on for over a year, but the political scandal lasted about a week.

In contrast, the 2021 City Council made every possible effort to inflame public sentiment. Then Deputy Mayor Mahoney went so far as to encourage the public to download a police report containing highly personal information about the alleged victim which I felt put her and her children at risk.

The Waterland Blog also went to town, publishing not only the press release, but gratuitously placing the police report on their web site in multiple locations. I called the publisher to complain and he took them down, but by then the ‘reach’ was in the thousands according to the almighty Google.

After the November election, the Council discussed a censure, which seemed entirely reasonable to me. I spoke with one colleague and said that I would only vote for a censure if the police report were removed, and discussion limited. Consider the children and remain calm. Going so over the top is bad on many levels.

But when the Agenda packet was published, the entire report, all 123 pages, were included! The language of the resolution addressed none of my concerns and in fact upped the ante saying that the notice be placed prominently in front of City Hall (with a link to that police report) and forwarded to basically every elected in South King County.

Regardless of motive, we subjected his current partner and three children to unnecessary public exposure. It was cruel, bad press for the City, and if the majority goal was not merely ‘censure’ but to hasten Councilmember Martinelli’s departure? It was also poor strategy. I voted No.

Last week…

Thursday Jan 13

About an hour before a City Council Meeting I got a phone message from Sydney Brownstone of the Seattle Times, asking for comment on an upcoming story she was doing but with no specifics. I returned her call, got her voice mail and did not hear back.

Sunday Jan 16

On Sunday the Seattle Times ran her story with new allegations from two former partners, including the mother of two of his three children, Cydney Moore. The article was 2,500 words, three times the length of a typical small town piece and left no detail to the imagination. I’d go so far as to call it ‘advocacy journalism’ and not straight news.

Mayor Mahoney wasted no time in responding with a short statement in the Waterland Blog.

TUESDAY Jan 18

Based largely on that Seattle Times piece, the 33rd Democrats announced they were calling for Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation.

WEDNESDAY Jan 19

At that point I decided to call Mayor Mahoney. I told him I appreciated both the measured tone of his statement and especially the fact that he was clear to say that he was speaking on his own behalf and not for the entire Council. I told him I considered that a marked improvement over the events of October.

And then I reminded him of how the Council had handled the comparable situation in 2015 and urged him nicely, but firmly that leaving it there was in everyone’s best interest.

THURSDAY Jan 20

I watched Councilmember Martinelli’s pre-trial hearing. Now: if one were to watch that video as an outsider; truly dispassionately, the Judge is upbeat. There is no scolding and the tone is 100% optimistic. Someone watching with no other references would certainly register a note of hope for the future. The Judge’s job was not to punish. Her job was to execute the law and encourage the guy to successfully carry out the terms of the agreement. I thought she handled it well.

Within minutes he posted on Facebook that he would not be resigning.

The City also had a press release ready to go. It was factually accurate, but again, not exactly flat.

Councilmember Martinelli wrote me a short note that afternoon commenting on that press release.

I wrote back something longer. I told him that the press release was spun in an extremely negative manner. But I also I told him that he should have come to expect that after the past two years and he should expect even more over the next two years if he stayed.

I told him I felt I had been more than fair in my handling of his situation. A lot of the public would not understand that I had merely acted in a principled manner.

I told him that he should expect the video of his court appearance to be as widely viewed as that police report.

The Court video has been removed from Youtube and I’ve read some notes on social media suggesting that there is something fishy in this. Probably not. The Court live streams videos and Youtube caches them for a while. But I’ve never seen any of our Court videos hang around for very long.

And finally, I made it clear that our working relationship had not been what it should have been from the beginning. If he intended to remain on the Council I expected that to change. The public did vote for change in 2019. It takes years of mutual cooperation to fix the long standing problems in both our politics and our government. More ‘Dad’, I suppose.

He sent me a one sentence reply, only asking a question about the video.

But almost immediately, I started seeing dozens of people linking to that court appearance and of course none of the comments were positive. Every person used that video as a platform to say, ‘resign’.

Another example of ‘sharing’. There were only two and then three people listed as viewers during his hearing and I was the only one who publicly identified themselves. I did not share the link. So one person shared that link and that turned into dozens and then hundreds within the space of an hour.

FRIDAY Jan 21

Councilmember Martinelli announced his resignation Friday night on Facebook. Resigning via social media is non-traditional, but it is also exactly what I would expect from the person I know.

Within minutes the Mayor responded that he was taking action to start the replacement process–which I assume means Rule 33 of our Rules Of Procedure.

I asked the Mayor, the City Attorney and Councilmember Martinelli to confirm his resignation via official email. The City Attorney wrote me that he considers that post sufficient.  I wrote back that I’m not exactly wild about any official action being taken based on social media. A growing percentage of the public mistakenly assumes that posting something on Facebook is the same as contacting the City for services. It’s not.

Sunday January 23

Sydney Brownstone published a 1,000 word update describing Councilmember Martinelli’s resignation. If I appear to have something of a tone here, it’s only because it has gone beyond advocacy journalism into the realm of “if it bleeds it leads.” There are any number of stories the Seattle Times could do that would be of greater impact to Des Moines. The article is about Des Moines but it is targeted for a Seattle audience.

Three small details…

I applaud any woman for coming forward. But the family dynamics of three small children and two electeds were and remain complex. My understanding was that he and his current partner were the primary caregivers for all three–including the two eldest with Cydney Moore. One of my primary concerns from day one was to minimise their exposure to any of this.

An inconvenient truth…

I keep noting the difference in approach between 2015 and 2021 because, with all the media coverage, all that energy, there was nothing approaching the public outrage of 2015. There have been a handful of obvious partisan complaints and an on-line petition with less than 200 anonymous entries. But not to trivialise the issue, the Council has heard half a dozen issues over the past two years that generated more public comment.

You may say, “I don’t give a damn how many people wrote in. This is domestic violence!”

It’s also democracy. And sometimes the voters want things they cannot or will not say openly. I do not believe that anyone condones heinous conduct like domestic violence. But my guess is that many people were torn at being forced to choose between the change they hoped for in 2019 and even appearing to support domestic violence.

I am also aware that a large number of residents never got over our last appointment process in February 2020. At that time, the person I defeated was re-appointed to another vacant seat only three months later and by what I can safely say now was an unethical process. Many people considered that move deeply undemocratic and a slap in the face of the change they had just voted for. The possibility of a repeat held no appeal for a large part of Des Moines.

That is the practical effect of slowly eroding public trust. The public remembers. Every time the City Council acts in anything less than a completely ethical manner, it creates bad unintended consequences for the future.

To be specific: whatever benefits the majority may have felt they were obtaining by appointing Luisa Bangs in February 2020 only made the events of October 2021 more difficult. And that in turn will make the February 2022 appointment process more fraught.

In short, the relative silence from the public was, in itself, a message. My hope is that our City Council can hear that message above the din of scandal.

Now what?

Our Council has some trust building to do. The February 2022 appointment process is a key moment, either to improve or further erode that trust.

Already I see people speculating about ‘who’. But my primary concern, as usual, has more to do with that process. So long as the process is good, I trust the public to do the right thing. And the upcoming appointment process must be a model of fairness.


*I assume because I do this blog and he was on Facebook a lot, we get lumped together. But in fact, Anthony Martinelli was a very conventional  progressive local politician. He used Facebook to communicate. And yes, his partner and he would coordinate on social media messaging. But others on our Council also have social media surrogates to fight their battles for them. You just don’t know it.  And other CMs were web-illiterate and complained that somehow he had taken ‘unfair advantage’. Ridiculous. That nonsense made him look far more ‘different’ that he really was. One can disagree with his policy goals (and as you can see I certainly did at times) but those goals and his approach were not out of the mainstream.

Weekly Update: 01/16/2022

Posted on Categories Policy, Weekly UpdatesLeave a comment on Weekly Update: 01/16/2022

Public Service Announcements

And just in time for the holidays: OMICRON! Fortunately, the current vaccines are effective, free and you can get your appointment today here and here , including walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. Get your four free at-home COVID tests from the Federal government now! But wait, there’s more! You can also get more free at home COVID tests from the State Of Washington Department Of Health!
  2. Saturday January 22 10AM-Noon Trout Unlimited salmon fish plant in Normandy Park contact John Muramatsu
  3. Saturday March 12 10AM-Noon Downtown Cleanup. Sign up with Destination Des Moines!
  4. Here is a video link to the 24th Avenue Road Improvement Project Open House and ways you can comment.
  5. On Saturday January 15 there was a Tsunami Alert. Not a bad time to remind you to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan, sign up for the King County Emergency Alert Program and join the Trusted Partner Network
  6. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoineswa.gov.
  7. The Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  8. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  9. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  10. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  11. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  12. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Monday: Destination Des Moines meeting. The group is welcoming a new board member and setting it’s agenda for the year. The hope is that 2022 will (finally) be a return to Wine! Fireworks! You know… normal. 🙂

Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines. The group’s long-time facilitator Cynthia Ricks-Maccotan will be moving on soon so it will be interesting to see where things go from there. I want to thank her in case I forget because the program provided me with evidence of how to reduce teen crime and improve outcomes without bazillion dollars and without guns and badges. It’s an important message. Based largely on events in other parts of town, the current direction is towards more guns and badges. But Reach Out Des Moines works. The big problem with the program is that it isn’t available everywhere in Des Moines. Yet.

Thursday: 30th Legislative Elected Call with Senator Claire Wilson, Rep. Jesse Johnson and Rep. Jamila Tayor. I’ve been a huge fan of these calls since day one. You get information on how the State session is going, but also what electeds in Federal Way and Federal Way Schools are thinking about. I don’t think the public realises just how many pieces of legislation the State goes through during even a short (60 day) session.

At least once a year I seem compelled to mention that your State legislators (like most around the nation) are paid about $50,000 a year. And how insane that is. I know people are angry about public spending. Me too. Wait, I have a cost management idea! Elect people to manage a $50B organisation, then pay them so little you either attact people who are independently wealthy or who have to take second jobs. Good plan.

Last Week

Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association. The only item of note was that this was that the Council received a warning from the City Clerk that a quorum (four members) of the Council had attended. If a CM anticipates that four members of the Council will attend any event together, we’re required to inform the City Clerk so that she can post a public notice. Under OPMA, we’re not supposed to be in the same ‘room’ without public notice.

This only demonstrates that the Council should create a new Advisory Committee for the Marina. The fact that a quorum of the City Council feels it is important to be at those meetings acknowledges that the significant discussions regarding both waterside and landside development occur first in a private organisation. Creating an Advisory committee would require the DMMA to be part of the City (public) process, rather than our staff and Councilmembers going to the DMMA, a private organisation, and thus not subject to the same disclosure.

Thursday: State Auditor meeting. This was a follow up to the Auditor Exit Interview from January 6. Those interviews are pretty rote and this gave me a chance to understand the process a bit more and make suggestions. One suggestion: until now, the Auditor would have an Entrance Interview with a single member of the City Council, which described the process and specific goals (those change from year to year based on anticipated risks.) My suggestion was for that invitation to be extended to all CMs.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)  (Video) The main order of business is the election of the next Mayor and then Deputy Mayor by the Council. Only Councilmembers with two years of experience are eligible and these include Jeremy Nutting, Traci Buxton, Matt Mahoney, Anthony Martinelli and moi.

City Council Meeting Recap

Last Thursday’s meeting was a triumph of civility. You never saw such civil sons o’ bitches in all your life. 😀 I was looking for ‘signals’ as to whether this was a surface thing or something deeper and my comments reflect on what cues I got.

  1. I’ve heard about a dozen times about how the Council has ‘turned a page’.  Cool. But one defect in our Council is that the calendar has almost zip at certain points of the year–including the beginning. There just wasn’t much to disagree on. Give it time. 😀
  2. In his new role as front man for the band Mayor Mahoney was perfectly fine. But if you haven’t done it before, it’s like when yer learning to drive. You’re pre-occupied with operating the controls. Every presiding officer I’ve watched here tries to signal that they are going to be fair-minded people. And then begins the slow descent into hell.  😀 I know how that sounds, but it’s not a dig against anyone as much as a caution: no matter who you think you are, there is something that the job of mayor seems to do to people in Des Moines over time. Self-care is probably a good idea. 🙂
  3. Several fairly obvious items were raised as new business and we all agreed that they were items to put onto a meeting agenda. It’s fun to agree.
  4. I proposed to devote a meeting to an update of our Rules Of Procedure. Something we have not done since December 2019. I added a bonus which also got support. And that was, to devote a block of time at a meeting before then to discuss the ground rules. The previous Council had a nasty habit of scheduling important, complex meetings, such as the ARPA Stimulus meeting, where the rules would not be worked out in advance or where the Mayor would simply ‘announce’ how things would go. Having a discussion of the ground rules is, in itself, a major upgrade. But again, at the risk of sounding cranky, I reserve judgment. The ground rules discussion simply follows a normal procedure. I’m not gushing over ‘normal’–and definitely not until I see normal actually happen.
  5. City Manager Matthias made a point to note that he agreed with me on something. But then followed up by emphasising how rare that is. Alrighty, then. 😀
  6. Councilmember Nutting and I often get fiddly on parliamentary details. I rarely mentioned them before because, well, I’m trying to be civil for 2022. 🙂 Deputy Mayor Buxton proposed two ideas that I fully support, but both were not fully-worked out in my opinion. And I wanna stop here and say that what I just wrote is one change I want for 2022. They weren’t fully baked. I don’t feel bad about saying that and I ain’t gonna feel bad about it. And neither should she. That’s how I talk. Fix the problem, not the blame. One sign of true ‘civility’ will be how we accept one another and how people take constructive criticism. (The only weird thing is that this sort of thing is very out of character for Deputy Mayor Buxton. Normally, she is meticulous, a quality I highly value.)
    1. She seemed to be proposing to provide a mechanism by which proclamations which noted significant events or causes would be remembered every year. I knew what she meant, but Councilmember Nutting had a valid point. A proclamation is actually a one-off. When you proclaim “LGBTQ Pride Month” you do it once. We want people to remember it every year, but the actual resolution only happens once.  I’m still not exactly clear how that process will be implemented, but since we weren’t talking about, say… demolishing a historic home, for example… I was willing to roll with it. But as I said in my comments, I fully support the idea. If we proclaim June as LGBTQ Pride Month, then we should find a way to mention that we do every year from now on. We have that obligation to the issue and to the community.
    2. She also wanted to add language from a State House bill still being negotiated to a current proclamation, but only if the bill passes. The sounded fine, but she didn’t bring a copy of the draft bill. I’m sure it’s fine, but that’s not the point. This is a matter of ‘good hygiene’. When you propose something, please provide the document. (And in fact, a rule change I will propose will allow councilmembers to have documents like that added into the packet ahead of time to insure that we (and the public!) can see what is being proposed.)
  7. Councilmember Steinmetz proposed having a meeting discussion about the web site. Which is great. He credited Councilmember Achziger for help with the idea but not me was a little weird. Not mentioning the one person on the Council who actually nagged about it for over a year? Who, you know, built commercial web sites? Who proposed a budget amendment to fix the thing? OK. 😀 I honestly don’t care about credit. As long as I get what I want. 🙂
    1. And I’m saying it just like that because I am a subject matter expert on this sort of thing. For all their great qualities, none of my colleagues besides CM Martinelli are particularly literate with digital media. It would be foolhardy for my colleagues to marginalise my input on this sort of issue. And frankly that is exactly what happened during the past two years. We’d have situations where CMs acted based on personal animus. I mean that literally: I agree with you on the issue, but because I cannot stand you, I’m not doing it. The web site was just such an example. Until now I had never experienced that kind of professional pettiness. Seriously. I had never had a case where my colleagues did not behave ethically based on how they felt about one another. You’ll know that the Council has turned a page towards civility if the web site turns out to be something special. If not? Dad-Mobile. 😀
    2. And by special, here’s one example. In my comments, I mentioned ‘phones’ and it’s been my mantra. Every resident of Des Moines now has a cell phone, not a computer. It’s the one universal that crosses all boundaries. We can educate, alert, market, improve public safety, provide better customer service.  We improve our digital presence on phones and we instantly move the needle on equity, outreach and public engagement.

Martin Luther King Jr. Day

I often tell people various anecdotes about the importance of Dr. King in Northern Ireland when I was a kid because I’m not sure Americans recognise how influential he was across the world. But rather than celebrate the “I have a dream” speech, I recommend the book Death Of A King by Tavis Smiley, because it documents his real life–especially that last year.

Because the uncomfortable truth is, both he and his message were deeply unpopular for the majority of his career. And I mean both with white and black people. After that famous speech and passage of the Civil Rights Bill(s) it was all downhill. And I mean way down.

I think it’s fair to say that he lost popularity for a couple of reasons:

1. Because people thought that once there were some laws, remaining problems of inequity would take care of themselves. ‘The battle’ was over and they did not particularly want to hear that a functional right to vote was just the beginning.

2. His message became about what we would now call ‘structural racism’. And that notion was as controversial then as it is now, both with blacks as well as whites. He was against the Vietnam War, in part because it was disproportionately hard on black people. Poverty? The poor were disproportionately black. Education? Environment? Business opportunities? All were disproportionately problematic for minorities. But not exclusively.

He stopped talking about issues that were exclusive to black people (like voting rights) and moved onto issues that potentially affected everybody, but mostly affected people of colour.

And what I find striking about that is how much it seemed to annoy everybody. Again, the idea of accepting responsibility for issues beyond voting rights was deeply offensive to whites. And failing to maintain focus on issues of immediate and specific to their needs was also not thrilling for many blacks.

Pressing that kind of approach, which so few people wanted to hear? That’s courage.

The next generation…

Dr. King’s entire agenda focused on goals that could not be achieved in his lifetime. It is an extremely challenging message. It’s one thing to tell constituents that you may not make it to the promised land, but telling them not to expect to get there? Good luck with that.

It was always about the next generation and time has proven him absolutely correct. And after his assassination, I’m sure many people found that thought comforting. Said no one, ever.

Economic inequality has only increased since Dr. King’s time. Schools in Des Moines are performing worse than when I moved here. We face environmental challenges that we have not begun to address seriously as a City. And despite the fact that we’re now a younger and very diverse community, participation in civic life remains overwhelmingly older and white.

In a way, these are tougher problems to solve than voting rights. In 1964 discrimination was so overt it made interventions a fairly simple matter.

The challenges we face today are so longstanding and so entrenched that many people truly no longer can see them. Others have become so cynical they just shrug and accept them as ‘life in the real world.’  But those are exactly the kinds of structural issues Dr. King would be working on had he lived.

Soaring oratory…

If you listen to any of his speeches beyond a few sound bites, it’s pretty amazing that the guy even got as far as he did. He’s giving sermons. But these are not feel-good affairs by any stretch of the imagination. He often begins by telling you that the road ahead is going to be painful. OK, with ya so far. But then he goes on to scolding and being bossy as hell. I don’t mean just about white people. He’s often telling his own audience:  you need to change, you need to do more and you need to do a. b. and c. or else none of this is going to work. I assume the soaring oratory helped, but even so, this must have been a tough message.

Apart from the difficulty of organising people on any major public issue, can you imagine anyone be successful in 2022 by scolding? I don’t care how eloquent one may be, that would take some doing. (When was the last time you heard any politician get very far saying “ask not what your country can do for you”?)

Back here in Des Moines…

I’m gonna break it down for ya by telling you something that every group organiser wants to tell you, but is simply too nice to tell you.

1. Not enough people volunteer. For anything.

2. And when they do, they also tend to volunteer for the same stuff. It’s all good stuff. But it’s the same stuff. People know what they know.

3. Not to put too fine a point on it, but, well… people tend to wanna do what they wanna do and often not what the group actually needs. And if you try to redirect? They don’t return. So group leaders are constantly having to calibrate their aspirations based not on factors such as money, but by the fact that, sadly… this is not the military.

4. It’s also much easier to get volunteers for programs involving something they can see and concerning now. And if it seems like it directly benefits them? Even better. The toughest job is getting people to work towards improvements for the next generation.

A bigger picture…

There is a tendency these days to thank ‘saints’ like Dr. King for their service and assume that all the heavy lifting has already been done. And if it hasn’t? Well, I’m sure we gave it our best.

But next time you walk Des Moines Creek Trail ask yourself if that sort of project could be completed today. You’ll likely answer ‘yes’. But the honest answer is ‘no’. Something so beloved now was not something our City leadership was united on. And that was as recent as 12 years ago. There is a tendency to believe that projects we see and love now were inevitable then. Most definitely not.

You don’t think that has to do with Martin Luther King, Jr? Maybe you haven’t visited the Beach Park or walked the trail recently. That’s where you find diversity in Des Moines. That series of projects benefited the environment, created sustainable revenue for the City and preserved a sense of shared history. I do not find it coincidental that it is one of the few projects in our history enjoyed equally by the entire community.

Dr. King (literally) gave his life for the future. His famous quote “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends towards justice” was not his and misinterpret it as sort of a free pass. *Actually he injected that as a sort of momentary bit of relief in a much longer and scolding passage which I’ll summarise like this, Yes, the arc bends, but not unless you help bend it. The short term wins give us hope that we can succeed. But the future does not take care of itself.

Action items…

I get that we’re past an age where you can motivate people by scolding or guilt. But seriously… would it kill you to…. 😀

Please vote. Don’t ask your neighbour to vote. You wanna change the world, find one person in a precinct where people do not vote and nag the living crap out of them until they do. You get one person to become a habitual voter and you’ve done something.

Volunteer. But when you decide how to invest your precious time? Look, I can’t argue with donating blood or the Food Bank and so on. Helping people with immediate needs? Always a good idea. But remember that projects like the Des Moines Creek Trail and the Beach Park took decades to achieve, look better than any commercial development, build community, and will provide equal enjoyment for all here. Forever.

The future does not take care of itself.


*In one of the most controversial choices in the history of history, after his death the King family decided not to place Dr. King’s speeches in the public domain. But instead aggressively marketed them in order to fund further activism. I became familiar with his work because of an underground network of bootlegs. I’d travel home several times a year and bring dozens of cassettes with me because that was the only way to get his complete speeches in Ireland.

recap-220113

Posted on Categories Policy

Last Thursday’s meeting was a triumph of civility. You never saw such civil sons o’ bitches in all your life. 😀 I was looking for ‘signals’ as to whether this was a surface thing or something deeper and my comments reflect on what cues I got.

  1. I’ve heard about a dozen times about how the Council has ‘turned a page’.  Cool. But one defect in our Council is that the calendar has almost zip at certain points of the year–including the beginning. There just wasn’t much to disagree on. Give it time. 😀
  2. In his new role as front man for the band Mayor Mahoney was perfectly fine. But if you haven’t done it before, it’s like when yer learning to drive. You’re pre-occupied with operating the controls. Every presiding officer I’ve watched here tries to signal that they are going to be fair-minded people. And then begins the slow descent into hell.  😀 I know how that sounds, but it’s not a dig against anyone as much as a caution: no matter who you think you are, there is something that the job of mayor seems to do to people in Des Moines over time. Self-care is probably a good idea. 🙂
  3. Several fairly obvious items were raised as new business and we all agreed that they were items to put onto a meeting agenda. It’s fun to agree.
  4. I proposed to devote a meeting to an update of our Rules Of Procedure. Something we have not done since December 2019. I added a bonus which also got support. And that was, to devote a block of time at a meeting before then to discuss the ground rules. The previous Council had a nasty habit of scheduling important, complex meetings, such as the ARPA Stimulus meeting, where the rules would not be worked out in advance or where the Mayor would simply ‘announce’ how things would go. Having a discussion of the ground rules is, in itself, a major upgrade. But again, at the risk of sounding cranky, I reserve judgment. The ground rules discussion simply follows a normal procedure. I’m not gushing over ‘normal’–and definitely not until I see normal actually happen.
  5. City Manager Matthias made a point to note that he agreed with me on something. But then followed up by emphasising how rare that is. Alrighty, then. 😀
  6. Councilmember Nutting and I often get fiddly on parliamentary details. I rarely mentioned them before because, well, I’m trying to be civil for 2022. 🙂 Deputy Mayor Buxton proposed two ideas that I fully support, but both were not fully-worked out in my opinion. And I wanna stop here and say that what I just wrote is one change I want for 2022. They weren’t fully baked. I don’t feel bad about saying that and I ain’t gonna feel bad about it. And neither should she. That’s how I talk. Fix the problem, not the blame. One sign of true ‘civility’ will be how we accept one another and how people take constructive criticism. (The only weird thing is that this sort of thing is very out of character for Deputy Mayor Buxton. Normally, she is meticulous, a quality I highly value.)
    1. She seemed to be proposing to provide a mechanism by which proclamations which noted significant events or causes would be remembered every year. I knew what she meant, but Councilmember Nutting had a valid point. A proclamation is actually a one-off. When you proclaim “LGBTQ Pride Month” you do it once. We want people to remember it every year, but the actual resolution only happens once.  I’m still not exactly clear how that process will be implemented, but since we weren’t talking about, say… demolishing a historic home, for example… I was willing to roll with it. But as I said in my comments, I fully support the idea. If we proclaim June as LGBTQ Pride Month, then we should find a way to mention that we do every year from now on. We have that obligation to the issue and to the community.
    2. She also wanted to add language from a State House bill still being negotiated to a current proclamation, but only if the bill passes. The sounded fine, but she didn’t bring a copy of the draft bill. I’m sure it’s fine, but that’s not the point. This is a matter of ‘good hygiene’. When you propose something, please provide the document. (And in fact, a rule change I will propose will allow councilmembers to have documents like that added into the packet ahead of time to insure that we (and the public!) can see what is being proposed.)
  7. Councilmember Steinmetz proposed having a meeting discussion about the web site. Which is great. He credited Councilmember Achziger for help with the idea but not me was a little weird. Not mentioning the one person on the Council who actually nagged about it for over a year? Who, you know, built commercial web sites? Who proposed a budget amendment to fix the thing? OK. 😀 I honestly don’t care about credit. As long as I get what I want. 🙂
    1. And I’m saying it just like that because I am a subject matter expert on this sort of thing. For all their great qualities, none of my colleagues besides CM Martinelli are particularly literate with digital media. It would be foolhardy for my colleagues to marginalise my input on this sort of issue. And frankly that is exactly what happened during the past two years. We’d have situations where CMs acted based on personal animus. I mean that literally: I agree with you on the issue, but because I cannot stand you, I’m not doing it. The web site was just such an example. Until now I had never experienced that kind of professional pettiness. Seriously. I had never had a case where my colleagues did not behave ethically based on how they felt about one another. You’ll know that the Council has turned a page towards civility if the web site turns out to be something special. If not? Dad-Mobile. 😀
    2. And by special, here’s one example. In my comments, I mentioned ‘phones’ and it’s been my mantra. Every resident of Des Moines now has a cell phone, not a computer. It’s the one universal that crosses all boundaries. We can educate, alert, market, improve public safety, provide better customer service.  We improve our digital presence on phones and we instantly move the needle on equity, outreach and public engagement.

Weekly Update: 01/03/2022

Posted on Categories Policy, Weekly Updates7 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/03/2022

Public Service Announcements

And just in time for the holidays: OMICRON! Fortunately, the current vaccines are effective, free and you can get your appointment today here and here , including walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. Get your four free at-home COVID tests from the Federal government now! But wait, there’s more! You can also get more free at home COVID tests from the State Of Washington Department Of Health!
  2. Saturday January 22 10AM-Noon Trout Unlimited salmon fish plant in Normandy Park contact John Muramatsu
  3. Saturday March 12 10AM-Noon Downtown Cleanup. Sign up with Destination Des Moines!
  4. Here is a video link to the 24th Avenue Road Improvement Project Open House and ways you can comment.
  5. On Saturday January 15 there was a Tsunami Alert. Not a bad time to remind you to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan, sign up for the King County Emergency Alert Program and join the Trusted Partner Network
  6. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoineswa.gov.
  7. The Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  8. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  9. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  10. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  11. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  12. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda) This marks the debut of two new Commissioners: Hamdi Mohamed and Toshiko Hasegawa. They represent many firsts, including the first women of colour. Ms. Mohamed is also the first Commissioner from SeaTac. Both have shown a strong interest in issues of equity in Des Moines. For me that means, education, environment and health, and business formation in Des Moines. Traditionally candidates would talk about ‘jobs and economic development’ as sort of a ‘rising tide lifts all boats’ proposition. But that never worked out. The economic benefits of Sea-Tac Airport always tend to go north and east while the environmental impacts stay right here. And over the years, those disparities have only increased. The Port does not directly control flight paths (that is set by the FAA), but they can redirect some of that river of money more in our direction.

Wednesday: Sound Cities Association (SCA) Board Member Orientation. This is where I get to learn what I got myself into as a member of the Flood Control District. 😀

Thursday: State Auditor Exit Interview. In previous years this was done within the framework of a City Council Meeting. This year it’s apparently being handled a bit differently–the State Auditor has invited members of the City Council to a presentation, Q&A. There are no materials so I have no idea what to expect. Sure hope it’s good news! 😀 (That’s me being as nice as possible. This City Council is the only period of my life where I’ve gone into meetings where words like ‘audit’ and ‘review’ are mentioned–and with no way to prepare.)

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) The main order of business is the election of the next Mayor and then Deputy Mayor by the Council. Only Councilmembers with two years of experience are eligible and these include Jeremy Nutting, Traci Buxton, Matt Mahoney, Anthony Martinelli and moi.

So far, only Traci Buxton has made an on the record pitch for the position of Deputy Mayor; not Mayor.

Last Week

Last week I mostly took the week off hoping to have not one but two elective surgeries that have been on hold for almost a year. And…. they were both cancelled. Again.

There will be 1,000,000 dead Americans by summer. The completely unnecessary chaos we have inflicted on our country. The damage that we may not recover from in my lifetime, including an entire generation of people who are checking out on careers in health care and all other forms of customer service.

I’ll close this mini-rant by noting that the death toll in South Korea, a nation with 55,000,000 people, is currently about 5,500. No that’s not a typo. South Korea has literally performed thirty times better than the United States. And by what form of technology or space magic have they utilised to achieve this level of performance?

As a people, they have simply been more willing to cooperate in a time of national emergency.

Time is a flexible thing. You can watch a thousand sci-fi movies and still that whole ‘relativity’ thing makes no sense. But if you got nothing else out of this pandemic, now you know what it might be like in a space ship approaching the speed of light: where one year can feel like an absolute century.

Below are some of the items I worked on. It is not comprehensive and it does not include items that I did not sponsor or play a key role in.

Many succeeded while others failed due to lack of support. All were ideas I deeply believe in and will return to. That’s worth mentioning because many great pieces of legislation take more than one attempt to obtain support, including in Des Moines.

Most of these were in my role as a member of your City Council, while some were things any private citizen could take on. Regardless, all these efforts directly benefit you, the residents of Des Moines, Washington.

Here are some things I worked on in 2021

Normally I am pretty scrupulous about providing links and citations for everything. I ran out of time and will have to circle back. If you see an item and can’t ‘Google’ the appropriate reference, please let me know.

Group stuff…

  • I made sure to participate in Reach Out Des Moines (RODM). RODM is described as a ‘youth crime/violence reduction program’ for students in the Pacific Ridge neighbourhood and specifically Pacific Middle School. What that means in practice is that a bunch of people meet monthly to come up with ways to keep kids in school and give them after-school activities. It sounds so simple (and it is). And it sounds so not ‘public safety’. But it has reduced youth crime (especially violent offenses) by almost 70% from 2015 to 2019 and it keeps kids from getting into ‘the system’ which has permanent benefits that cannot be tracked. Best of all it is ridiculously inexpensive. The only downside is that it doesn’t include all of Des Moines–and that’s not a bad thing to consider for 2022.
  • I attended the Des Moines Marina Association Meetings. Since the group is open to all residents, I would encourage anyone who cares about the Marina (especially condo owners in the Marina District) to join up. These meetings often were where the City first announced various aspects of the Marina Redevelopment proposals (and frankly, seeing information presented at a private organisation before it reached the City Council did not thrill me.)
  • I attended the South King County Housing and Homelessness Partners along with Councilmember Buxton. This is our City’s collaborative effort with Auburn, Burien, Kent, etc. to tackle, well housing and homelessness. 😀
  • I attended Destination Des Moines along with Deputy Mayor Mahoney. DDM organises most of the outdoor events that many of you think are organised by the City, including the Fourth Of July Fireworks, Halloween, Christmas Tree Lighting, etc. (you know, all those things COVID keeps ruining. 😀 )
  • I was a member of our Transportation Committee.
  • I was a member of our Environment Committee, which primarily oversees our Stormwater Utility.

Single event stuff…

  1. Early in the year, Mayor Pina agreed to my proposal to add a New Business item to each meeting Agenda. However, he did so by simply announcing “this is what we’re doing” from the dais and that’s that. I proposed instead creating a new item for our Rules Of Procedure. My concerns were that it was not proper to give the Mayor the ability to change the Order Of Business unilaterally. I also felt strongly that if we did not make it a rule he could also take it away at will.  My proposal was voted down by all my colleagues. And of course, he did drop New Business at several meetings–again, simply by saying so. And I never want to miss an opportunity to repeat: that is not an authority given to the Mayor in Council-Manager government. But if you have the majority and no one is willing to object? You have the authority.
  2. In February, I attended the University Of California Davis Noise Conference. This is the ‘premiere’ event in the group of people who study the effects of aviation impacts on communities. In addition to getting ‘intel’ from the FAA and various updates on research, the value of these events is that you learn what other airport communities and airport staff are doing across America. So when I propose something like the Port Package Update bill and air quality monitoring programs, I already know what is being worked on across America. I am the only Councilmember from Des Moines to attend.
  3. Throughout the spring, I attended a series of conferences around the management of Marinas, including the Pacific Coast Conference Of Harbormasters. I was told I am the first Councilmember from Des Moines to attend any of these. Again, the Marina is a $4,000,000 business for us. I’ve enjoyed sailing around the Salish Sea all these years, comparing the various marinas from a boater’s point of view. But it’s a whole different thing when you start to learn how the management side works.
  4. I proposed a directive to record Council Committee Meetings which passed. The goal now is to make that permanent when we go back to In-Person Meetings. At our ARPA Stimulus Meeting, I proposed funding to make that happen, but that did not even get a vote. Frankly, the sense seemed to be that, even though these are consider Public Meetings, some of my colleagues and staff kinda preferred the fact that almost nobody ever attended them. We need to fix that.
  5. In June I proposed, and the City Council passed, a proclamation declaring the entire month to be LGBTQ Pride Month.
  6. Throughout the year I worked with Rep. Orwall and the University of Washington DEOHS air quality monitoring in a couple of ways, both in contributing to the Budget Proviso language and then as a member of her UFP Advisory Group which last met in September.
  7. In August, the Port of Seattle Commission approved a plan to expand the Port Package program to apartment buildings–most of which are in Des Moines. I’m mentioning this for a couple of reasons.
    • First of all because, well, because it was one of my original nags about Port Packages that began years before I was elected. Think about the area around 25th and Kent Des Moines Road. It’s right under the flight path. Almost all the single family homes received Port Packages twenty years ago. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are predominantly white residents. While at the same time, apartment dwellers, who are predominantly people of colour, got zilch. That disparity may have been unintentional, but the implications are obvious. The Port was willing to consider this as an issue of equity. Everyone under the flight path deserves sound insulation.
    • Second, the Port used its own money to move ahead. It slow-walked sound insulation systems for years by saying that it would only do homes after it obtained FAA grant money. There was nothing in the regs that said that explicitly. So in addition to this project moving ahead, it set a precedent for future sound insulation projects like the Port Package Update program.

Anyhoo, a huge shout out to Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. This is what real equity looks like and she pushed for it even though it was the least sexy big ticket item imaginable. I mean, no big ‘Maritime High School!’ photo ops on this one. It was simply the right thing to do.   (Yeah, I know I went way into the rough on this one but this is $80 million dollars and those are the details that make things happen.)

  1. I supported using a portion of our ARPA Stimulus spending to support Anew apprenticeship programs in the construction trades. My hope is to help them expand the program to create more Des Moines contractors–something that is very much on the Port’s radar–and also to get more kids into all forms of skilled trades. (Said it before, say it again, I went to trade school and then to college.)
  2. At that same event I proposed a Utility Voucher Program, which was increased by Councilmember Martinelli, and passed.
  3. I sponsored a grant to help Friends Of Saltwater State Park develop a new web site. There was also money set aside for two programs run by Trout Unlimited which will aid in salmon recovery–including an expansion of the very popular Coho Pen at the Marina. (If you wonder why I go on all the time about Saltwater State Park, it has to do with a whole other universe of environmental actions that need to happen in the waters in front of Des Moines. For example, there are literally thousands of old tires in Puget Sound at SWSP, Redondo and our Marina, placed there intentionally in the ’70’s. Oy.)
  4. And finally on the ARPA Stimulus bandwagon, I developed a plan to hire an Environmental Strategist… which went absolutely nowhere. But it is probably the best idea I’ll ever have. Because the one thing I’ve come to realise is that we need someone with the environmental chops to develop a comprehensive plan to increase tree cover, restore sealife, coordinate with sewer districts and storm water, obtain proper mitigations with the airport–and then do the lobbying to make it all happen. The environment here is the long game.
  5. At our last Budget Meeting of the year, I proposed several small amendments, one of which was to fix the City web site as well as provide a phone app to enable residents to report public safety concerns, file Fix-it requests and receive emergency alerts from any mobile device with a single click. The Mayor did not allow that to even come to the table, but given the recent increase in both crime and emergency requests, I am even more certain now that it was a good idea and I will be bringing it back.
  6. In November I received my Certificate Of Municipal Leadership (CML) from the Association of Washington Cities. The AWC has a number of education programs like this (including one our Deputy City Clerk just received.) The CML is not anything super-difficult. It’s simply a way to stay on track with topics you should be studying as a matter of course. In some cities the majority of Councilmembers obtain a CML as a matter of course.
  7. And in December, Rep. Orwall and Sen. Keiser reconvened many of the people who helped pass legislation to enable Port Package Updates. The Port was inching its way to properly funding the program, but COVID dropped a bomb on that. I don’t wanna jinx it, but I’m optimistic about 2022. 🙂 So if you are having problems with your Port Package, please contact SeatacNoise.Info and get on their list of.

Constituent stuff…

  1. There were over 75 constituent requests I helped residents navigate. I did a double take when I looked at my calendar. No wonder I’m tired! 😀 And a word about that: a Councilmember cannot ‘intervene’ on anyone’s behalf. My ‘Dad Joke’ used to be, “I can’t fix your parking tickets.” I stopped saying that because instead of falling down laughing, many people seemed genuinely disappointed. And that indicated to me that we had some educatin’ to do.

But just because I can’t fix parking tickets does not mean you shouldn’t contact a Councilmember if you have an issue.

  • First of all, we probably know how to navigate the system better than most people. You may not know who to call or what procedure to follow. We probably do–or know who does.
  • And second of all, though we cannot ‘intervene’ we are tasked with oversight. If you’re having difficulties, the Council is unaware until you tell us. The Administration does not give us routine reports about services it provides or complaints they receive. But by cc’ing me on an issue, that allows me to monitor how we’re doing.

Anyhoo, among the various issues I helped residents resolve were:

  • Business development
  • Permitting
  • Public safety
  • Signage
  • Tenant/Landlord Issues
  • Trees
  • Traffic calming
  1. And last but not least, there’s this. And by this I mean this ‘blog’. Love it, hate it, it’s an objective fact that this blog was the single biggest draw to public participation at City Council and Committee meetings in 2021. Really.Public engagement is nowhere near where it needs to be, but more people are engaging with the City now. People think I’m exaggerating, but before I was elected, months and months would go by where I was the only person at a City Council Meeting who wasn’t paid to be there.Also, I want to mention that the whole idea of doing the blog is 100% Kosher for Passover. There has been this ongoing trolling of various sorts such as:
    • Doing a blog without my colleagues’ permission is ‘illegal’
    • Showing any public disagreement after a vote is ‘illegal’

    Neither of those are true. But over and over, colleagues and trolls would throw out this rubbish simply because they dislike it the way a lot of people say “Honey, let’s not fight in front of the kids!” But dislike is not illegal, immoral or even fattening. And saying so is two lumps of coal for you, from Santy. Because when people throw out that sort of crap, it’s basically daring me to publicly shame them, which I have absolutely no desire to do.

    And in conclusion…

    If I could accomplish only one thing (OK two things) during my time in office it would not be any ‘legislation’ it would be to convince people of this:

    • Good government works better. It saves money, serves more people. Swear to God. I know many of you (most of you) believe that “it’s not what ya know it’s who ya know”, but that is as wrong as when you try to steer your car against the skid. I know how ‘right’ that feels with every muscle in your being. It also yields poor results.
    • It takes a ridiculously small number of residents to change City policy on anything. But you have to show up and you have to do things a certain way. It annoys my colleagues and every municipal employee in the history of municipal employees to read that, but not because it’s untrue. Rather because no one (including moi) likes to be nagged. No one respects our staff more than I.

But our City is one big customer service center that you pay for. We’re here to serve you. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. Your job as a resident is to tell us when you need service and advocate productively for the things you want. As me Gran used to say, “I’m not a mind reader, JC.” 😀 And I’m always puzzled by people who feel guilty for reporting a legit issue.

Those of you who showed up this year now know what I’m telling you works, and in this age of cynicism and COVID, you have no idea how much I appreciate your willingness to steer with the skid.

Keep up the great work in 2022. 🙂

Year In Review

Posted on Categories Policy, Weekly Updates

Time is a flexible thing. You can watch a thousand sci-fi movies and still that whole ‘relativity’ thing makes no sense. But if you got nothing else out of this pandemic, now you know what it might be like in a space ship approaching the speed of light: where one year can feel like an absolute century.

Below are some of the items I worked on. It is not comprehensive and it does not include items that I did not sponsor or play a key role in.

Many succeeded while others failed due to lack of support. All were ideas I deeply believe in and will return to. That’s worth mentioning because many great pieces of legislation take more than one attempt to obtain support, including in Des Moines.

Most of these were in my role as a member of your City Council, while some were things any private citizen could take on. Regardless, all these efforts directly benefit you, the residents of Des Moines, Washington.

Here are some things I worked on in 2021

Normally I am pretty scrupulous about providing links and citations for everything. I ran out of time and will have to circle back. If you see an item and can’t ‘Google’ the appropriate reference, please let me know.

Group stuff…

  • I made sure to participate in Reach Out Des Moines (RODM). RODM is described as a ‘youth crime/violence reduction program’ for students in the Pacific Ridge neighbourhood and specifically Pacific Middle School. What that means in practice is that a bunch of people meet monthly to come up with ways to keep kids in school and give them after-school activities. It sounds so simple (and it is). And it sounds so not ‘public safety’. But it has reduced youth crime (especially violent offenses) by almost 70% from 2015 to 2019 and it keeps kids from getting into ‘the system’ which has permanent benefits that cannot be tracked. Best of all it is ridiculously inexpensive. The only downside is that it doesn’t include all of Des Moines–and that’s not a bad thing to consider for 2022.
  • I attended the Des Moines Marina Association Meetings. Since the group is open to all residents, I would encourage anyone who cares about the Marina (especially condo owners in the Marina District) to join up. These meetings often were where the City first announced various aspects of the Marina Redevelopment proposals (and frankly, seeing information presented at a private organisation before it reached the City Council did not thrill me.)
  • I attended the South King County Housing and Homelessness Partners along with Councilmember Buxton. This is our City’s collaborative effort with Auburn, Burien, Kent, etc. to tackle, well housing and homelessness. 😀
  • I attended Destination Des Moines along with Deputy Mayor Mahoney. DDM organises most of the outdoor events that many of you think are organised by the City, including the Fourth Of July Fireworks, Halloween, Christmas Tree Lighting, etc. (you know, all those things COVID keeps ruining. 😀 )
  • I was a member of our Transportation Committee.
  • I was a member of our Environment Committee, which primarily oversees our Stormwater Utility.

Single event stuff…

  1. Early in the year, Mayor Pina agreed to my proposal to add a New Business item to each meeting Agenda. However, he did so by simply announcing “this is what we’re doing” from the dais and that’s that. I proposed instead creating a new item for our Rules Of Procedure. My concerns were that it was not proper to give the Mayor the ability to change the Order Of Business unilaterally. I also felt strongly that if we did not make it a rule he could also take it away at will.  My proposal was voted down by all my colleagues. And of course, he did drop New Business at several meetings–again, simply by saying so. And I never want to miss an opportunity to repeat: that is not an authority given to the Mayor in Council-Manager government. But if you have the majority and no one is willing to object? You have the authority.
  2. In February, I attended the University Of California Davis Noise Conference. This is the ‘premiere’ event in the group of people who study the effects of aviation impacts on communities. In addition to getting ‘intel’ from the FAA and various updates on research, the value of these events is that you learn what other airport communities and airport staff are doing across America. So when I propose something like the Port Package Update bill and air quality monitoring programs, I already know what is being worked on across America. I am the only Councilmember from Des Moines to attend.
  3. Throughout the spring, I attended a series of conferences around the management of Marinas, including the Pacific Coast Conference Of Harbormasters. I was told I am the first Councilmember from Des Moines to attend any of these. Again, the Marina is a $4,000,000 business for us. I’ve enjoyed sailing around the Salish Sea all these years, comparing the various marinas from a boater’s point of view. But it’s a whole different thing when you start to learn how the management side works.
  4. I proposed a directive to record Council Committee Meetings which passed. The goal now is to make that permanent when we go back to In-Person Meetings. At our ARPA Stimulus Meeting, I proposed funding to make that happen, but that did not even get a vote. Frankly, the sense seemed to be that, even though these are consider Public Meetings, some of my colleagues and staff kinda preferred the fact that almost nobody ever attended them. We need to fix that.
  5. In June I proposed, and the City Council passed, a proclamation declaring the entire month to be LGBTQ Pride Month.
  6. Throughout the year I worked with Rep. Orwall and the University of Washington DEOHS air quality monitoring in a couple of ways, both in contributing to the Budget Proviso language and then as a member of her UFP Advisory Group which last met in September.
  7. In August, the Port of Seattle Commission approved a plan to expand the Port Package program to apartment buildings–most of which are in Des Moines. I’m mentioning this for a couple of reasons.
    • First of all because, well, because it was one of my original nags about Port Packages that began years before I was elected. Think about the area around 25th and Kent Des Moines Road. It’s right under the flight path. Almost all the single family homes received Port Packages twenty years ago. Not to put too fine a point on it, but these are predominantly white residents. While at the same time, apartment dwellers, who are predominantly people of colour, got zilch. That disparity may have been unintentional, but the implications are obvious. The Port was willing to consider this as an issue of equity. Everyone under the flight path deserves sound insulation.
    • Second, the Port used its own money to move ahead. It slow-walked sound insulation systems for years by saying that it would only do homes after it obtained FAA grant money. There was nothing in the regs that said that explicitly. So in addition to this project moving ahead, it set a precedent for future sound insulation projects like the Port Package Update program.

Anyhoo, a huge shout out to Commissioner Stephanie Bowman. This is what real equity looks like and she pushed for it even though it was the least sexy big ticket item imaginable. I mean, no big ‘Maritime High School!’ photo ops on this one. It was simply the right thing to do.   (Yeah, I know I went way into the rough on this one but this is $80 million dollars and those are the details that make things happen.)

  1. I supported using a portion of our ARPA Stimulus spending to support Anew apprenticeship programs in the construction trades. My hope is to help them expand the program to create more Des Moines contractors–something that is very much on the Port’s radar–and also to get more kids into all forms of skilled trades. (Said it before, say it again, I went to trade school and then to college.)
  2. At that same event I proposed a Utility Voucher Program, which was increased by Councilmember Martinelli, and passed.
  3. I sponsored a grant to help Friends Of Saltwater State Park develop a new web site. There was also money set aside for two programs run by Trout Unlimited which will aid in salmon recovery–including an expansion of the very popular Coho Pen at the Marina. (If you wonder why I go on all the time about Saltwater State Park, it has to do with a whole other universe of environmental actions that need to happen in the waters in front of Des Moines. For example, there are literally thousands of old tires in Puget Sound at SWSP, Redondo and our Marina, placed there intentionally in the ’70’s. Oy.)
  4. And finally on the ARPA Stimulus bandwagon, I developed a plan to hire an Environmental Strategist… which went absolutely nowhere. But it is probably the best idea I’ll ever have. Because the one thing I’ve come to realise is that we need someone with the environmental chops to develop a comprehensive plan to increase tree cover, restore sealife, coordinate with sewer districts and storm water, obtain proper mitigations with the airport–and then do the lobbying to make it all happen. The environment here is the long game.
  5. At our last Budget Meeting of the year, I proposed several small amendments, one of which was to fix the City web site as well as provide a phone app to enable residents to report public safety concerns, file Fix-it requests and receive emergency alerts from any mobile device with a single click. The Mayor did not allow that to even come to the table, but given the recent increase in both crime and emergency requests, I am even more certain now that it was a good idea and I will be bringing it back.
  6. In November I received my Certificate Of Municipal Leadership (CML) from the Association of Washington Cities. The AWC has a number of education programs like this (including one our Deputy City Clerk just received.) The CML is not anything super-difficult. It’s simply a way to stay on track with topics you should be studying as a matter of course. In some cities the majority of Councilmembers obtain a CML as a matter of course.
  7. And in December, Rep. Orwall and Sen. Keiser reconvened many of the people who helped pass legislation to enable Port Package Updates. The Port was inching its way to properly funding the program, but COVID dropped a bomb on that. I don’t wanna jinx it, but I’m optimistic about 2022. 🙂 So if you are having problems with your Port Package, please contact SeatacNoise.Info and get on their list of.

Constituent stuff…

  1. There were over 75 constituent requests I helped residents navigate. I did a double take when I looked at my calendar. No wonder I’m tired! 😀 And a word about that: a Councilmember cannot ‘intervene’ on anyone’s behalf. My ‘Dad Joke’ used to be, “I can’t fix your parking tickets.” I stopped saying that because instead of falling down laughing, many people seemed genuinely disappointed. And that indicated to me that we had some educatin’ to do.

But just because I can’t fix parking tickets does not mean you shouldn’t contact a Councilmember if you have an issue.

  • First of all, we probably know how to navigate the system better than most people. You may not know who to call or what procedure to follow. We probably do–or know who does.
  • And second of all, though we cannot ‘intervene’ we are tasked with oversight. If you’re having difficulties, the Council is unaware until you tell us. The Administration does not give us routine reports about services it provides or complaints they receive. But by cc’ing me on an issue, that allows me to monitor how we’re doing.

Anyhoo, among the various issues I helped residents resolve were:

  • Business development
  • Permitting
  • Public safety
  • Signage
  • Tenant/Landlord Issues
  • Trees
  • Traffic calming
  1. And last but not least, there’s this. And by this I mean this ‘blog’. Love it, hate it, it’s an objective fact that this blog was the single biggest draw to public participation at City Council and Committee meetings in 2021. Really.Public engagement is nowhere near where it needs to be, but more people are engaging with the City now. People think I’m exaggerating, but before I was elected, months and months would go by where I was the only person at a City Council Meeting who wasn’t paid to be there.Also, I want to mention that the whole idea of doing the blog is 100% Kosher for Passover. There has been this ongoing trolling of various sorts such as:
    • Doing a blog without my colleagues’ permission is ‘illegal’
    • Showing any public disagreement after a vote is ‘illegal’

    Neither of those are true. But over and over, colleagues and trolls would throw out this rubbish simply because they dislike it the way a lot of people say “Honey, let’s not fight in front of the kids!” But dislike is not illegal, immoral or even fattening. And saying so is two lumps of coal for you, from Santy. Because when people throw out that sort of crap, it’s basically daring me to publicly shame them, which I have absolutely no desire to do.

    And in conclusion…

    If I could accomplish only one thing (OK two things) during my time in office it would not be any ‘legislation’ it would be to convince people of this:

    • Good government works better. It saves money, serves more people. Swear to God. I know many of you (most of you) believe that “it’s not what ya know it’s who ya know”, but that is as wrong as when you try to steer your car against the skid. I know how ‘right’ that feels with every muscle in your being. It also yields poor results.
    • It takes a ridiculously small number of residents to change City policy on anything. But you have to show up and you have to do things a certain way. It annoys my colleagues and every municipal employee in the history of municipal employees to read that, but not because it’s untrue. Rather because no one (including moi) likes to be nagged. No one respects our staff more than I.

But our City is one big customer service center that you pay for. We’re here to serve you. You don’t have to feel sorry for us. Your job as a resident is to tell us when you need service and advocate productively for the things you want. As me Gran used to say, “I’m not a mind reader, JC.” 😀 And I’m always puzzled by people who feel guilty for reporting a legit issue.

Those of you who showed up this year now know what I’m telling you works, and in this age of cynicism and COVID, you have no idea how much I appreciate your willingness to steer with the skid.

Keep up the great work in 2022. 🙂

Weekly Update: 12/12/2021

Posted on Categories Public Safety, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates2 Comments on Weekly Update: 12/12/2021

Public Service Announcements

And just in time for the holidays: OMICRON! Fortunately, the current vaccines are effective, free and you can get your appointment today here and here , including walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. Get your four free at-home COVID tests from the Federal government now! But wait, there’s more! You can also get more free at home COVID tests from the State Of Washington Department Of Health!
  2. Saturday January 22 10AM-Noon Trout Unlimited salmon fish plant in Normandy Park contact John Muramatsu
  3. Saturday March 12 10AM-Noon Downtown Cleanup. Sign up with Destination Des Moines!
  4. Here is a video link to the 24th Avenue Road Improvement Project Open House and ways you can comment.
  5. On Saturday January 15 there was a Tsunami Alert. Not a bad time to remind you to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan, sign up for the King County Emergency Alert Program and join the Trusted Partner Network
  6. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoineswa.gov.
  7. The Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  8. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  9. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  10. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  11. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  12. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda)

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

Friday: South King County Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) Executive Board (Agenda)

City Manager Pay Increase

The City Manager is asking for a step increase from †M49D, which is $224k plus various benefits to  M49E $235k, plus benis; a 5% increase. Last year he chose not to accept any increase due to COVID. Page 45 of the Agenda Packet  includes a report he submitted listing his accomplishments.

Here is the City Manager’s current contract: January 23, 2020 City Council Packet. (As I’ve mentioned, it seems to require two performance reviews each year. That second one has not happened in either of my years on the Council.)

On page 44, the motion describing his Performance Review says

“Overall, across 28 performance metrics, the City Manager received 22 scores of “EXCELLENT” and 6 scores of “GOOD.” He did not receive any final ratings of “ACCEPTABLE,” “POOR” or “UNACCEPTABLE.””

This is one of those statements that is accurate, but not exactly true. So some background on the review process might be helpful.

  • Performance Reviews begin with the City Attorney sending that list of accomplishments to the City Council along with a questionnaire with 28 Rating Categories and room for comments on each category.
  • Those written reviews are then compiled by the City Attorney and we see that compilation before the meeting. This provides the talking points for the in-person review.
  • Councilmember Martinelli did not submit a written review. This is his second no-review.
  • My ratings were 8 Unacceptable, 2 Poor, 2 Acceptable, 1 Good. The vast majority I left blank simply because I had no way to answer in any meaningful way. The majority of my review was in the form of commentary. I’ll publish the full compilation (including my colleagues) as soon as I hear back from the City.
  • The actual ‘review’ is then done in a private Executive Session. This allows for a candid discussion of those talking points.
  • The City Manager is present for the entire discussion. There is never a moment where it’s just the seven of us. (In fact, since I have been on the City Council there has never been a moment like that.)
  • Based on the above parameters (including, let’s just say ‘personal experience’)  I had concerns that things might not go in an exactly high-minded fashion. 😀 So ahead of the meeting I  sent this e-mail to the City Attorney. I received no response.
  • Councilmember Martinelli, who was present for the public portion of the meeting, did not attend the E/S.
  • The E/S was scheduled for sixty minutes. It ended after about thirty because, frankly, people ran out of praise. There was no ‘discussion’ of specific items, good, bad, indifferent. (Although, as occasionally happens, I got hints about various ‘projects’ that others are aware of, but not moi–and certainly not the public.)

To summarise, there were five reviews that can only be described as radiant; one no-show; and one that describes “100 violations of the International City/County Management Association Code Of Ethics.”

In statistics, if the overwhelming majority of the samples go one way, one might be tempted to dismiss a single ‘outlier’.  But this is not statistics. It’s seven electeds whose concerns are supposed to carry equal weight. Despite the severity and specificity of my concerns, none were or ever have been addressed. In other words, the ‘outlier’ was not evaluated; it was simply discarded.

On the contrary, my five present colleagues were glowing in their praise to the extent that two were moved to tears.

The relationship between the City Manager and councilmembers is unlike any other. If any member of our staff had concerns similar to those I have raised in my written review, our H/R director would be legally required to perform an investigation. But councilmembers are exempt from that requirement. In Des Moines, there is no enforcement mechanism for the ethical treatment of a councilmember other than a majority of the City Council.

About those Tears…

At that last pay raise discussion on January 23, 2020, Deputy Mayor Vic Pennington (who was resigning) also cried in paying a final tribute to the City Manager. In this video, he said If we lose [Michael Matthias], we lose this city. After wiping his tears, he then pulled out a piece of paper and read a motion from the dais increasing the City Manager’s severance package from six to eighteen months.

Now, you may find my tone a bit snarky. But (4)I do not believe that one should ever suggest that the success of a government depends on a single person. So if you see any tears on Thursday, hang onto yer wallet.

Last Week

Tuesday: 9AM. Port Of Seattle, State Of The Port  This is a pre-recorded presentation. The Port is rolling in cash. 🙂

Tuesday: Police Advisory Committee. There was talk from a couple of residents about ways to keep the police aware about specific neighbourhoods. I’m starting to nag everyone about phones. We should be able to reach the public and they should be able to reach the police easily. Reason #327 on why we need a better web site.

I gotta be more careful: I forget that people often take me literally when I’m trying to be generic. I often use the intentionally imprecise term ‘web site’ because the more correct term ‘digital presence’ means nothing to most residents. What you want is a way for residents and the City to engage; instantly when necessary. If the word ‘instant’ sounds like it might have something to do with a phone? Now yer catching on. A cell phone is how the majority of residents engage with the world, regardless of age or any other demographic. So the City ‘web site’ needs to be able to respond to and reach everyone’s phone, for a variety of purposes–including public safety.

Tuesday: 5:30PM Behavioural Health Forum. Sen. Keiser, Sen. Wilson and Rep. Orwall attended, along with other electeds and community health care providers. I learned about a number of resources in Kent which is good.

It’s frustrating that we still have no idea what ride-along mental health professionals  will do. How they’re deployed? How to find services for people who are not homeless, just close to homeless? See, I’m used to *experimenting. I have no problem spending some money to figure out what works and what doesn’t.. What I struggle with is that we budget for stuff, without clearly explaining what we’re doing or saying that we’re experimenting. And that fuels public distrust. If you don’t tell people, “Look, this may or may not work.” They assume that when it doesn’t that you just wasted public money. We have to find a way to sell the value of these policies beyond ‘humanity’. If we’re spending public safety dollars, we have to demonstrate that these policies really do improve safety and save money.

Wednesday: Salmon Count at McSorley Creek.  After some initially very optimistic results, things have dropped off (sigh).

Wednesday: Sea-Tac Airport Roundtable (StART)

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)  (Video)

City Council Meeting Recap

Human Services Advisory Committee Presentation

The majority of the meeting you saw involved presentations by two very worthy organisations we help fund through our Human Services Advisory Committee (HSAC). I don’t want to beat a dead horse, but I have singled out the HSAC for a great deal of attention as to what is wrong with our government, not because it is more problematic than other aspects, but because it demonstrates what the Mayor calls ‘the proof is in the pudding’.

The ‘pudding’ we see is not the problem. The two presenters, Teenlink and Anew are doing great work that anyone can get behind. The problem is that neither the public (or the Council) sees how the Committee works.

Not to torture the metaphor, but I used to own a small restaurant. Using Mayor Pina’s analogy, so long as the pudding looks good, the costs, the ingredients, the suppliers are irrelevant.

It’s shameless because it makes anyone who asks to see the back of the house look both heartless and suspicious. It’s a shield against a basic standard of accountability for public money. And that’s the mantra I have repeated for two years: any attempt to require the most basic standards of accountability are met with defensiveness. In fact, you can’t even talk about this because it implies some ‘guilt by association’. No matter how hard I try to compliment the organisations we support and the members of the HSAC, all most of you will remember is the complaint I’m making about the process. It’s insidious.

And it reminds me a bit of things like property crime or airplane noise. This sort of low-level funny business has become so chronic that even mentioning it makes one sound like a whiner. “Hey, that’s just how things are, man.” It doesn’t seem to occur to anyone that:

  • This is not how things work in cities literally next door to us.
  • The chronic exposure to bad process makes one numb to what it is doing to us as a government and as a community. I’m always struck by how many people will go on holiday somewhere. And when they return they’re like, “Wow, it’s really LOUD here!” 😀 That’s what low-level corruption is like. You can’t understand what it’s doing to you unless you’re able to get away from it for a while.

Downtown Alley

This project is, in a nutshell, to underground the utility poles and repave the alley behind Marine View Drive from 223rd to 227th. The Consent Agenda item was to authorise a $163,000 increase to the project from $541,000 to $704,000.

And again, this is where to you I probably look pissy. But the Transportation Committee was told on November 18 that “there might be a dynamic change order.” But we were given neither a description of what that entails or the possible cost.

I guess the property owners wanted some adjustments? Fine. But instead of bringing those concerns and costs to the Transportation Committee for a discussion, the City simply drops $163,000 onto the Consent Agenda.

But if you look at the packet, the administration knew exactly what the change was and the cost because the invoice from Puget Sound Electric is right there. The Transportation Committee never got to see or discuss the change order because it had already happened.

The City Council is supposed to approve costs above $50,000. Which means that we’re supposed to decide before the City spends large amounts of money. That did not happen. The Administration must have had some form of communication with PSE along the lines of, “Just do it. The Council vote is just a formality.” So there was no discussion as to whether or not it was even a good idea. The Administration bypasses the process because they know there will be no objection.

During the meeting, I asked if this was the final cost? And I was told that this is the end of Phase 1. The problem is that I have no idea what ‘Phase 2’ means. And I was just gonna let it go. I do it all the time. Cause I’m nice. 🙂

But one of my colleagues (see I did not mention that person by name 😀 ) just had to pipe up and talk about how, even with a one third increase, it was still a good deal because ‘roads cost a million dollars a mile.’

OK, now you’re annoying me. It’s not a mile. And it’s not a public road. It’s five blocks. Of re-paving. And undergrounding. In a service alley. For commercial property owners. It serves no public benefit.

What I have not been able to properly communicate to my colleagues or to the public is that, NEWSFLASH: the City Of Des Moines does print money.

So every dollar we spend has to come from somewhere else. And in this case, that $163,000 is coming out of street repaving. I’ve seen troll posts on social media saying “Harris should worry more about fixing pot holes and stop complaining!”

Look, we just made concessions to property owners. And that sounds very nice of us. But to do so, we took $163,000 which is supposed to be used to fix your potholes, Mr. Smarty Pants. And we did that without a proper discussion. And whether you agree with this or not, I think we can all agree that $163,000 fixes a lot of pot holes.

Really explore the space…

What I’ve been trying to get at for two years is: Why are we doing this project? I think (which is not in any actual, you know, document, just word of mouth) is that the ‘concept’ is an alley, originally meant for delivery trucks, is transformed into a hip walking place with clubs and restaurants that connects people to both ends of the Marina. If I’m wrong? Not my fault. I have asked.

But references have been made to Post Alley in Seattle. I am also visualising something akin to where I used to live, in lower Manhattan (West SOHO) Either would be, as the kids say, totally awesome.

Post Alley and SOHO developed organically over about a hundred years because the existing architecture favoured the outcome. Without those historic brick buildings with entrances that face into the alley you do not get a Kells or a Pink Door. It’s the reason people like me were/are willing to walk up four flights of stairs to live in what are basically run down buildings. Charm and history are big selling points.

Please take a walk down our alley from 227th to 223rd. In the immortal words of Bruce Dickinson, “Really explore the space.” Do you see that five block stretch morphing into Post Alley or SOHO any time soon?

I keep harping on this kinda stuff because, even staunch supporters of the Administration acknowledge any number of these cognitive dissonances. But it never seems to occur to anyone that if that idea doesn’t sound fully baked, why should any of the other proposals (boutique hotel, adaptive purpose building) be any more legit? Luke 16:10.

City Manager Performance Review

One last thing about this. This is a big deal for me because aside from all the lofty ‘legislation and oversight’ functions, the two big pillar jobs of a councilmember are: pass a budget and manage the City Manager.

If you sense a recurring ‘theme’ in this week’s ranting, it is purely coincidental. Every meeting we scrupulously follow certain formalities–like taking a pointless vote to Adjourn The Meeting. It all looks very official. And I think that it just serves to cover up the fact that we are chronically avoiding the processes that actually mean something.


*I mention it because it has not been reserved for Mr. Matthias. When I first started attending City Council meetings here I would hear that level of reverence for a variety of people. I was told (and am still told) that it is “just the normal political exaggeration.” That is simply untrue. I do not hear that level of excess in other governments. And I believe that, over time, it has further eroded our ability to tell truth to power. When that sort of flattery is normative, basically any form of questioning becomes threatening.

†aka ‘throwing shit at the wall to see what sticks.’ 😀

‡And if you don’t get the Bruce Dickinson reference, you may want to leave the creation of a hip downtown alley to someone else.

4For anyone who reads down this far and watches Vic Pennington’s statement, I actually agree with his remarks from 2:36:06 to 2:36:20 or so. The City was in just terrible shape for the entire time Vic and Pina were on the Council. He’s not exaggerating that bit at all. But surrounding that? Hoo boy. There’s just so much to unpack. The statements about the City Manager’s effectiveness re. Sea-Tac Airport? Even the bit about how the public did not want Des Moines to be broken up? Nonsense. If one had taken a vote in 2015 and actually gave voters a choice on various ‘Annexation Do-Overs’, in some neighbourhoods the vote would have been very close. I’m thrilled we did not go down that road, but…