Christmas In July: The ARPA Stimulus Money Request

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.

American Rescue Plan – City Manager Recommendations

American Rescue Plan Fact Sheet

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. $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.


  1. Thanks JC. Transformative? You want transformative? OK, I will give you transformative.

    Since we cannot hire a badass lawyer to sue the pants out of the port for ruining, polluting, waking us up at 2, 3AM…like Burien did, AND won…

    My suggestion for “Transformative” is Municipal Broadband. Municipal Broadband benefits everyone, not just a few. Comcast/xfinity has a monopoly & not only raises prices, despite contracts, but the level of service is below satisfactory in our neighborhood. If you keep an eye on our community boards you quickly realize by the slew of complaints. Not only do they give terrible service but they do not allow any other internet service to ‘infiltrate’ our neighborhoods. I don’t know how they do it, I would LOVE to find out exactly how they get away with it, all I know is that we need options in Des Moines. Our neighborhood is not the only one. It is completely ridiculous that a mere block away a neighbor is able to choose from Centurylink, Xfinity…but we are not.

    We tried contacting CL, they informed us all they can offer us is a…..wait for it…..landline. Seriously? Dish does not work in our area with 2, sometimes 3 flight paths over our homes, thanks to the 3rd runway. We have tmobile for cell service, they CANNOT give us internet, despite the fact they rolled it out months ago, thanks to the monopoly.

    Municipal Broadband will benefit everyone. Homes with children that need internet for homework. Single parent households – I have experience with that, seniors who cannot afford the outrageous bills…. I am paying $200. a month for terrible service. I can barely do zoom with my family on the E coast, most times I cannot, thanks to xfinity throttling my internet. I could barely keep in touch with my brother and sister in law, a nurse, while they were both in the hospital recovering from COVID. We are unable to join city meetings, election streams. I urge all of you to look into all the benefits of Municipal Broadband. It’s about time we invest in our own internet infrastructure. If other cities in WA state can do it, so can we. This pandemic clearly showed how the internet is an essential service, just like electricity. In addition, thanks to HB 1336 all barriers for MB have been lifted as of May 2021. I hope that all of you are in agreement.

  2. My recommendations:
    1. Continued support of mental health social worker that accompanies police officers on calls.
    2. Health care availability for those in need, including shelterless people.
    3. When are we ever as a society going to provide affordable housing for everyone? Lets see what we can do in this community to help others have a decent place to live.
    4. Animal control and rescue.
    Also, can you provide a list of causes that need volunteers? The only one I know about is the food bank.

  3. 1. Downtown needs a face lift. 2. Grants for people to start a small business who live in Des Moines and want to have the business in Des Moines. 3. A better community center that is specifically for the youth.

  4. Speed bumps in pedestrian crosswalks on Beach drive for the safety reasons and would get drivers to slow down. Put in a user friendly parking system at the Marina.

  5. 1.I like several of the suggestions they gave, Mental health , Housing with Sar Mar etc
    2..Refund and open Parks department with skilled staff .
    3.Assist the restaurants that have closed e.g. Origin The Ice cream store.
    4. focus on you programs that keep youth moving and playing outdoors.
    5.Additiction Services.
    6. Expand Phenomenal/She to Des Moines.

  6. First of all, thank you so much JC Harris for putting this together – talk about transparent governing. Thank you.

    I second that municipal broadband idea. That looks to the future, it’s comprehensive (potentially), and it’s a banner project unlike putting a little money here there and everywhere.

    But I’d like to also propose using a fairly small amount of money to bring raingarden subsidies and other small scale stormwater management projects to homeowners in the city. Because of our sewer district, we’re the only city in the region outside of any Rainwise jurisdiction for supporting homeowners with $ and guidance to construct simple and beautiful projects (cisterns, rain gardens, etc) to allow our storm water to be a resource and not a source of contamination to the Puget Sound. I have more info on how we could get connected to this if you are interested. It does grind my gears that we’re “the waterland city” but we’re not currently a part of existing, robust programs to allow our storm water to stay in the ground.

  7. Open the Beach Park and other parks for the people who have been funding them– us the community of Des Moines.
    Better transportation for everyone in Des Moines, Not just those individuals downtown and the north end of town.
    All the ideas above are very worthwhile especially sound control of airport.

  8. Hey I would love a better way to park so more people could come and make the city a bigger place like I dont know maybe a garage/ maybe if needed pay parking but not so expensive. Also a stair way to make it easier way to walk around the city . I was thinking of maybe a big idea of walking bridges make.people want to come over here more like a nice view attraction because this city is a hiding gem and we could use a bit more like to make people come to des moines

  9. The city took the funds from the marina for years. Now the marina needs lots of repairs… this would be an investment that would bring dividends later.

  10. I agree with your comment that this is not the way to fund long term programs that are not sustainable, such as police officers. Rather infrastructure should be prioritized, such as sewer systems that have had spillages recently. And the Water District 54 tower is in desperate need of repair. The process of deciding how to allocate the money should be open and transparent. Some of the money should be used to compensate people who have endured extreme losses due to the pandemic, using a third party vetting process.

    1. Thank you. I hope you watched the Budget Retreat Meeting. I asked a lot of questions which tried to get at how to allocate funding for all the items you mention.

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