This is one of about a hundred e-mail exchanges I’ve had since being seated that make no sense to me.
Five minutes from our Budget Retreat…
At our 08/05/21 Budget Retreat, Councilmember Luisa Bangs responds to Chief Thomas’ report on emphasis patrols for Redondo:
CouncilmemberAnthony Martinelli also expresses concerns about provided extra attention to Redondo:
Then I respond, followed by the City Manager:
A follow-up email…
Shortly after the meeting I sent a follow-up email to Luisa Bangs addressing the concerns she raised:
Sent: 08/06/2021 1:01PM To: Luisa Bangs CC: Anthony Martinelli Subject: Redondo Not that it matters, but I understand your point re. Redondo. I meant what I said, wrt Ken. I have my various criticisms--and they are not trivial. But actually I'm trusting -you- on this. You, Michael and the rest of the Council seem to have tremendous confidence in his management skills. Frankly, I have not been allowed to communicate with him or sit in on any of his meetings in over a year soI honestly don't know. I've complained, but you guys don't seem to have a problem with that so I'm stuck. I work with the information I have. But assuming you are correct in your assessment, I do not believe that someone as capable would divert enough resources to Redondo as to cause a failure to serve the rest of Des Moines fairly. I know the constant complaining sucks--trust me on this. But I do not want to believe that a professional manager would allow hemselves to be influenced to that degree. Your point about O/T is also well taken. I did not mention it because (you may not believe it) I do not like to micro-manage. If it's coming out of his existing budget? That's his biz. But if that shows up somewhere as an additional ask? Yeah, then I'll have a problem. (One reason I keep nagging about that 'self-service' option for the new accounting system is that I am deeply frustrated by the lack of data on many items; policing being one of them. If we all could get reports on-every- neighbourhood it would make me feel a lot more comfortable (or not) with Ken's strategy.) But to your original point, I have heard from a few residents that feel like there is a sense of 'privilege' to the attention Redondo is getting ... ie. "those 'rich' condo owners get attention every time they complain..." I get it. But the fact is that one of their most vocal people just happened to be a retired shop steward--it's not entitlement. Union people just know how to organise--you can appreciate that. I get calls -all- the time from people all over town with -exactly- the same problems (and as you said, worse.) And my response is: Do what Redondo is doing! Organise! Build your community! That's also why I encouraged the people around (cough) "Dead Man's Curve". I feel -very- strongly that we -have- to reward any neighbourhood willing to organise towards any goal. We -have- to show the public that if they organise effectively the City -will- make an effort to respond--within appropriate limits. Because if we don't? Residents won'thave a reason to build community -anywhere-. Best case scenario for me would be -nine- different neighbourhoods screaming for attention on some damned thing all at the same time. :D Seriously. Maybe that would be enough to bring back 2Citizen Advisory Committees. Sincerely, ---JC
From: Luisa Bangs Sent: 08/10/2021 1:01PM Subject: Redondo Why was Councilmember Martinelli on the email?
To: Luisa Bangs Subject: Redondo On Aug 10, 2021, at 10:02 PM, JC Harris <email@example.com> wrote: Because he expressed a similar concern. ---JC
Sent: 08/10/2021 9:46PM I believe your message is serious enough to be forwarded to the Chief and City Manager and would hope you have the belief in “transparency “ to do so. Councilmember Bangs
From: Luisa Bangs On Aug 10, 2021, at 10:02 PM, JC Harris <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote: What exactly is your concern? ---JC
To: JC Harris Subject: Redondo On 8/11/2021 6:58 AM, Luisa Bangs wrote: The fact you see no concern with your email you sent to fellow council members questioning the skills of our Police Chief and City Manager. So therefore In your own words …1“I believe you know where the 'forward' button is on your email app. By all means, share away as you see fit." I will forward. Councilmember Bangs
To: Luisa Bangs Subject: Redondo On Aug 11, 2021, at 12:30 PM, JC Harris <email@example.com> wrote: 3No, no... anything but that! Please don't hit... THE FORWARD BUTTON! :D But FWIW: I was not "questioning the skills of our Police Chief and City Manager".Actually, I refer to Ken first as capable and then as a professional manager. Please re-read. But what concerns -me- now is that you seem to find that idea, in itself, somehow worrying. Every CM has the right to question any darned thing they like--and also to discuss their feelings candidly with another CM. And well you know it. You may disagree with someone else's assessments, but that's a completely different matter. I sent you a sincere note telling you that I understood a point you were trying to make and that is all. I won't make that mistake again. :D ---JC
From: Luisa Bangs To: JC Harris Subject: Redondo I would suggest that by the very nature of your answer imploring me not to forward that there is definitely something a councilmember or staff should be concerned about. Therefore I find it my responsibility to forward the email since you will not. As far as corresponding with me in the future I would suggest you do not start or put in any sentence “ But actually I'm trusting -you- on this.” As though it is not on council email and some sort of secret. It is on a 4public domain. Councilmember Bangs
August 12, 4:11 PM From: Michael Matthias To: _CityCouncil, _Directors CC: Ken Thomas Subject: Redondo Mayor and City Council, Please find below an email string that is relevant to the work of the entire Council. Best, Michael Matthias City Manager City of Des Moines, WA 206.870.6554 firstname.lastname@example.org [The remainder of the email is the entire email chain you see above. Elided to save space.]
August 12, 4:58 PM From: JC Harris To: Michael Matthias, _CityCouncil, _Directors CC: Ken Thomas Hi Michael, Please explain your rationale for forwarding this email from Councilmember Bangs to the full Council--and Directors. TIA, ---JC
August 13, 12:26 PM From: Michael Matthias To: _CityCouncil, _Directors CC: Ken Thomas Subject: Redondo In the spirit of 5enhancing transparency I thought it was important. Given the various policy issues raised. Michael Matthias City Manager City of Des Moines, WA 206.870.6554 email@example.com
August 13, 4:52 PM From: JC Harris To: Michael Matthias, _CityCouncil, _Directors CC: Ken Thomas It's transparent, for sure. :D But by 'sharing' so freely as you seem wont to do, this starts to have the vague sense of a 'meeting'. Honestly, I have no idea what her concern was. It also puzzles me why CM Bangs forwarded it to you rather than attempting to resolve it with me, or failing that, taking it up with the Council. It seems to me that when Councilmember Bangs sent you this email chain, you might have considered politely declining to do anything with it. The discussion of two CMs has nothing to do with staff since, as you know, Councilmembers relate to the administration solely through the City Manager. And the staff work for you so I won't comment as to whether or not giving them all this reading is the best use of their time. But IMO, if a CM has some 'concerns' with a colleague, the first choice would seem to be to talk things over like people. If CMs aren't able to do that for some reason, the next step would be to take it up with the City Council. I only mention this as a suggestion if the situation comes up again. Your time is extremely valuable. ---JC
All Councilmember communications are a matter of public record–anyone can do a public records request and see this stuff. I generally do not share any of our discussions, but as you read, my colleague decided to share the exchange with the City Manager and then he decided to share it with the full Council and all Directors. So I figured, hey since everyone at City Hall is into ‘sharing’, right? 😀
The ethics of sharing…
Setting aside our lofty discussion, I think it is inappropriate for a Councilmember to share a discussion with another colleague with the City Manager without explanation or permission. And I know it is inappropriate for the City Manager to then share it with staff. Councilmembers are supposed to be separate from the Administration and we are actually discouraged from engaging with staff. Not to mention the fact that the City Manager is supposed to be, above all else, non-political.
Silence is the strategy
This kind of thing happens all the time and none of my colleagues speak up. A few have commiserated on occasion, but they are very frank that speaking up would be ‘bad strategy’. And members of various community groups will also tell me that, while they commiserate, it’s basically my problem somehow. Perhaps, if we elect more ‘civil’ CMs, that will fix everything
Why you should care about poor little me…
First of all, anybody who has worked in a modern corporation has been educated to speak up when they witness a colleague being harassed. Apparently your local electeds are somehow exempted from this requirement.
Regardless, every institution should cultivate an ethical culture–from leadership on down. ‘Politicians’ contribute to that culture like every other employee. The difference: Councilmembers come and go. City Managers come and go. But the staff persists. When they (and the community) see that poor treatment of Councilmembers is not only tolerated, but enabled, that message also persists–long after the original actors have left the stage.
The primary and practical function of your City Council is oversight of the administration. This email is one small example of a hundred. But if some Councilmembers are never willing to keep an appropriate professional distance from the administration, while others are never willing to speak up when the administration is behaving inappropriately? You cannot trust anyone’s ability to provide oversight and you cannot have a government you can trust.
1Councilmember Bangs is quoting from another email chain–in that case written to the City Manager about researching the possibility of vaccine mandates. If you think that this email forwarding is sort of an ongoing ‘sport’, you’re not wrong.
2The Citizen Advisory Committee included a representative from each of nine neighbourhoods. It was shuttered in 2017.
3This is my idea of humour. 🙂
4I hate being ‘that guy’, but ‘public domain’ usually refers to copyright law. I think she meant ‘public record’. I dunno, maybe her usage is just fine.
5One can never be sure, but this appears to be a long-running bit of sarcasm. Before I ran for office, I complained about ‘a lack of transparency’.
6Note to self: Stop screaming at supporters. 😀