Resolution 19-113

Posted on Categories Transparency

I kinda wish I didn’t have to write this, but we’re getting off to a bad start council-relationship-wise. I have tried to be as friendly as possible during this transition but this Resolution is pointed directly at Mr. Martinelli and myself and it’s exactly the kind of good-ol’-boy nonsense I ran against so I feel compelled to provide some context for people who watched this. In other words: Do I turn the other cheek to try and get alongΒ  or do I actually do what voters said they wanted me to do?

(And what really sucks is that, as per usual, it got stuck in with all the very nice awards so it makes me look even more rantier than usual.) But I digress… πŸ˜€

Last week if you recall…

At the last CC Meeting, the Council introduced Resolution 19-113 (the 113th resolution of 2019) which consisted of a dozen changes to how the Council Meetings function. During the year, CCs think about how meetings might be improved, they suggest changes and then occasionally there is enough momentum to have the City Attorney roll them all into a Resolution. Normally these are pretty routine. And half of the items on 19-113 are common sense.

However about half of the changes in this Resolution were definitely not routine and not common sense. They were, in fact, in response to the election results and address some sudden concerns about Council Member ‘conduct’. We know this because if you watch that 14 November video, several of the Council Members specifically mention concerns about ‘candidates during the election’–meaning Anthony Martinelli and myself. In other words, half of these items are to address possible future misbehaviour. The problems aren’t happening with the current Council. They’re worried about it happening going forward with us noobies.

The merely wasteful stuff

For example, the Resolution calls for Council to be ‘drug-free’. But there is already a rule will states that CCs shall not be intoxicated. So why the need for extra emphasis now? Has there been an ongoing problem with current CCs showing up three sheets to the wind? πŸ˜€

The Resolution specifically forbids Council Members from ‘slander’. There are already rules calling for CCs to treat each other respectfully. Who on the current council is guilty of this? I go to all the meetings and I don’t see CCs routinely ‘slandering’ one another. In fact, ‘slander’ isn’t a word I ever run across. It’s the kind of thing one hears on Masterpiece Theatre. Right before guys in frilly shirts break out the dueling pistols.

The Resolution also reminds CCs to not divulge confidential information from Executive Session. Again, this is already against the law.

I could go on. The point is that these items are already covered in the rules. They’re just being given added emphasis because it just isn’t good enough for them to be against the rules. They have to be extra special against the rules!

Time crunch

The thing that really ticked me off, though, was the reduction in discussion time down to four and five minutes for different sections of the meeting. This is ridiculous because:

  1. None of the current CCs come anywhere near to using five minutes of time (except when they start getting all sentimental about how much they looooooove Des Moines of course.) When it comes to actual policy discussions? They are quite terse. How do I know this? Because I attend CC Meetings at all six Airport Communities. And I can assure you that Des Moines CC Meetings are usually the shortest. So the resolution addresses a problem that does not exist.
  2. However (and this is the undemocratic part), it also makes it impossible to have a thorough discussion when something important is going on. It requires that a CC get permission from the Mayor to keep speaking. If the Mayor dislikes what is being said for any reason, he/she can cut off discussion immediately. How democratic is that?
  3. Each CC’s desk will be equipped with the famous red and green lights which public-commenters have to live with. I can tell you that watching those lights whilst trying to collect one’s thoughts is not easy. (By the way, if you watch last night’s meeting, you’ll notice that our Mayor himself gassed on for almost fifteen minutes in describing his weekly activities. I wonder how well he will enjoy the new lights?)
  4. To add irony on top of irony, as I say in my public comment, the original discussion on the Resolution went on for over forty five minutes. That is the single longest discussion I’ve seen in over three years of watching every CC Meeting. That discussion simply would not have been possible under the new rules.
  5. But here’s the thing: is this Resolution really the most important debate that we’ve needed to have in the past few years? How many other very important Resolutions did not get a full airing of views? This really questions the essential values of the rest of the current Council.

What I’m trying to get to is this: A lot of that stuff was simply petty. The comments of the CCs directed at Mr. Martinelli and myself in the discussion two weeks ago make that clear. But far more important, this whole thing is really, really expensive.

Time is money

The City currently does not keep project-based time sheets (I will encourage the City to start doing that with the new accounting software coming on-line next year.) But according to the City Attorney a complex resolution often takes more than forty hours of staff time to get ready for CC discussion. Now given the salaries of top staff, that is real time and money. Time and money that should be spent on real problems, not stuff that’s already against the rules or addressing problems that do not exist. And certainly not on score-settling.

Some of the things I really hate

I hate wasting time. I hate wasting money. I hate wasting time. I hate wasting money. I hate wasting time. I hate wasting money.

I don’t know how else to say it. Anything that can be settled without a ‘regulation’, by simply having a conversation? I’m there. And conversely, using the City’s time and money for score-settling? Not. Too. Cool.

Anyhoo, I could’ve let this slide for sure. I’m sure my reaction will come off as whiny to some. But as I said in my public comment, the Council was sending me a message: No honeymoon. Which is fine. If you voted for me, you weren’t thinking I’d be getting a back massage and a Diet Sprite every two weeks. You said you wanted me to try to dial back this sort of behaviour.

Links:

https://waterlandblog.com/2019/11/22/des-moines-city-council-rule-changes-approved-over-objections-from-newly-elected-j-c-harris/

Video (My comment starts @ 1:08:40) https://player.invintus.com/?clientID=5345544549&eventID=2019111002

14 November Meeting Packet with full language: http://www.desmoinesmail.com/WebPDF/Council/Packet_Archive/2019/111419.pdf

14 November Video (Missing from City web site as of this writing.)

Looks like I picked the wrong week to quit drinking…

Posted on Categories Weekly Updates

Sorry for another post so quickly. As I said before, I’m still figuring this out: should I post about stuff I did or stuff that’s coming up?

Frankly, I had hoped to to take it easy after the election and get organisi-ised, but unfortunately, November tends to be the busiest time of the year for many governments: budgets, events. So it’ NUTS.

OK, this morning I attended the monthly SCATbd Meeting. SCATbd (pronounced skate-board) is a regional group of South King County Cities and the Port, which discusses anything ‘transportation’ related–from those little commuter shuttle buses right up to Sea-Tac Airport. If you have any desires, concerns about everything from transit for disabled people, bike lanes, ST3, a second airport, whatever, this is the place to go. 9AM third Tuesday of every month at SeaTac City Hall.

At noon was a Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting. They approved their 2020 budget and their Property Tax Levy (which you find on your taxes–more on that soon!) and also they approved a large series of environmental clean-up programs for South Park and Georgetown which could be models for helping our City with airport impacts. And finally, they approved the first two new noise monitors in 20 years–on Vashon Island. As a budding politician I can take partial credit for this as their whole new system for providing public data on noise events came about because of work that SeatacNoise.Info did three years ago.

At 4:30pm today there is a ‘joint meeting’ of the Des Moines Airport Committee and the Burien Airport Committee at the Beach Park at 4:30pm. For those of you who care about the noise/pollution, this is a very good thing to follow. I don’t have time to get into it now, but we have not been doing a good job on this stuff and I will need your help to make changes.

Tomorrow, there is a Stakeholders Meeting run by your State Rep. Tina Orwall for people with Port Packages. This is a thing that my organisation SeatacNoise.Info started and it has the potential to get some money for everyone with damaged sound insulation. I hope it expands into something good for all of Des Moines–but one step at a time.

Also tomorrow is a meeting of the Highline Forum, which meets every 2 months. It’s attended by the Port Of Seattle and City Councils from the six airport communities.

There is also a meeting for Reach Out Des Moines, a group which attempts to provide a bunch of services for kids in the area and help reduce teenage crime and violence. They do great things in our schools including YETI. Ahhhhhhhh! I DON”T HAVE ENOUGH TIME FOR ALL THE LINKS! GOOGLE IT! πŸ˜€

And still on Wednesday, and still at the Beach Park will be a City meeting to discuss ‘SR3’, the plan to host some sort of sealion recovery program at our Marina. I have no idea what this is all about so I’ll be as curious as you what to think. https://www.sealifer3.org

And on Thursday at 7PM there will be the regular Des Moines City Council Meeting. There are a whole bunch of procedural changes, which were designed specifically to be not too friendly to us new Councilmembers. So I will have public comment on that.

Somewhere in there are meetings with current Councilmember Traci Buxon (so far the only current member who has welcomed me) and incoming member Anthony Martinelli. And there are more salmon to count. (Won’t they ever stop? :D)

Call or email if any of this interests you and I’ll get you more details. BUT NOT NOW. I’m late for another meeting!

I Don’t Ride Around In The Golf Cart

Posted on Categories Weekly Updates

This is my first post-election post. In the future, my posts will be mostly about what I’m doing (events, etc.) But for this first time I need to ask a favour.

But first: for ‘transparency’s sake, I’ve hidden away all the ‘candidate’ stuff. Not to be sneaky, just because the campaign is over (it is over, right?) And I’m really trying to move forward as a part of the Council and not have a bunch of contentious stuff out front. My goal is to get along as well as possible with my new colleagues.

Also: I am still working out how best to communicate with you. I think one reason Council Members find this difficult is because there are so many channels. I’ve got emails, people on Facebook, people who watch this site and… a whole group of people who are off-the-grid. It’s time-consuming just making sure that the same message gets to everyone. So please be patient.

Now, you know that I am but one guy out of seven. I can’t get anything done on my own. I am counting on you to provide the support I need to help convince the rest of the Council on a whole range of issues. One big reason things have not changed in this town is because traditionally there is usually very little public pressure on the Council. Few people show up to City Council Meetings.

But if it’s clear that when I speak, you guys have my back, that sends a powerful message to the rest of the Council that the public wants change. Your support is what is going to make things happen, not me.

The public eye?

This is something I joked about a lot during the campaign: “I do not ride around in the golf cart.” It’s very popular for Councilmembers to mostly engage with the public via ‘fun’ or symbolic events–like the Farmers Market (where Council Members zip around in the golf cart waving at people) or various parades. I’m not saying those aren’t very nice and valuable things to do. But, frankly, that’s not me. I’m just not a ‘parade’ kinda guy. πŸ™ πŸ˜€

I spend most of my time doing stuff out of the public eye. For example, this week I counted salmon for Saltwater State Park. I attended a Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting and did research at their archives. I met with KC Prosecutor Dan Satterberg. I read a lot of boring policy junk so I vaguely know what I’m talking about on complex things like Sea-Tac Airport. These are not things one takes selfies of and posts on ‘the Gram’.

My concern is that I won’t have as cheery a public profile as some residents are used to in their Councilmembers and that will create the impression that I’m not ‘doing’ very much. A lot of people really like seeing the Councilmember at all those more symbolic shindigs.

OK, Here’s The Favour

So here’s what I’m asking: If you see something I’m doing or talking about that you think is valuable, please take a moment to ‘share’ it with your friends or on social media.

That’s all. Just talk it up. Because this campaign is not over; far from it. We need to keep trying to get our message out in public until we get some of the things we campaigned on. It’s important that people understand that all the boring junk I’m doing matters, even if it’s not quite as visible as riding around in the golf cart.

One bonus favour: Please let me know what you think of this post (or any update I do) so I can serve you better. As I said, this is going to be a process.

As always,

—JC

Smells like… Victory?

Posted on Format VideoCategories Campaigning

I believe I can now be properly referred to as Council Member-Elect, Position #2 for Des Moines, Wa.

Sorry for the delayed announcement. I know it’s been a pain waiting. But the race was so close that it did not seem prudent to declare ‘victory’ until we were sure of the result. You may now begin an equal number of days of celebration and so on and so forth. πŸ˜€

In this video I (try to) thank my supporters a bit. And to explain the (cough) philosophy behind my campaign and how I hope to transfer that to my work on the Council.

I will be posting updates here on how the city is doing and how things work. If you hit the ‘Subscribe’ button, I’ll also be let you know where and when I’ll be hosting informal meetings (Coffee With A Council Member).

Finally, I want to give my regards to my opponent, Luisa Bangs. To her supporters: I recognise that it was a very close election and that Des Moines (like so much of America now) is split in many ways. I hope you will give me the opportunity to earn your trust.

Let’s Be Careful Out There

Posted on Categories 2019 Campaigning, Campaigning

I have something to say about Social Media and politics in Des Moines. πŸ˜€

This town has no newspaper or other truly objective coverage of city hall. During my campaign I’ve doorbelled over 5,000 homes and actually talked with thousands of DM residents. And the sheer tonnage of misinformation, rumour, inuendo and just plain blather that people spout as ‘fact’ about various issues would break a freight car. Getting the public better information is something I hope to improve upon if elected.

But the current state of play is that I can count on the fingers of both hands the people who actually know the ‘real story’ on many issues going back decades. I’ve spoken with many ex-Council Members and City employees who have been surprised to learn what really happened on issues during their tenure. Des Moines politics has not exactly been a model of transparency over the years.

Then there’s the fact that once one gets to a certain level of networking, one learns at least two really embarrassing things about every person who has held office in this here town.

And here is my point: This not a small town anymore. But the pool of people who are truly engaged is very small. So my advice is to be extremely careful when posting stuff. Don’t write anything you wouldn’t say to my face. And once you’ve said yer peace? Let it go! This is not national politics. The rules should be different. Take it easy on the campaigning by proxy bullshit. That’s not your job. That’s the candidate’s job (the campaigning, not the bullshit. πŸ˜€ ) . Because, at the end of the day? We have to live and work together.

And I say this for a very practical reason:

I think y’all should want and encourage participation from candidates and electeds. At the end of the day, their words are what will matter.

But if you treat them as harshly as some of you now do, as if this is all some sort of ‘contact sport’ where one can just say whatever you want and then see what it kicks up? You pretty much guarantee that no candidate or elected will ever want to engage with anyone on social media. And that would leave us right where we are now–in a black hole of constant half-truths, speculations and rumour, completely removed from city hall. Is that what you really want?

IMO that would not be a good thing for a city with no newspaper and no objective news coverage.

Don’t ignore real issues, for sure. But please: try to be a bit more careful.

I have spoken. πŸ˜‰

Saving The Masonic Home

Posted on Categories 2019 Campaigning, Neighborhoods, Policy

The Masonic Home is truly unique in Puget Sound and one of the only remaining pieces of real architectural history in Des Moines. In the video, I use the word ‘dignity’ quite intentionally. The place has great dignity. And if we lose this magnificent structure and these beautiful grounds, we will be robbing future generations.

This is not just another real estate sale.The city needs to make every effort to intervene with the owners and make sure the property is put to a use that is in the best long-term interest of Des Moines. To me, that means preservation.

What is maddening to me is the constant state of uncertainty. The fact that the public never seems to know what is going on with iconic projects like this.

If you want more information on historic preservation (or anything else related to municipal government, the MRSC is always a good good place to look. You can also search the Des Moines Municipal Code 18.125.