At last night’s City Council Meeting, the City Manager unveiled the City’s ARPA Stimulus money proposal. In short, the City is receiving $9,000,000 to be used for a limited number of purposes and it must be spent by 2024.
I urge all of you to watch that fifteen minute segment of the meeting and read these two PDFs.
It’s only a first draft…
The City Manager gave a rundown of his staff’s initial recommendations. These are only initial recommendations. Councilmembers now will add their recommendations to add new ideas, modify some things on the list and remove others. Nothing will be fixed in stone for quite some time.
Which is where you come in…
I am asking you to send me your ideas and your priorities. Do not feel limited by what you see on that list of initial recommendations. If there is something you feel the City really needs? I want to hear about it. But remember: it must be something that can be done by 2024.
This is probably the biggest injection of one-time money the City will ever see, so we need to spend it wisely. Ideally, our spending choices will not merely help us recover. If we make truly inspired choices, this money has the potential to make Des Moines better than we could ever have achieved otherwise.
Some things I’m thinking about…
I know many of you are hurting. And many of you feel strongly that the City should use this money for short term relief programs like the Food Bank, income relief, business grants, etc. Got it. Loud and clear.
A couple of things, though:
- I will be looking at what those programs actually need. Take the Food Bank. That’s often the first thing residents say we should put money into (Often because it’s the only program they know about. Actually we help fund oodles of really great causes!) Anyhoo, on the many occasions I’ve talked to their directors where they’ve indicated that, at that particular moment, money was not the problem–often what they really need are volunteers. My point is that I will be looking at this based on what those agencies tell us they need.
- There are any number of human services programs that look great on paper, but frankly have not yet demonstrated their value. I am reluctant to spend money on any program simply because it looks humane. I want to see programs that work.
- I am also reluctant to fund any program that requires ongoing revenue. For example, I know many of you desperately want more police officers. But I would only consider that if I can see that we can afford it with the money we have going into the future.
- I hope you will also consider long-term projects. Something transformative. This is a once in a lifetime shot at doing something real, like starting a conversation about a community center for the South End or an entirely new park–something we could not achieve under any other circumstance–and which would benefit the entire community forever.
- $9,000,000 is actually not that much money. We could spend every drop of it on things like rent-relief or business grants and not make a serious dent in the need. Of course, if you need that relief right now, you feel differently. I get it. All politics is very local. But still, I’m asking you to consider the future, because when the whole city thrives it does benefit you, if only indirectly.
I look forward very much to hearing what you have to say. If nothing else, this is a great chance for me to refresh myself as to what the community is thinking about. And $9,000,000 could be quite a lot of refreshment. 😀 So please wrote or give me a call (206) 878-0578.