Weekly Update: 02/14/2021

Posted on Categories Airport, Environment, Transparency, Weekly Updates4 Comments on Weekly Update: 02/14/2021

This is a long one and a late one. Sorry. Last week was action-packed! 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. If you are a local business, make the Southside Promise from the South Side Seattle Chamber Of Commerce! There are grants of up to $1,000 to help you now.
  2. 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.
  3. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  4. 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. 🙂
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”
  8. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  9. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

  1. Tuesday: It’s time to set up the Coho Pen at the Marina to help with the next batch of hatchery fish. Wanna help out? Be there at 9AM!
  2. Tuesday: I’ll be attending the Water District #54 Board Meeting. FYI: Their water source is the giant water tower next to the Police Station. It’s one of the very last un-chlorinated well-water sources left in the State Of Washington. 🙂
  3. Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines!
  4. Thursday: 3:00PM Transportation Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  5. Thursday: 4:00PM Environment Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  6. Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

Last Week

  1. Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda). This is one of those ‘details’ that you should care about. The Port is purchasing the 14 acres of wooded area next to the Des Moines Creek Business Park for the purpose of adding more warehouses.  I wrote the following letter to the Port Commissioners in support of doing something to help maintain the environment. Let’s be honest: this means more cargo. Which means more air traffic over Des Moines. My colleagues on the Council have publicly stated that they are all-in on this development. It’s shameful. Those will likely not be Des Moines jobs. But this will definitely add to the noise, traffic and pollution.Many of you have complained to me about the Port once again behaving badl. But actually, the City Of Des Moines was offered a chance to buy the land at least three years ago. Instead, we chose to let the Port have it because the current administration think the Business Park is a fantastic thing and wants it to be expanded. I disagree. In my view, a City has an obligation to take control of as much land as possible–that is the only way that we have a say in how it’s developed. Through the decades, Des Moines has made the same mistake over and over: give up prime land to developers with no real long-term planning. That’s why we have housing where a downtown should be and strip malls where housing should’ve been built.
  2. Wednesday & Thursday: Association Of Washington Cities Action Days. I attended this last year as a noobie and found it very useful. (I actually scored a private five with Jay Inslee. No selfie or pen. 🙁 😉 )
  3. Wednesday was also the Des Moines Marina Association Meeting (Agenda). The good news is that we’re finally moving ahead with fixing the north bulk head!
  4. Thursday: Public Safety Committee (Agenda). I think the most noteworthy item was that the entire meeting lasted a whopping 22 minutes. The fact that these meetings are so damned perfunctory should matter. It’s not like there aren’t public safety issues to work on, right?
  5. Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) (City Clerk’s Recap) (Video)
  6. Saturday: 30th District Democrats Town Hall (Video). Whether you’re a Democrat or not, all four of our legislators in the south end are Democrats so this was a chance to hear their views on current legislation in Olympia. Good info on the Redondo Pier, policing, economic recovery for Des Moines.

My Council Meeting Highlights…

  1. We’re now (finally) moving ahead with repairing the North Bulkhead. That is great news for the safety of the Marina. I’ll be kinda honest that I’ve had a certain left-handed relief at the delays because I have reservations as to the Administration’s plans for re-development. One note: in order to get the permits to do this, we’re going to pay $344,000 into a credit system, where we are contributing to another environmental program up north in Everett. Apparently this is much less expensive than re-designing the project to meet the NMFS standards. What is frustrating is that this system is unbelievably complex. So I have no idea if the re-design would be the more environmentally responsible thing to do.
  2. Speaking of which, this is coming to 216th. It is a sky bridge that will connect the new Wesley buildings on either side. I’ll be candid: you know how much I care about the needs of Seniors. But I cannot tell you how much I dislike this thing. If it gets built, I am about 100% certain that it will go down in history as being about as good for the City as the strip mall designs on Marine View Drive.

OK, there was one other highlight…

If you go to about 2:00 into the video and look at my comments. I made a motion from the dais to make the following official City policy:

Meetings of all statutory boards and commissions and Council citizen advisory bodies shall be open to any member of the City Council.

This was based on something I’ve mentioned here (and to several of my colleagues about privately). Basically, I have been repeatedly refused entry to the Chief’s Police Advisory Committee Meeting.

Now at the most basic level the job of CM is oversight. You can’t oversee if you can’t watch. And besides, this is a citizen meeting. It’s not like some secret executive session. So what exactly is there that needs to be private?

Where’s the pants on fire emoji?

The first thing I want to explain, by way of backstory is this that several of my colleagues fibbed. Sorry, but there’s no gentle way to say it. They refused to discuss the merits of this issue (which are indefensible) because they claimed they had no idea what was going on. (How dare you spring this on us, Councilmember Harris?) This is simply untrue. I have raised this issue either in writing and/or in person with most of my colleagues. My hope was to address this privately so as not to bring attention to the Chief. But they made that impossible by failing to respond.

Rules are so boring

Second of all, you may find this a bit dull, but it matters: Instead of dealing with the actual issue, the Mayor and City Attorney decided to tell me that I was in violation of parliamentary procedure. They quoted Rule 9 of our Rules Of Procedure saying that you can’t make a motion from the dais. Even though several of us (including myself on multiple occasions) have done so just this year.

And speaking of parliamentary procedure, CM Buxton suggested we go to Executive Session to work this out. But instead of making a motion and get a vote from the group (that’s the correct procedure), the Mayor simply remarked, “We’re not doing that…” And everyone just went along with it.

So there was not just one, but several breakdowns in parliamentary procedure. And no one ever speaks up.

The bottom line is this: the majority changed the Council Rules at the last meeting of 2019 in order to make life as difficult as possible for CM Martinelli and myself (we have restrictions that literally no other city in the area has.) But occasionally, a loophole does make itself known. And when it does, the Mayor simply ‘rules’ and the group goes along. Rules be damned.

Yeah, it really is as bad as that

What frustrates me most  is that these violations of procedure are so undemocratic. The few of you who watch the meetings don’t know this because it all appears to be ‘normal’. So I’m sure I will be accused of whining about nothing. But this is definitely not nothing.

I cringed when he said it, but Councilmember Martinelli was actually 100% correct when he described the majority as engaging in discrimination. Absolutely. I mean, what else would you call the following:

  • Being denied access to city-sponsored meetings?
  • Being prevented from asking questions of staff or obtaining any research?
  • Failure to respond to phone calls and emails by both the Chief and the City Manager for eleven months?
  • Being prevented from bringing any item to a meeting agenda?

Discrimination is exactly the word for it. It’s the City Council version of a poll tax. It’s a coordinated plan by the majority to ensure that a minority that they dislike is completely shut out from any meaningful opportunities.

But it’s not illegal

However, Mr. Martinelli was incorrect about one thing. There is no risk of a lawsuit. All this is as perfectly legal as the crappy way the political parties behave in the other Washington. The RCW makes it very clear that there is only one remedy: elections.

As I keep saying, almost all the day to day procedures of Council/Manager government are ruled by ‘social norms’. If the City Manager and/or Council majority want to treat a Councilmember badly, there are really no guard rails in law. As with Federal government, the management of poor governance, almost no matter how egregious is the ballot box.

So what is a politician’s promise worth?

Do I wish there were some sort of rules of ethics codified in State law? For sure. But unfortunately, the reason there aren’t is for the same reason that there aren’t such rules at the Federal level. The rules that are so unethical and shameful when one is in the minority suddenly became pretty darned handy once one gains control. As they say: Payback is a bitch.

But assuming there is a change in the balance of the Council during my tenure, I pledge to do something to meaningfully address these problems. At the very least, we can revise our Rules Of Procedure to be more in line with the best practices recommended by *MRSC and Jurassic Parliament. And you have it here in writing to hold me to it. 🙂

*Whenever you read something about parliamentary procedure here it’s usually sourced from these two places. They provide the recommended training courses for Councilmembers.

Vouchers

Posted on Categories Policy, Transparency

Let’s talk about vouchers for a few minutes. What are vouchers? They are the bills the City has to pay. The City Council votes to approve these payments as part of the Consent Agenda generally once a month.

Vouchers are one of the most important parts of running a City. And in Des Moines, they’re kinda like the sewer system of City Government. They’re absolutely essential, but we almost never see them. But we should.

Now as I just wrote, vouchers are on the Consent Agenda, which, as I’ve written about before is an up or down vote on items that are considered totally routine and thus do not require discussion. In every other City, the vouchers are presented as part of the City Council Packet. The public (that would be you) can inspect them and then, if you found something hinky (do people use that word here?) you could comment on it. Because after all, it’s public money. It’s your tax dollars. And it’s usually around $2,000,000 that never gets talked about.

Because in Des Moines, the list of vouchers are not made public. That list of $2,000,000 in payments is sent only to Councilmembers. They aren’t even published on the City’s web site! Frankly, I doubt my colleagues even read them. That may sound unkind, but in all the years I’ve been watching Des Moines City Council meetings I have never seen a Councilmember ask a  question about any voucher. (Except for moi, of course.) Maybe they ask questions in private. But that’s bad in another kind of way. More on that later.

Why should you care?

Now: what can you find on those vouchers and why should you care? Well, it’s every bill the City pays in detail. So, if you wanna know how much employees get paid? It’s right there. If you wanna know what companies the City does business with and how much they’re paid? It’s there. You can learn a lot by studying somebody’s checkbook.

Now, like many of you I used to run a business. We all sign batches of checks. And in my case, the bookkeeper would bring me the stack of checks to sign and the invoices they were paying for. Which is normal, right?

But we don’t do that in Des Moines. In Des Moines, the City Council sees the list of payments, but not the underlying invoices we are being asked to sign off on. A Councilmember such as myself has to ask to see these. I literally have to ask permission to see the invoices I’m being asked to approve.

OK, I see you getting nervous.

I gotta stop for a second to calm your nerves, dear reader. I want to reassure you that State law protects me from any harm from approving bogus or even harmful expenditures. We might approve spending that is not only wasteful, but even dangerous or downright illegal, but fortunately, your electeds are not subject to any consequences. So who cares if I examine the bills or not, right? Whew! I know you feel better. I certainly do. 😀

Meanwhile…

In other Cities they do what I used to do–they give Councilmembers not only the bills to be paid, but also the underlying invoices for review. That way the approver can provide oversight. And the reason I’m so skeptical that my colleagues bother to read the vouchers is this: In all the years I ran my business, I can’t think of a check signing session where I didn’t question at least one bill. When you read through a bunch of bills to pay, you will have one or two routine questions.

My process…

Now, what I often do after I read the vouchers, I pick up the phone and call a Councilmember in another City and I say, “Hey *Phyllis. How much are you guys paying for xxx?” And if Phyllis gives me a number that’s 30% lower than what I see? I get upset and make a note of it. But if she gives me a number that’s 30% higher than what I see? I say, “Thanks, Phyllis.” and hang up. (I’m keeeeeding. In that case, I would gently let her know she might wanna look at that. I’m not that big a jerk.)

Check this metaphor

As I said, vouchers are like the sewer system. It’s another one of those tiny, boring details that you just have to have working smoothly. But in Des Moines, it also kinda stinks. (See what I did there? That’s world class comedy, right? 😀 )

What to do…

This is another issue of transparency where we are pretty much dead last in. And I keep hammering on about the City’s web site because this is another issue that would be trivial to fix but would do wonders for public engagement.

  1. We should make the vouchers apart of the packet so that you, the public can weight in on any payment the City makes.
  2. We should automatically provide the invoices to be paid to Councilmembers. There should be no need to ask.
  3. We should create a culture where the Council can freely ask questions about any payment ahead of the City Council Meetings. I’ve talked about a Councilmember Information Request many times and this is yet another reason to implement this. Councilmembers should all be able to share information about the bills we’re paying.

The practical benefits…

As I’ve mentioned, my company used to write financial management software. Improving accounting processes for organizations was my job. And I can tell you one very simple fact: One of the best ways to reduce costs is to enable more eyes to be able to see the expenditures. The more people that can see what’s being paid, the easier it is to control spending. Duuuuh.

I have been reading the vouchers for the past year. And let me tell you, Sonny Jim, as soon as I have the votes, there will be some changes to this process.

*Phyllis is, as they say in Hollywood, a composite character. 😀

A letter to Port Of Seattle Commission re. SR509 property acquisition

Posted on Categories Uncategorized1 Comment on A letter to Port Of Seattle Commission re. SR509 property acquisition
Commissioners,

I have been watching with interest your purchase of the plot of land you
refer to as 'SR 509 Surplus'.  Residents of Des Moines refer to it as
'the forest off of 216th'.

We call it that because that entire area used to be forested. The
development of the Business Park and FAA buildings are all very well,
but they have come at the cost of literally thousands of trees. Couple
that with the tree cutting you've been doing on the other side of that
forest (200th) to appease the FAA and it adds up to a significant
reduction in the entire tree cover of our Des Moines. There are
virtually no trees left anywhere on those properties. And my fear is
that your new acquisition will meet a similar fate.

Last month, our Council received an update from Green City Partners on
the tree cover in Des Moines and the news is not great. We are now at
29%, which is -far- less than we used to be and far less than cities in
north and east King County. In short: your very laudable goals for
economic development in Des Moines also came at an unmitigated cost to
our environment.

So I'm asking you to do better moving forward.

To do that, I'm asking that the Port begin a discussion to make trees an
integral part of any development plans you may have on that site. Surely
there are ways to develop the land with the minimum loss of trees and
even to re-plant with better species. But that 'green' practice has to
be part of the process from the beginning, not an afterthought.

Please let me know how we can get this discussion started.

Thanks,

---JC

Weekly Update: 02/08/2021

Posted on Categories Environment, Transparency, Weekly Updates4 Comments on Weekly Update: 02/08/2021

Public Service Announcements

  1. If you are a local business, make the Southside Promise from the South Side Seattle Chamber Of Commerce! There are grants of up to $1,000 to help you now.
  2. 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.
  3. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  4. 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. 🙂
  5. 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.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.”
  8. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  9. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda). This is one of those ‘details’ that you should care about. The Port will be purchasing 14 acres of wooded area next to the Des Moines Creek Business Park for the purpose of adding more warehouses. This is to support cargo aviation. Which means more air traffic over Des Moines. My colleagues on the Council have publicly stated that they are all-in on this development. It’s shameful. Those will likely not be Des Moines jobs. This will definitely add to the noise, traffic and pollution.

Wednesday & Thursday: Association Of Washington Cities Action Days. I attended this last year as a noobie and found it very useful. (I actually scored a private five with Jay Inslee. No selfie or pen. 🙁 😉 )

Thursday: Public Safety Committee (Agenda)

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.

Last Week

This week I’m doing a ton of site visits for SeatacNoise.Info. If you have a Port Package and it’s got problems, please contact us and follow the instructions.

Tuesday: I had a good meeting with UW DEOHS, Senator Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall to harmonize State funding for her indoor air quality proposal with SeatacNoise.Info’s outdoor air quality monitoring proposal. The upshot: The indoor studies are full-speed ahead at five area schools (hopefully one more will be added to include Beacon Hill.)  For the next year the outdoor monitoring will only take place at those schools. In the 2022 legislative year, I’m gonna push to get that expanded as I’ve been talking about. Every neighborhood. Every year. That’s what we need.

Mea Culpa!

Two weeks ago now, I sat in on the Economic Development Committee Meeting (Agenda). In last week’s Weekly Update I commented

Chairman Nutting asked that the City make the mall at Kent Des Moines Road and Pac Highway a higher priority for re-development. Good idea. However, my feeling is that until we deal with the fact that the City boundary with Kent goes right through the middle of that mall we’ll never get where we want to be there–or with the homeless camp issues to the west. Bottom line: you can’t fix what you don’t own.

After, I had a back and forth with Councilmember Buxton where she pointed out that the group was actually talking about what is now the Dollar Tree store. D’Oh!

I’d like to offer some excuse like lack of sleep, war wound, medical procedure, but naaaaaah. It was a stupid, sloppy mistake and I am thankful that Councilmember Buxton took the time to point it out.

At the risk of sounding defensive…

Councilmember Buxton closed our back and forth by expressing this concern:

“Just trying to help you understand what you hear in Econ, so that there is less miscommunication to the public.”

I also have that concern. And I think it’s fair to say that some of my colleagues consider pretty much everything you read here to be suspect. But  I am happy to compare the quality and quantity of information I share with the public with that of my colleagues (and the Administration) any darned day of the week.

I welcome transparency and (constructive) criticism. Whenever possible, I try to provide references to what I describe. If the Economic Development Committee Meetings were recorded I would put links to that so you can see the work (and my mistakes) in all their glory.

In all our sister Cities, the public can watch and provide public comment at all Committee Meetings–which is where the majority of the real decision-making happens. I have proposed this here and been shot down each time.

So you have to take me at my word for now. Which means that, when I make a stupid mistake like… oh I dunno… referring to the other QFC that has left town in the past decade…  it’s especially embarrassing.

If you do anything long enough…

I’ve now done over thirty of these Weekly Updates. That’s a significant amount of writing (or ranting depending on your point of view.) I’ve talked with a couple of for-realz reporters about doing a ‘column’ like this. And I was warned that this sort of *screw up will occur. Sooner or later, if you do anything long enough, you’ll blow it.

What one reporter told me–and he was prophetic–is that when you *screw up, it will be for something you take for granted. And that is exactly what happened here. I was responding reflexively. My mistake was that I wasn’t really listening to the discussion because, in the back of my mind I am constantly livid about the state of our City’s economic development. And anger makes one sloppy.

What ‘the haters’ will say is, “That jerk doesn’t even know what QFC we’re talking about. Buwahahahaha!”

I can see it all from here…

But speaking of potential embarrassments, what puzzles me is why the City still insists on referring to that location as ‘the QFC’. It’s been eight years after all. Perhaps some of us still haven’t accepted that the ‘gateway’ to our great city is a Dollar Tree?

Whatever the reason, CM Nutting said that he wanted that area given higher priority because he ‘did not want to lose all the momentum we’ve achieved.’ Councilmember Buxton made a similar comment in a voice mail where she said (I’m paraphrasing): “When you’re at the top of 216th and you look West, you see all the progress.”

I do not see what they see. When I look west on 216th I see a very nice road (thank you Federal government), but to my eyes the downtown hasn’t significantly improved in the fourteen years since that project began.

And the other ‘gateway’, the one I thought they were talking about when I was on my mental stay-cation? My previous comments apply.

It’s not that I don’t agree with these plans. It’s that I literally do not see the plan. And that has created a sense of urgency in me, which, on this occasionm made me a sloppy listener. I will have to work on that.

*To be clear, this not the language I use at home when I make this kind of mistake. 😀

Weekly Update: 02/01/2021

Posted on Categories Environment, Transparency, Weekly Updates2 Comments on Weekly Update: 02/01/2021

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 are 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.”
  7. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  8. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

This week I’m doing a ton of site visits for SeatacNoise.Info. If you have a Port Package and it’s got problems, please contact us and follow the instructions.

Tuesday: Meeting with UW DEOHS, Senator Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall on harmonizing State funding for her indoor air quality proposal with SeatacNoise.Info’s outdoor air quality monitoring proposal.

Last Week

  1. Monday: SCA Meeting with King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci. This was very useful.
  2. Wednesday: PSRC Operations Meeting
  3. Thursday: I had a good phone call with our Police Guild President Justin Cripe. I rarely talk about these sorts of things because the discussion is private, but they are a part of my weekly ‘diet’. Officer Cripe is studying for the Sergeant’s exam and I have no doubt he’ll nail it. And in the ‘small world’ category, he is the son of Quiet Skies Coalition activist Larry Cripe–someone many of you know as spearheading Burien’s successful lawsuit against the FAA last year.
    One thing we discussed was what it means to be ‘fully staffed’. This is from a 2017 FAQ on the Des Moines web site:


My colleagues often tout ‘fully staffed’ as meaning ‘we have all the polcie we need.’ I think the graph speaks for itself. We had less police officers during the Great Recession and as times have improved, we’ve re-hired. Good. But we’re still ten officers less than 2007. So while we may have enough officers to cover each shift, I do not think we have the number of officers that we actually need. And I think the increases in property crime over the past few years bear this out.

  1. Thursday: 3:00PM Municipal Facilities Committee Meeting (Agenda) This meeting was action-packed. It mainly set out the yearly calendar, but the amount of stuff. I’ve groused since forever that these meetings are simply too short. Just as Chairman Nutting was preparing to end the meeting, I was pleased to see COO Dan Brewer interrupt and suggest that either more meetings be added or meetings be lengthened. Good idea. The other thing: The City is attempting (not a sure thing) but attempting to get a grant from Puget Sound Electric for a charging station at the Marina. I know this is something many of you ask me about all the time. And I know this is a baby step. But as was pointed out, the City has no experience with this stuff yet. So doing a single site on someone else’s dime makes sense. Once we have a win under our belt, my hope is that the City will be quite aggressive in siting charging stations in appropriate places all over Des Moines.
  2. Thursday: 4:00PM Economic Development Committee Meeting (Agenda). Chairman Nutting asked that the City make the mall at Kent Des Moines Road and Pac Highway a higher priority for re-development. Good idea. However, my feeling is that until we deal with the fact that the City boundary with Kent goes right through the middle of that mall we’ll never get where we want to be there–or with the homeless camp issues to the west. Bottom line: you can’t fix what you don’t own.

    Councilmember Buxton also brought up the fact that we require all landlords (even people just renting a single home) to have a business license. I think I should take some blame (or credit) for that. I was pleased to see that the Mayor and City Manager spoke up in favor of maintaining that requirement which I fully endorse. And here’s why. I loooooooooooove Code Enforcement. 🙂

A couple of updates

I got a number of scoffs to last week’s article talking about the 47 times I’ve received no response to requests for basic information. People seem to think I’m exaggerating the problem. A couple of points.

  1. Our Mayor re-scheduled our next City Council Meeting. When I asked ‘why?’ I got no response. So let’s call that #48. 😀 According to Robert’s Rules Of Order, whenever a meeting is to be re-scheduled, it is customary to provide a reason. (By the way that also goes for when Councilmembers are absent. The body deserves an explanation for that as well.)
  2. And to the thing I was writing about. Two quick things. They say ‘one piccie is worth a thousand bucks.’ I dunno about that, but here is what I was asking our IT guy to do:
    • Add a link to the bottom of the home page for our Community Services Directory. That’s literally a two minute job.
    • Change the Community Services Directory to be a web page instead of a PDF. I guessed it would take under an hour. Well, I did it. It took me about 15 minutes. (I know it’s got a lot of mistakes. I’ll take another 15 and fix them at the weekend. It was just to show that this ain’t rocket surgery.)

Now why do I grouse about these details? In my former life, my company used to consult on what is called Section 508 Compliance. It’s sort of like the Americans with Disabilities Act for web sites. We would make sure that everything at a company (including the web sites) were usable by people with disabilities–which as you know is a lot of Des Moines. When the City web site doesn’t properly serve people with disabilities it literally shuts out thousands of people. And PDFs are big offenders. For example, PDFs are pretty hard to use on a mobile phone (try to read or search through a PDF on yer phone, you’ll see.) And they don’t work for people with really bad vision or people who need to use screen readers (the reader can’t ‘read’ the text aloud.) And worst of all: the content of PDFs is generally not part of the web site’s Search function. So if you search for something like “School programs” (something that’s in the Community Services Directory) it won’t be found by the Search. That’s ridiculous. No City our size, with our number of seniors and disabled should have a web site like this.

Again: the Community Services Directory is one of the most used documents on the site. So if it only take a few minutes to fix a problem like this and it benefits a large number of residents, why wouldn’t you do it?

And while I’m on a roll, number 123 on my list of web site gripes that would take 30 seconds to fix: The various Committee Meetings now show up on the City web site calendar. But of course, the link takes you absolutely nowhere. So a visitor still has no idea how to find out what things are being discussed, how to participate or even when they occur. People ask me all the time how to get involved with the City. But if the City can’t even be bothered to make it easy for people to attend the meetings, why should anyone attend? And perhaps that’s the point.

Weekly Update: 01/24/2021

Posted on Categories Environment, Transparency, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/24/2021

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 are 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.”
  7. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  8. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

I am doing a ton of site visits for SeatacNoise.Info. Checking on Port Packages that are breaking down or have mold. If that sounds like you? Please e-mail them.

  1. Monday: SCA Meeting with King County Councilmember Claudia Balducci
  2. Wednesday: PSRC Operations Meeting
  3. Thursday: 3:00PM Municipal Facilities Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  4. Thursday: 4:00PM Economic Development Committee 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.

Last Week

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

For both the Environment and Transpo Committees, the meetings were basically about setting the yearly Calendar. On the Environment Committee, I asked (again) for some background information on ‘Storm Water For Dummies’ and was once again rebuffed. (And just to be clear ‘Storm Water’ is about 90% of the Environment Committee’s calendar.) This did not make me happy and assuming I stick around long enough to see the wheel come round, this will change. Every Councilmember who asks a reasonable question deserves a cheerful, prompt and fulsome answer from staff. I’m not picking on any individual. But it’s ridonculous.

Council Meeting Notes: Homelessness

(Agenda)  (Video) Bonnie’s recap

We had a presentation on ‘homelessness’. I don’t wanna sound harsh. The staff had some very good things to say. But it did not exactly kill me for a couple of reasons. First off because it seemed to (unintentionally?) conflate ‘homelessness’ with criminality (eg. there was a crime graph displayed which had nothing to do with the presentation.) This is not only untrue it’s unproductive. We spend a lot of money on policing this issue and everyone agrees that it doesn’t work. Secondly it furthered the constant narrative that the problem is ‘so big’ that small Cities can do very little which I also find unhelpful. I’ll leave it there for today.

That said, I want to praise the City and Chief Thomas for Item #6 on the Consent Agenda–basically a State grant to have mental health pros ride-along with police on appropriate calls. This is not only good policy, it’s good politics. The police needed someone else’s money to test the waters and see for themselves that this can work. If it tests out as well as it has in other places around the country, it will give small Cities like DM the confidence to then re-allocate our own resources towards more effective policing strategies. Smart.

Research

Please read the following short email exchange. In it I’m asking our IT Manager, Dale Southwick how long it would take him to make a very minor change to the City’s web site. As required (it’s a social norm to always CC the City Manager when contacting staff), I cc’d the City Manager. Instead of getting an answer from Dale, I got a reply from Mr. Matthias.

From: JC Harris
Sent: Tuesday, January 19, 2021 11:23 PM
To: Dale Southwick <DSouthwick@desmoineswa.gov>
Cc: Michael Matthias <MMatthias@desmoineswa.gov>
Subject: Question re. web site

Hi Dale,

Hope ya well.

I have a quick research-y question re. the web site--specifically this thing:

1. Roughly how long would it take you guys to re-do the Community Services PDF into an HTML page using the current platform? Does the CMS theme auto-magically format things to be mobile-friendly or do you have to actually write html/css?

2. How much work is it to redo the links to be a bit more friendly? ie. Can you do redirects like /community-services-directory without all the /DocumentCenter/View/4/ goop?

3. Finally: How long do you think it might take to put a link to the aforementioned page on the home page of the web site? Are we talking man-years here? :D

TIA,

--JC

From: Michael Matthias
Sent: Wednesday, January 20, 2021 11:22 AM
To: JC Harris <JCHarris@desmoineswa.gov>

If there is a policy question here (and direction to evaluate policy options requires a majority vote by the City Council) you can ask me, otherwise I have asked Dale not to spend valuable time on a response.

Five Minutes

Before we dig into why this matters, I want you to understand that the task I asked Dale about would take less than an hour to complete. And it woulda taken Dale about five (5) minutes to write back to tell me that.

Also, full props to Mr. Matthias. The reply is wonderful writing: concise, clear and packed with information. In one sentence, he manages to sum up everything that is wrong with the current government.

The point: Mr. Matthias is saying flat out that he will not allow an individual Councilmember to ask any question of staff without a vote of the majority of the Council (which can only happen in a Council Meeting prox. 20 times a year.) No matter how big or how small, you gotta get the majority to vote on it.

Can he really do that?

That’s the question I am most often asked when I’ve brought this up. The answer is ‘yes’. Under State law, a City Manager is basically God.  There are literally no laws concerning ‘conduct’ or ‘ethics’. The power and behavior of a City Manager is almost solely constrained by a majority vote of the  Council. Now in order to keep their jobs (and be ethical human beings 🙂 ) there tend to be ‘norms’ that 99% of City Managers follow, but those are only social norms. But neither he (or the Council) currently follow those norms. And I need you to understand just how exceptional Des Moines is in this regard.

Also, again under State law, a Councilmember has only two main jobs: legislation and oversight of the City Manager. All that jazz of parades and doing public events? Strictly optional. People may vote for someone after seeing them do all that fun stuff, but that’s not the j.o.b.

Two problems

The City Manager’s policies create two problems. First, you can’t create legislation if you can’t get the government to help you do research. In the example above, I wanted to know how to make a tiny improvement to the City’s web site. So I asked the IT guy for a simple cost estimate. If it had been a big deal? I wouldn’t have asked. But it would be the same deal if I wanted to suggest something bigger like a crosswalk or anything, regardless of scope.

Which is why the Port, County, State and Federal governments all have research staff for their legislators. Small cities generally don’t have the budget for a dedicated research staff.

So one of the ‘norms’ I mentioned is that the staff in 99% of Washington Cities are expected to allocate at least some time every week to answer questions from electeds. Just not Des Moines.

Second problem: Oversight. That means occasionally obtaining documents and asking questions of staff to verify the work carried out by our City.

Why Social Norms matter

Both these problems indicate why the violation of ‘social norms’ I mentioned is so poisonous. If the City Manager doesn’t want a Councilmember asking questions–and the majority supports that–there is simply no possibility to craft legislation or conduct oversight. You literally cannot do the job that is mandated by the State Of Washington. (You’re totally free to do the whole parade thing, of course, which is doubtless what the City Manager and majority would prefer. 😀 )

The enablers

Speaking of which, let’s be clear: This is obstruction and stonewalling, pure and simple. And the support of the current majority (including Mayor and Deputy Mayor) is what makes this possible. They are completely aware of the situation and 100% on board. I know this because I’ve asked four of them directly. The other doesn’t return my calls. 😀

Whether you agree or disagree with me on various policies, you should definitely not want this to continue because it is so blatantly unethical. It cannot be the case that such undemocratic behavior is good for Des Moines because it takes away that whole things about ‘checks and balances’. Unless of course you believe that might makes right. Or the one book you keep by your nightstand was written by some guy named Machiavelli.

You don’t know what you don’t know

Going back to the City Manager’s report, once again, bear in mind that you’re always getting the Administration’s point of view (which is why Councilmembers are well-advised to get out and see how things are done in other places once in a while.)  But if a Councilmember needs the permission of the majority to conduct any inquiry? You can never get an accurate read as to how biased the Administration’s message really is.

Because that’s the thing: this isn’t just about obtaining information. It’s also a practical matter of building trust. If you can’t get even get an answer to a 5-minute question, it then kinda makes a guy wonder what’s going on with all those big ticket items we routinely vote on without so much as a single question.

One number

And just so ya know, as of this writing I’ve been in office about 384 days. And this is the forty seventh (47) time I have gotten a refusal to answer a simple question like this. That’s about one every two weeks. Sometimes they even come with a bonus letter from the City Attorney.

This must change. All Councilmembers deserve to be able to fully do the job  as described by the law. And you should ask my colleagues why they think it’s OK that any Councilmember be denied a 5-minute reply from staff to reasonable questions concerning research and oversight.

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.