Weekly Update: 01/17/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates7 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/17/2021

If you check the site you’ll see a few tweaks. The Public Service Announcements now have their own page so you can always see what’s current. And the COVID-19 info has moved to the top next to the hat. You should check there because there are some big changes to do with finding out where/when you can get vaccinated and which new benefits are available for small business and unemployment.

Public Service Announcements

  1. The new round of Federal PPP loan program just opened up. And it is much better than the first round last year. If you need more information, here is a presentation from the Small Business Administration with lots of links to more information.
  2. There is new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  3. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

  1. Thursday: Environment Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  2. Thursday: Transportation Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  3. Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

You can (and should) attend any of these meetings by signing up at:  https://www.desmoineswa.gov/FormCenter/City-Forms-3/Council-Meeting-Comments-49 by 4PM the day of the meeting.

Last Week

  1. Wednesday: I attended a small business administration webinar hosted by Congressman Adam Smith. There was some great info on the new PPP loan program. Check it out!
  2. Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association meeting.
  3. Somewhere in there I had a meeting with the University Of Washington Department Of Environment And Occupational Health Sciences (UWDEOHS), the people who are doing so much great work on air quality around Sea-Tac Airport. This meeting was  to finalize the air quality monitor proposal. Please read that proposal. Now!
  4. Saturday: There was a Downtown Clean-Up organized by Salon Michelle’s Michelle Fawcett-Johnson. And I had absolutely nothing to do with it. But that ain’t gonna stop me from talking about it, no sirree! 😀

Now what?

As I said, I conveniently missed the downtown cleanup. So I walked along MVD and 7th Avenue today seeing the results and talking to local business people. Everyone is grateful of course, but there’s also the question of, “OK, Now what?”

One reason I am so jazzed about the idea of ‘cleanups’ in general is not about the trash per sé, but because they can act as a catalyst towards much more transformational change.

For example, what got Midway Park turned around was at least partly the cleanups and the Garden organized by Alena Rogers. At first, it was a bit disheartening to me because the trash began re-appearing almost immediately. So… another one was organized. And then another. And another. And for whatever reason, after a couple of years the changes became somewhat ‘sticky’. The cleanups are necessary less often. The crime has been reduced dramatically. It turns out that if people pay attention, good things happen. And after the area became more inviting, then the City came in with grants and new equipment. Next year the park will be extended even further. That’s one way real change occurs.

I’m so glad that Michelle got fired up enough to organize this. She did a great job. And I’m sure she’ll get even more people for the next cleanup. So perhaps, as with Midway Park, it will become a ‘thing’ beyond one person’s activism and drive much more substantial change.

But again, what will that change look like? I ask because we’ve already made a number of cosmetic improvements to MVD in the past few years–like the summer planters that everyone loves. Cool. But my feeling is that it’s time to really consider moving beyond cosmetics. You can make the place cleaner. You can reduce the number of vagrants. Those are good things and I am not minimizing those changes at all. They are real. But then you gotta take it to the next level.

So what does that look like? How can we leverage this enthusiasm into something more transformational–as is happening at Midway Park and Pacific Ridge?

Backwards

One thing that young people don’t realize is that what we think of as ‘the ‘business district’ along Marine View Drive isn’t where it’s supposed to be.  The reason MVD acts as such a traffic magnet is because it was always supposed to be the road heading south. The ‘business district’ should actually have been along Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Those two streets are the ‘walkable neighborhood’ that everyone always dreams about.

Somewhere along the way, previous city governments made the absolutely terrible decisions to literally flip those two functions–zoning for apartments and condos where the walkable business center should be. And then promoting businesses on cockamamie strip malls along MVD. That is what now makes it so difficult to create a cohesive ‘downtown’. And we did it for the same reason we’ve always done such things: short term cash from developers, with no consideration for the long-term implications. And that Dear Reader, is why I always grouse about ‘planning’.

Apparently, it’s not useful crying over spilt milk. But at the end of the day, that’s gonna be the challenge if we ever want to make Des Moines a ‘destination’. We’re gonna have to start incentivizing development to move the gravity of downtown back to where it was always meant to be. Which should take, oh I dunno, five maybe six weeks, right? 😀

Seriously, it’s gonna be hard. And it’s gonna take years. Which means that there will be resistance–as there is to anything challenging.  There is a momentum to planning mistakes which often keeps nudging one down the road to even more mistakes (like losing the Masonic Home and the Van Gasken House). It’s like a strong current in a river. But at some point, if you ever want your City to live up to its potential, you gotta start pushing back against that current.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Michelle’s cleanup. 😀 I’m so glad that so many people signed up and followed through. Whenever I see a group of Des Moines residents get organized to do something like this I gets to dreaming about bigger things. 😉

Mid-Weekly Update: 01/14/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Mid-Weekly Update: 01/14/2021

This Weekly Update is even later than usual due to a big outage at my web hosting company. The entire web site was down, up, then down again for three days. Apparently, someone forgot to feed the hamster. 😀 Sorry for the inconvenience, but as always, it’s interesting to see just how many people are actually even noticing this thing. 😀

And yes, I did get my car back. It’s in the shop now trying to determine why the check engine light is now on.  😯 Thanks for all the nice notes. 🙂

Public Service Announcements

  1. The new round of Federal PPP loan program just opened up. And it is much better than the first round last year. If you need more information, here is a presentation from the Small Business Administration with lots of links to more information.
  2. There will be a Downtown Clean-Up this Saturday January 16th at 10AM organized by Salon Michelle’s Michelle Fawcett-Johnson. Show up at Salon Michelle to take part.
  3. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  4. 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.
  5. 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.
  6. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Well…. this week is almost over so… You’ll just have to read about it next week. 😀

Last Week

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda, Video, Recap)

Council Meeting Recap

Executive Session

The meeting opened with an Executive Session regarding possible legal stuff involving land stuff. I was admonished by the City Attorney to not be any more specific than that. 😀 No, really. But I will say that there was one attorney there who was not Tim George and who spoke for almost 50 minutes about how bad it might be for the City if any CM talks in public with regard to that possible legal land stuff. And then I asked some questions about how the public might do something about… er… something. The most titillating moments of the discussion involved the phrases ‘safe sex’ and ‘abstinence’. 😯 And then a couple of other CMs asked some questions… regarding this blog.  😀 Because, at the end, when the attorney who was not Tim George said at least twenty times, “I’m not singling out any particular Councilmember” I got the clear impression that about 50% of the whole thing was definitely for the benefit of one particular Councilmember.

But as I said from the dais: I’m about 100% sure that almost none of this should have been private. In fact, it contained information that the public should know about the proper role of the City (and Councilmembers) when it comes to…er…. ‘land stuff’. 😀 But ironically none of it was about that ‘land stuff’. Rather it was mainly about how concerned Cities must be about litigation. In short: it was an interesting civics lesson that we should try to find a legal way to present to interested residents.

Tree Cover

There was a really good presentation by Ali Lakehart of the Green Cities Partnership on tree cover in Des Moines. For me, the takeaway is that we have to find ways to have more trees in DM. The current estimated tree cover is 29%–which is a lot less than in the past due to the Port and commercial development. New residential developments tend not to have as many trees as older neighborhoods. Plus businesses have very few trees on their properties. Aside from aesthetics, trees are especially important in an airport community to maintain air quality and provide noise reduction. They can even improve yer mood. 🙂 (Seriously–look at the presentation.)

Masonic Home

But speaking of something which could not possibly have anything to do with the aforementioned Executive Session, City Manager Michael Matthias gave a great presentation on the current state of the Masonic Home.

And… that was about it. 😀 No, actually there was a Consent Agenda which was, unlike so many other meetings, exactly what a Unanimous Consent Agenda should be. Non-controversial. 🙂

Councilmember Comments

There were three sets of comments that were noteworthy. Which is about… oh… three more than usual. (I’m keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeding. 😀 )

Deputy Mayor Matt Mahoney spoke practically about the storm water situation–how residents can and should report problems. Here is the City Fixit Form for reporting any kind of general problem you want the City to look at. He also reminded residents that it’s fine (and appreciated) to help out  and clear minor storm water clogs. (I would caution trying to unclog big openings, especially during storms like last night. The drains process tons of water and it’s slippier than ya think. We don’t want anyone getting injured trying to be a good citizen. 🙂 ) Frankly, as a member of the Environment Committee, I should be making those sorts of suggestions. Darn him. 😀

Luisa Bangs made a speech regarding the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C. I generally don’t comment on national events unless they have a direct connection to something specific for Des Moines , but I agree with much of what she said and especially her passion on issues of racism.

The bulk of my comments had to do with a national issue that definitely has a direct link to Des Moines: The large number of people, especially people who serve the public, who are deciding not to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Frankly, I find this to be completely unacceptable.

All the leading scientists are quite clear: we will not get past COVID-19 until 80-90% of people are vaccinated. If electeds, public employees, front-line workers, business owners, religious leader and other influencers opt out that sets a horrible example for the rest of the public. We simply must create a sense of shared civic duty around this issue. I want to encourage every employee of the City Of Des Moines to set the right example and get vaccinated the moment it is offered. And as a resident, I want you also to get the shots as soon as possible! I know many of you have your reasons for not wanting the vaccine (eg. if yer a Black person in America you totally have yer reasons.) But do it anyway.  This is the only way we will all be able to be safe and go back to living normal lives.

As a nation, we’ve done just about everything wrong when it came to dealing with the pandemic. This is our chance to take control of the situation and finally put it to an end. Do the right thing. Get vaccinated. No excuses.

Weekly Update: 01/03/2021

Posted on Categories Airport, Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates6 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/03/2021

Happy New Year!

I’ve been on the job for one year. And frankly, it’s sometimes hard to tell how I’m doing–especially being in the minority, where one rarely wins the day. But perhaps one metric is this mailing list. Like so many things during the pandemic, it went up, down and sideways. But most weeks I got over 500 views. That’s either a lot of love or a lot of the other thing. 😀 But either way I got people talking.  I am very grateful for all the feedback.

2021 will be a big year for Des Moines. Once we get past this little pandemic-speed bump thing there will be an election for four Council seats. (not mine, Thank God. 😀 ) So I hope you’ll stay engaged and start making yourself heard!

Public Service Announcements

  1. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

The highlight (as of this writing) will be something you don’t get to see: an Executive Session regarding the Masonic Home. And yeah, we’re starting the year the way we ended last year: I have been admonished by our City Attorney against speaking up in support of saving the place. Way to go First Amendment. NOT! 😀

I am not a fan of Executive Sessions–except to say that they are the only place I ever get to talk to my colleagues in any meaningful way.

The City (for the 46th time in 2020) stonewalled my basic requests for information on the Masonic Home. All the info that I (and CM Buxton) requested, which should be 100% public, has to (unnecessarily) wait for an Executive Session. I hope there is some seriously juicy info that I don’t know about which explains the lack of action over the past 10+ years. But for now, it just seems like another bit of vindictive behavior towards a Councilmember and that should not thrill you.

Last Two Weeks

Or: “How I spent my holidays.” 😀

Grand Theft Auto

First, my car was stolen from a well-lit public place. But the good news is that I got a first hand experience of the Des Moines PD handling car theft. The DM Officers were courteous as expected, but there were a few hiccoughs that other residents have told me about that I hope we can work on soon.

  • I got transferred 3xs during the 911 hand-offs. There are ongoing glitches in the whole 911 system. It’s not our City’s ‘fault’ per se, but it does need looking into as I hear this complaint from residents aaaaaaaaaall the time.
  • And I found out that if you want to get a routine copy of your police report, you have to make a public records request. My guess is that this confuses a lot of residents so I’d like to see a direct link on the PD page that says “Click here to get your police report.”
  • And in talking to both the police and residents and former police I get the distinct impression of “well, that’s life in 2021, whaddaya gonna do?” At the risk of sounding like ‘OK, Boomer’, I think we have to do something. It’s corrosive to the fabric of society to make what we used to call ‘grand theft auto’ into a collective shoulder shrug.

The Masonic Home

Second, I did spend a good deal of time researching the Masonic Home and I learned a few things: First, how totally aware the rest of Washington is about this building. I thought that at least a part of the reason it hadn’t been rescued was because no one else knows about it. Nope. Everybody at all levels of government and in philanthropy knows. And they want it to be saved. The message I heard over and over was that they’ve been waiting for our City to get fully engaged.

As I’ve written is at least part of the problem is philosophical. We have had an extremely strong tradition of property rights on our City Council, so no matter how special a building is, there will be lots of people who simply do not believe in the City getting involved. But the thing I want to stress is that no one I’ve spoken with wants anything but a healthy return for the current owner. Whatever solution that arises has to be a real win-win for all parties. And that shouldn’t be hard. There are many really great ideas for preserving the property and creating value for the owner.

The Airport and the water

Third, as you know, I’ve been continuing work on the History Of Sea-Tac Airport project with SeatacNoise.Info. Over the holidays, I did a ton of digging into the earliest days of Sea-Tac Airport–even before the big change of 1961. Now this whole ‘history’ game is not easy work because obviously, a lot of people are now gone. Also there’s the pandemic, so getting access to paper records is problematic.

This is Sea-Tac Airport c. 1948. The ‘x’ pattern is the original two runways. Shortly after Des Moines incorporated in 1959 the angled runway was removed and the horizontal runway was lengthened into what is now the First (east) runway–the one which tracks directly over so many of our schools on 24th. That was the ‘big change’.

I put this up because, if you’re under seventy-ish you probably don’t realize how much the entire landscape of our area has changed.  There was a marvelous wetland system that surrounded the airport (including underneath what are now the second and third runways.) There were houses and forests and active creeks with lots of fish from the back end on 188th all the way south to 216th.

Which is my way of leading up to telling you just how awful the Port (and the airlines) treated the surrounding environment until at least the 1970’s. But back then the issue was not so much noise or air pollution but water. For decades the airlines dumped raw aviation waste directly into every major creek as well as Puget Sound. One property owner famously demonstrated the problem by walking over to a rock in the north end of Des Moines Creek and setting it on fire with a lighted match! The damage the airport did to the entire eco-system is unbelievable and probably irreparable.

The Port has been successfully sued at least a dozen times to create and improve this state of affairs. In fact, those law suits over ‘water’ were the ones that held up Third Runway construction for over a decade; nothing to do with ‘noise’ or ‘air pollution’. Water. And the Port still hasn’t finished that clean up. Just this year they’re spending $800k to clean up Miller Creek in Burien. But that’s really just continuing to mitigate bad acts dating back to the 1950’s.

Other than giving you a sad story, the point for today has to do with expectations. See the Port is only paying to clean up that creek–nothing more. But when creeks die or the forests are cut down or homes are removed, it permanently damages the City. It reduces property values, increases our costs, makes our City less desirable, and it reduces our property tax rolls (which means we then have to tax you more to make up the lost income.)

Say I injured you in a car accident. You have surgery, but even after that you’ve got some permanent disability. I agree to pay for your surgery, but nothing else; nothing to help you deal with your ongoing problems, including permanent loss of income. Does that sound fair?

That has always been the essential problem with the airport–when it harms surrounding Cities it may pay the proximate costs (if one is willing to sue) but that is all. It never makes Cities whole by covering the true damages. And they can do that because, unlike other airports in America, we don’t own it. The Port does. And it is our failure, as airport communities, to have not fully recognized this inequity and done all we can to be fairly compensated.

Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays and all that sort of thing. Just pretend I know how to insert a really clever ‘meme’ or Santa emoji <here>. 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. Sunday’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved!
  2. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

Last Week

Tuesday: South County Combined Are Transportation Board (SCATBd) Meeting.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Ferry Study. This is different from the study the City has launched with private consultants. The PSRC did not find evidence of sufficient demand for a State-run ferry. This matters because a private ferry system would likely be funded by airport and cruise ship operations. And the last thing in Des Moines should be doing is enabling more flights from Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: A conference with Congressman Adam Smith regarding an FAA Rule Change which would, in effect, make the language of the State law HB 2315 (which allows the Port to repair and update pre-existing sound insulation systems) as a Federal regulation and thus of benefit to all American airport communities. The news was not good. According to his staff, there has been push back from electeds in district with airports. I have another private meeting scheduled to understand the ‘why’? Frankly, any congressman who votes against this is basically telling his residents, “I could care less about your health.”

The Masonic Home

There has been a certain amount of the old Much Ado About Nothing on social media this week in response to a Seattle Times Article about the impending demise of the Masonic Home.

As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of saving the place since, basically forever. I even made that one of my main campaign videos when I ran:

I want to clear up some misinformation, which I hope you will help me share to the public, because frankly, I get worn out countering the same stuff over and over and over and over. And over…  (Ah… I do believe I hear the native call of the Whiny Northwestern Sextagenarian 😀 )

  1. Neither the Seattle Times or Thunderword articles contain any new information. So all previous comments expressing the sentiment that “I guess it’s decided” are incorrect. Nothing has changed.
  2. The current status of the building is that it is owned by a private developer who keeps renewing a demolition permit with the City (demo permits have a 180 day expiration date, but are renewable.)
  3. Other than renewing that permit, the City claims that have had no contact from the developer, nor do they have any ideas on their intentions.
  4. There will be public hearings if/when the developer takes next steps towards either demolition or planning.
  5. And that makes me want to know why the reporter chose to do the story now. IOW: there’s no ‘news’ so why run this now?
  6. It also makes me wonder how the reporter picked up the story. IOW: we don’t get a ton of stories about DM so someone must’ve convinced the reporter to write this and get it printed. Who?
  7. And then there’s a line in there where the reporter says that, according to the City, “it was sold without any pushback from local residents”. This is simply untrue. The public has made it clear for over a decade that they really want the place saved. What they (we) have been told over and over and over and over by the City is that “there is nothing to be done about it.” The City has never made any serious efforts to save the building. It has been the City’s position that this is like any other private sale and in fact have made every effort to downplay any possibility that the public could play a part in saving the building.
  8. This bears repeating: The public was told over and over that there was nothing they could do. But that is not true. If the City had taken a position of fully supporting restoration and preservation, things could have gone quite differently. There have never been any town meetings or substantial form of public engagement to discuss the situation and ask the public to consider other options. (Contrast that with the Burien Annex–where the Burien City Council held several public meetings to discuss alternatives and really listen to stakeholders.)
  9. Finally, apart from saving the building, I have very practical concerns about the current zoning. Note that it was re-zoned as ‘IC’ which means an institutional purpose similar to Wesley or Judson. I have been told over and over by residents in the neighborhood that you are not thrilled with a significant increase in traffic at that intersection. And I don’t blame you.

Irish Castles?

Many of you will make the decidedly free-market argument that, “It’s a nice building, but… the Masons let it rot, so why should we foot the bill?” And my answer is “Irish Castles”.

As many of you know, I grew up in Ireland. And when Ireland first gained independence in the 20’s, we had hundreds of broken down castles left over from English landlords who, just like the Masons today, could no longer afford the upkeep on their very nice private properties. Now Ireland as a whole was dirt poor back then. Like Albania poor. Americans have no idea. So the huge argument for leaders was: sell these lands to farmers or developers for much needed short-term cash or preserve it for future generations. That is essentially the same choice as here: the City can promote a private sale and pocket the one-time money or help to invest in the property for the long-term good of the City.

Now a lot of those fancy lands were sold off for development, but the most significant of these falling down estates were turned into ‘monuments’; a policy which made absolutely no short-term financial sense. But over the long term this strategy has been an absolutely genius move for Ireland, both in terms of tourism and more general economic development. It turns out that having a truly unique place drives a lot of good things to your neighbourhood.

Every time the City Of Des Moines has renovated a building it has paid big dividends. Want proof? Just visit the Field House on 220th or the Beach Park Auditorium. Done right, historic preservation always pays over the long -term.

As I’ve written, the Masonic Home is one of the top five most significant combinations of architecture/grounds in the entire region. The competition is extremely thin because Puget Sound has never really placed a high value on historical buildings. All the more reason to save this amazing property for future generations It’s completely unique and it’s all ours.

One last thing for me to gush on. As anyone who approaches Des Moines from the water, the Masonic Home is the defining landmark. Not the Marina; the Masonic Home. For me as a sailor, it literally guides one home to Des Moines.

Costs?

As jazzed as I am about the place, I fully acknowledge that the costs of renovating the place would be somewhere between ‘seriously expensive‘ and ‘are you shitting me, dude?‘.

In addition to all the other work that was never done, there are probably earthquake retrofits, hazmat remediation and on and on and on. It’s not a money pit, it’s probably a money crater from that asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

And. I. do. not. care.

This is the one time you will hear me talk about going big on public spending because I believe I can make a strong case that, in addition to the historic importance of the building, the Masonic Home is essential to the City’s long term financial and civic success–certainly as much as the Marina.

I hope it goes without saying that we can’t do it all on our own. We should aggressively court investors and Federal and State funding. And we’ve got some of the best legislators at both levels to help us do it (as well as infrastructure spending likely coming in the next administration.) But we have to be willing to do at least our part.

The South End

The City of Des Moines is actually a collection of about a dozen annexations from the original very small geography established in 1959. And since then almost all of the City’s resources have focused on this northern end of town. But nowadays, the majority of residents actually live in the southern portions of town acquired through all those annexations.

But despite being the true majority, the South end of Des Moines has no public buildings, no community center and a complete deficit of parks. Reclaiming the Masonic Home as some combination of City Hall, Community Center, light commercial space (restaurants, professional) would give the South end the connection to the City they have been missing out on for decades.

Destination Des Moines?

We’ve been talk, talk, TALKING about ‘making Des Moines a destination‘ since I’ve lived here. And I know many of you are sick of all that talk. I know I am. The last time we really invested in this City’s future was in 1971 when we opened the Marina. I think once every fifty years isn’t too often to put our money where our mouth is. That is, if we ever hope to get to that destination.

Weekly Update: 12/13/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Engagement, Transparency, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 12/13/2020

The universe is telling me to slow down. I broke my toe last week which has limited my ability to get out–and provided yet another convenient excuse to be a day late. 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Tuesday: South County Combined Are Transportation Board (SCATBd) Meeting.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Ferry Study. This is different from the study the City has launched with private consultants. The PSRC did not find evidence of sufficient demand for a State-run ferry. This matters because a private ferry system would likely be funded by airport and cruise ship operations. And the last thing in Des Moines should be doing is enabling more flights from Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: A conference with Congressman Adam Smith regarding an FAA Rule Change which would, in effect, make the language of the State law HB 2315 (which allows the Port to repair and update pre-existing sound insulation systems) as a Federal regulation and thus of benefit to all American airport communities. I cannot stress enough that this is how all airport mitigations will be done in the next decade and it is the single biggest error our local leaders have made. We must focus our attention on local mitigations which then propagate up to the Federal level, rather than waiting for some mythical ‘bi-partisanship’ to help us from the top down.

Last Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Meeting (Agenda). On Page 3 is the Port’s 2021 Legislative Agenda which has some very fine ideas about Federal legislation to reduce noise and pollution. The Port is supporting its own interests, which do not currently include anything that would reduce their revenues. They are not ready to take a hit financially in order to reduce noise, pollution or work substantively on climate change.

Wednesday: Rotary Club. I gave a speech on Sea-Tac Airport and new opportunities for airport mitigation that I urge everyone to read it.

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Board. The notable item for me was looking at how much funding each City is getting. Des Moines got grants to work on the Highline College segment of Barnes Creek Trail, which is great. But I sure wish we could get more!

Friday: Sound Cities Association Board Elections. Both Traci Buxton and I ran (and lost) to represent the City Of Des Moines on the South Board. The winners were basically chosen because they had more experience so the decision made sense. My goal was simply to get my name out there–which has been challenging in the pandemic world where almost all the normal ‘schmoozing’ opportunities have been cut off.

City Currents Magazine

*Hopefully by now you have received your copy of the City Currents Magazine (and if you’ve visited the Post Office, you can’t help but be inundated by copies). Many of us just sort of toss them away, perhaps after a quick browse. But the thing is often packed with really useful information and I would encourage residents to really read it.

My biggest issue (get it? 😀 ) with the City Currents is actually the same thing I like most about it: the fact that it does provide a lot of really useful information, summarized in a nice, digestible format. It’s just that it only gets out into the world four times a year. I’m not at all suggesting that the City put more money into printing; actually the opposite.

I go on a lot about how much I hate the City’s web site. And occasionally someone will ask me to ‘stop criticizing and give a positive solution’. OK, the positive solution is to simply make the City web site do what the City Currents does: clear, easy to understand information that’s easy to get through.

Just in this current issue, you’ve got:

  • A wonderful directory of your City Employees
  • A nice one page summary of City Council ordinances and resolutions
  • A letter from Mayor Matt Pina summarizing the Council’s work over the past quarter
  • A super nice City Directory with phone numbers
  • A summary of the City’s EATS program for seniors and Vets
  • An explanation of work being done at the Field House Park
  • An article on the City’s ongoing Minor Home Repair Program
  • A nice update on all the great things happening at Midway Park
  • An update of the Senior Activity Center
  • The first thorough description I’ve seen of the City’s GRO Business Grant program (including recipients)
  • An article on proper storm water discharge practices

That is all good stuff, much of it I’m sure most of you haven’t hear about yet. Which brings up my two big niggles:

  • First, almost all of this is not ‘news’. Almost all of it is months behind the actual events.
  • Second, again almost all of this could be put on the City’s web site in a fun and easy to find format that would engage the public the moment you get to the City’s home page.

The home page

In effect, the City’s home page should be the City Currents magazine. And it should be available to the community as events happen. The web site should also have a very prominent calendar, which allows the public to drill down to all events, both municipal and civic, so as to maximize the number of people who can learn about and participate in all our great programs (including volunteer opportunities.)

What we currently have is a web site that technically has a lot of information, but much of it is just buried so deep good luck finding it. And the current (cough) ‘calendar’ doesn’t work the way people expect it to. It is missing many, many events. And even with those that are listed,  it tells them ‘what’, but it doesn’t lead them to the information they want. The net effect of all this is to reduce the number of people who engage with our City on all levels, from volunteering to attending meetings, to finding out about available programs and on and on…

I don’t want to keep beating on this, but most of our sister cities do a much better job in these regards. It’s not a lack of capability, it’s just that we haven’t made the effort here. Yet.

Hang onto your City Currents!

And until we do, I urge you to really read and then keep your copy of City Currents (and if you’d like a copy I’ve got extras). The list of phone numbers alone may come in handy. But the information in every issue gives residents insights into what the City is doing and planning that do not happen all that often.

*The most current online version should be available soon.

Weekly Update: 12/06/2020

Posted on Categories Transparency, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 12/06/2020

Updated 12/8/20 @12:08PM. I forgot to send to email list. Oops!

Public Service Announcements

  1. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  2. 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.
  3. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Meeting (Agenda). On Page 3 is the Port’s 2021 Legislative Agenda which has some very fine ideas about Federal legislation to reduce noise and pollution. The thing that I struggle with all the time in this blog is to speak ‘politician’ or speak ‘reporter’. The politician, which is 99.999999999999999999999999999999999% of my colleagues on planet earth, would say something like, “I’d like to thank the Port for their ongoing efforts to address… yada yada… Working together we can… yada yada…” The reporter in me has to be clear that the Port is supporting its own interests, which do not currently include anything that would reduce their revenues. They are not ready to take a hit financially in order to reduce noise, pollution or work substantively on climate change. That’s not being snippy, that’s just reality and the City Of Des Moines should use that to be clear-eyed in our relationship.

Wednesday: Rotary Club. I’ll be giving another speech on Sea-Tac Airport and new opportunities for mitigation.

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Transportion Board.

Friday: Sound Cities Association Board Elections. I will be running to represent the City Of Des Moines on the South Board. I am not super-optimistic about my chances–considering that one of my opponents is our own Traci Buxton 😀 It is very unusual for two Councilmembers from the same City to vie for the same seat. But with the current polarization on our Council there’s no other way to get one’s foot in the door. And I’m committed to helping Des Moines become a bigger part of that wider regional conversation.

Last Week

Monday: As I wrote, my other group SeatacNoise.Info has been really going to town on various interviews for a book on the history of Sea-Tac Airport. The reason we spend so much time on this is because the longer I work on this the more I understand how poorly all of us understood this story–I mean from Senators down to residents. But the story has it all. It’s one of the largest construction projects ever completed in the region. There’s serious corruption. 300% cost overruns. Amazing environmental impacts. Tremendous ongoing socio-economic issues for the entire area. It’s fair to say that our entire area would look entirely different had we not built the Third Runway. And the really odd thing (to me) is that it all happened less than twenty years ago–and yet, that controversy is largely forgotten now. Our goal is to provide much better information for decision makers, since, as our Mayor often says: We’re not going anywhere. And they’re not going anywhere. 🙂

Tuesday: Back to counting salmon at McSorley Creek with Trout Unlimited. So far? I’ve seen zip. Although, here’s some video from an earlier sighting at Des Moines Creek. In one sentence: It ain’t lookin’ good for our fish friends.

Thursday: There was a presentation by the State Auditor’s Office as to how things went in reviewing this year’s financials. State Auditor 2019 Exit Conference Packet. (Video). I suppose the headline should be “City gets certificate passes.” But I gotta point out two slightly irksome items:

  • For some reason, the City chose to put out as their press release, the one small portion of the report which concerned the never-ending Des Moines Legacy kerfuffle. Look, if yer gonna put out one takeaway, it should be that the City passed the audit, not keep focusing on an issue almost two years after the fact.
  • Council received that information packet five minutes after the meeting began. We had no time to review the information and thus had no way to prepare and ask any serious questions. For an ‘audit’ I find this outrageous and if you’ve been reading along this year, this is a pattern whereby presenters do not provide Council with adequate information until after a vote is taken.

Thursday: Public Safety Committee Meeting (Agenda). The discussion item was the current drone program. And it actually was very interesting.  Presentation.

Thursday: Regular City Council Meeting. (Agenda). Recap below.

Saturday: Beacon Hill Air & Noise Pollution Community Meeting. Boy I wish I had the presentation to share. For the past three years, this group has been hitting it out of the park, with great community organizing, by obtaining EPA grants to do real science and then working with UW to quantify the health impacts of the airport. They’re doing work we can and should be doing here.

City Council Recap

(Agenda) (Video)

I pledge allegiance to the star spangled banner…

The highlight of the year (for me) was the complete mess I made of the Pledge Of Allegiance. If you need a cringey laugh today, I urge you to watch just the first two minutes of me butchering that little poem. 😀

In my defense, I was watching a musical with the grand kids on The Declaration Of Independence’ and for some reason, all sorts patriotic prose ranging from Four Score And Seven Years Ago to This Land Is Your land just sort of floated into my noggin all at once. 😀

Expanding Midway Park

We made a modification to the 2035 Comprehensive Plan. The nugget is that the City is buying some rundown houses along the perimeter using the same type of conservation grants used to buy/renovate the Van Gasken House. And as you know, those types of grants require using the land strictly for parks. Which is OK, but would not have been my first choice. Everyone knows how much I value the park, but I’m also concerned that we should be working to add quality housing for the surrounding neighborhood.

Body Cameras

I was the lone vote against the motion on body cameras. I’ll just add in reply to a comment made by a colleague that this is not just being ‘different to be different’. I’ve testified publicly on real police reform. But this vote was actually about holding back $140,000 of public safety money we could be utilizing now; not about ‘body cameras’ per se. And it was the wrong decision. Here’s why.

My End Of Year Comments

This is a bit more organized version of my ramblings from the dais. When I was eight or nine I begged my uncle for months to let me go out with his professional fishing crew. And after I got it? It was kinda miserable. 😀 At least at first. But I asked for it! I think there’s a lesson there. Somewhere.

I want to thank the voters, who gave me the opportunity to work my tail off to get elected… so I could then get thrown into this. Because I asked for it. 😀

The thing about this job is that you decide how much work to put into it. It’s up to each CM to determine how much they want to learn about the nuts and bolts. Some Councilmembers, like me, really like the details. Others, not so much. Either approach can be very effective. But for what I am trying to accomplish, it is necessary for me to learn a lot about the mechanics. It would not be appropriate to come into this situation with a change agenda without having a baseline of knowledge about the City’s inner workings.

It’s complicated

A city government is very complicated. But it’s not so complicated that you can’t understand it. It’s sort of like how complicated cars used to be before they got onboard computers. You can understand all the various systems if you are willing to work at it, while also gaining a full appreciation for just how much stuff there is to do. And how much skill and commitment it takes to do it all well. And the more I learn about our City the greater my appreciation for all the people who work every day to make it work.

So I want to thank the entire Staff of the City Of Des Moines, which does such a great job–especially during COVID-19.

Direction

It’s no secret that I have differences with my colleagues. But never think that it has to do with how that ‘car’ is functioning. You can have a car that runs great. But still not get where you really want to go.

Most people who run for City Council simply want to serve. They’re not trying to  change things all that much. And that’s fine. But everyone I’ve known since I first sailed down here 25 years ago has said the same thing, “Why isn’t Des Moines living up to its potential?” And after a couple of decades, I decided that we have to move in a different direction if we’re ever going to live up to that “destination” ideal.

And I also recognized that it was going to take an absolute ton of work, because we have invested so heavily in the current direction we’ve been going.

Obviously, my colleagues see it differently. And that’s fine. They think ‘the car’ is going in exactly the right direction at exactly the right speed. I didn’t expect to win any votes this year. (If you recall from my campaign, the current majority would get so testy that I constantly brought up their 7-0 votes. Guess what? In 2020 those five people again voted 100% of the time together. I wasn’t exaggerating.)

<This is the place where I intended to thank my colleagues for welcoming me onto the Council for 2020. Although we often view policy very differently, I appreciate the fact that we have been able to disagree without being disagreeable.>

Playing fair

Sure glad I didn’t tack on that last bit! 😀 Because right after I finished my remarks, the Deputy Mayor (once again) decided it was a good idea to respond to me with a personal attack (in the form of helpful advice, of course.)

This is the only thing that ever annoys me in any way–when my colleagues and the administration do stuff like this.  This year, our Mayor, Deputy Mayor and City Manager have said things to disparage me that are simply not true; some have repeatedly tried to ‘shame’ and ‘scold’ me from the dais as if I were some wayward child. And the rest of the majority have enabled that bad behavior by never objecting in any way. Worst of all, they have colluded with our City Manager to enable an almost complete lack of cooperation for even routine requests–which has prevented me from doing my job and robbing the public of their essential right to know.

This treatment has been disrespectful and contemptuous, not only of me but of the office you voted for me to hold on your behalf. The more I thought about it, the more I realized that there was really only one 100% sincere form of reply to his remarks. This Four Horseman is the best ‘life advice’ I have ever come across:

He gave me his unasked for advice on personal growth and there is mine. I leave it to the public to decide which approach is more constructive.

*

Now being part of an elected body is not exactly like being married; in fact, constructive criticism (oversight) is literally the main statutory purpose of the office. You gotta be constructive and sincere and kind and you also gotta be willing to take it as well as dish it out, but you gotta be able to find flaws or yer just not doing the job.

Why I support police reform but voted against pre-paying for body cameras

Posted on Categories Public Safety1 Comment on Why I support police reform but voted against pre-paying for body cameras
Street Racers at the Des Moines Creek Business Park, December 2020
Street Racers at the Des Moines Creek Business Park, December 2020

As I’ve written and testified, I am a strong advocate of police reform. I was the lone vote against the motion so I figured I should explain a bit. And I want to stipulate that body cameras will likely be in all Cities (including Des Moines) at some point.

Point by point

Let’s begin by pointing out that going into the meeting there was no vote planned. So let me acknowledge the City Manager for asking for a motion rather than simply giving the presentation and then acting unilaterally. Here is a link to the presentation.

Crime is increasing

As hinted at on page 5, crime has been on the increase in the two years before COVID-19 and is expected to continue increasing. We’ve heard in the media about a downward trend in crime over the past decades, but in many categories here in Des Moines that is simply no longer true.

Misdirection

Lest we forget, the whole discussion re. body cameras first came up as a response to calls to address systemic racism in policing, specifically the killing of George Floyd. ‘Racism’ and ‘accountability’ were the defining terms in the whole discussion. And yet at last night’s presentation neither the words racism or accountability were mentioned.  It feels to me like the whole discussion has shifted towards being a symbolic gesture–something we cannot afford right now.

During the presentation, we learned that there have been almost no complaints about Des Moines Police Officers in recent years. So I struggle to understand the urgency of this project.

Not the best use of funds

The police are beginning a beta-test with only two units. Yet back in July the City Manager set aside $140,000 (the cost of the entire system). In a time of serious budget shortfalls, we are essentially pre-paying for something we may not use at all until the end of 2021. That $140,000 could instead be used to fund another officer and a part time civilian position. Right now. That is no symbolic gesture. Hiring new officers would provide an immediate benefit to our community in terms of crime prevention and reduction.

Many bugs yet to work out

The presentation (and prior Public Safety Committee presentation) specifically mentioned that there are still significant challenges to implementing body cameras, both technical and legal (including privacy and little details like when officers get to turn them on and off!) I believe that we should let other communities work out these bugs before we invest heavily. Again, not while there is no local data supporting an immediate need.

The Police did not request this

And then there is something you would have to have attended prior Public Safety and Police Advisory Meetings to learn: the Police Guild (the officers) have not asked for body cameras. The police union representatives have taken great pains to word their reaction like this, “We do not oppose body cameras.” That’s it. They do not say, we need body cameras to do our job. The Chief has also made it clear that this is not about improving law enforcement or addressing documented concerns about accountability or racism.

Summary

I support a beta-test of two cameras. But I do not support funding the entire program in advance, using money that could and should be used now to fight and prevent increased crime. I believe that is what the overwhelming majority of  you, the voters really want. Especially when there is no true evidence of need and no actual desire coming from the PD itself.

When there is a generally accepted best-practice in place for Cities like Des Moines, I will support it, along with other, the far more impactful means of combatting racism and improving accountability that I have previously written about.

Weekly Update: 11/29/2020

Posted on Categories Transparency, Weekly Updates2 Comments on Weekly Update: 11/29/2020

PSA: 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.

PSA: Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent.

“We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org. ”

PSA: So, I’m now officially out of quarantine. FREE! 😀 However, even though I’ve dodged a bullet, I’m noticing more and more people not taking this seriously now that a vaccine seems to be on the way. Not to burst yer bubble, but here is a good summary of how the roll out is likely to occur. And the detail I want you to notice is this: The vaccine does not prevent you from transmitting the disease. It protects you, not the people around you. Show of hands: who wants to be the jerk who infects someone so close to the finish line? Or worse: in April. Follow the guidelines. They work.

This Week

Monday: I’m getting down to the wire on various interviews for a forthcoming book on the history of Sea-Tac Airport. What’s interesting is the number of people who have started on this over the past forty years and then gotten fed up and just tore up their manuscript. A lot of people just

Tuesday: Back to counting salmon at McSorley Creek with Trout Unlimited. The news so far is slightly better than last year for some reason. 🙂

Thursday: There will be a presentation by the State Auditor’s Office as to how things went in reviewing this year’s financials.

Thursday: 4pm is the Public Safety Committee Meeting (Agenda). The discussion item is drones. Which sounds exciting? 😀

Thursday: Regular City Council Meeting. (Agenda). There will be a redux of the whole Body Camera discussion which the Public Safety already signed off on in September. There will be an amendment to the current 2035 Comprehensive Plan which I’m vaguely OK with. One element: we’re purchasing some run down homes along the perimeter of Midway Park in order to expand it, which sounds like a no-brainer. Except that it cuts into usable land for housing. We have a serious shortage of land for housing . and as much as I love Midway Park (I’ve been present for all their clean-ups and garden events), I love good housing options even more. You can’t have a thriving neighborhood if you take away all the places for neighbors to live. 🙂 My point is that there are a lot fewer no-brainer decisions than you might think.

Last Week: Rule 9

Confession: I’ve never actually watched Plan 9 From Outer Space all the way through. But there’s this line where the aliens say something like how they decided on Plan 9 as ‘the most effective solution for dealing with difficult people like…’ 😀

Anyhoo, I did receive a reply from the City Attorney as to my question last week about failed motions:

In response to your question below, I reviewed your blog and I agree with this statement that you made.	 

	According to RROO and JurassicParliament (the fantastic training service that our City uses to train Councilmembers), if 	a motion does not pass, it is only ‘dead’ for that particular meeting. A Councilmember can bring back the same motion at 	the next meeting. (Of course, when one renews a previously failed motion one should always include new information in 	order to change hearts and minds.)

He then goes on to mention Rule #9 of our Council Rules Of Procedure.

In addition, before making a motion, the business item needs to be on the agenda. This is accomplished in accordance with City Council rule 9 (below). Finally, motions for reconsideration can be made pursuant to Council Rule 28 (also below).

And that’s a whole other kettle o’ fish. And I don’t mean the fresh, delightful, sashimi grade tuna. 😀

Because he dreaded Rule #9 tells us how things get on a City Council Meeting Agenda. And for years and years it used to be thus:

This rule specifies the method of preparation of a Council meeting agenda for meetings other than study sessions. The Presiding Officer, three (3) Councilmembers, or the City Manager may introduce a new item to the preliminary agenda. The Presiding Officer shall have the option of deleting any item, other than those items introduced by three (3) Councilmembers, from the preliminary agenda until the next regular Council meeting when the full Council shall vote on whether to introduce the item on the agenda for a subsequent Council meeting. The City Clerk, under the direction of the City Manager, shall arrange a list of such matters according to the order of business and prepare a preliminary agenda for the Council. After the preliminary agenda has been approved by the Presiding Officer, a copy of the agenda and supporting materials shall be prepared for Councilmembers, the City Manager, and the press by close of business Friday prior to the Regular Council Meeting, except in case of an emergency.

Blah, blah, blah-dee-blah…. Blah. Right? 😀 You didn’t read any of that because it’s so boring. And that’s fine, because this language is pretty much the same in most cities. But in our City it was amended a year ago on the last vote before I took my seat on the Council to add the following:

Any Councilmember seeking to bring forward a new community event or project for consideration shall provide the details of the proposal to the City Clerk in written format, to include the estimated cost and staff time for the proposal. Once received by the City Clerk, the proposal can be placed on a preliminary agenda in accordance with the requirements of this Rule.

And this is why we all hate lawyers

That one tortuous sentence actually does a whole lot. Here it is in plainer language:

“Look, we don’t want you wasting valuable meeting time trying to bring up anything that hasn’t already been pre-approved. And to make sure, you’ll need to send anything you want to talk about to the Clerk ahead of time. With a cost estimate, of course. Just so we can give it the once over. K?”

As you can tell by the snarky tone, I’ve got any number of problems with this seemingly innocent language. Here’s just one: “How do I even obtain a cost estimate without the cooperation of the Administration?”

Why it matters

Not to belabor the obvious, but the language was added as sort of a ‘belt and suspenders’ way to make doubly certain that City Council Meetings are now pro-forma affairs.

A big part of being in the minority is simply finding a way to break past that wall and get your ideas across. You don’t expect to win votes; with the current majority (which always votes as a bloc) that is impossible. But what you do expect to be able to do is to bring up ideas that you think think the public should know about, whether the majority or the administration approve. It’s called democracy. And it matters.