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.

Weekly Update: 01/03/2021

Posted on Categories Airport, Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates6 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/03/2021

Happy New Year!

I’ve been on the job for one year. And frankly, it’s sometimes hard to tell how I’m doing–especially being in the minority, where one rarely wins the day. But perhaps one metric is this mailing list. Like so many things during the pandemic, it went up, down and sideways. But most weeks I got over 500 views. That’s either a lot of love or a lot of the other thing. 😀 But either way I got people talking.  I am very grateful for all the feedback.

2021 will be a big year for Des Moines. Once we get past this little pandemic-speed bump thing there will be an election for four Council seats. (not mine, Thank God. 😀 ) So I hope you’ll stay engaged and start making yourself heard!

Public Service Announcements

  1. 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. 🙂
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

The highlight (as of this writing) will be something you don’t get to see: an Executive Session regarding the Masonic Home. And yeah, we’re starting the year the way we ended last year: I have been admonished by our City Attorney against speaking up in support of saving the place. Way to go First Amendment. NOT! 😀

I am not a fan of Executive Sessions–except to say that they are the only place I ever get to talk to my colleagues in any meaningful way.

The City (for the 46th time in 2020) stonewalled my basic requests for information on the Masonic Home. All the info that I (and CM Buxton) requested, which should be 100% public, has to (unnecessarily) wait for an Executive Session. I hope there is some seriously juicy info that I don’t know about which explains the lack of action over the past 10+ years. But for now, it just seems like another bit of vindictive behavior towards a Councilmember and that should not thrill you.

Last Two Weeks

Or: “How I spent my holidays.” 😀

Grand Theft Auto

First, my car was stolen from a well-lit public place. But the good news is that I got a first hand experience of the Des Moines PD handling car theft. The DM Officers were courteous as expected, but there were a few hiccoughs that other residents have told me about that I hope we can work on soon.

  • I got transferred 3xs during the 911 hand-offs. There are ongoing glitches in the whole 911 system. It’s not our City’s ‘fault’ per se, but it does need looking into as I hear this complaint from residents aaaaaaaaaall the time.
  • And I found out that if you want to get a routine copy of your police report, you have to make a public records request. My guess is that this confuses a lot of residents so I’d like to see a direct link on the PD page that says “Click here to get your police report.”
  • And in talking to both the police and residents and former police I get the distinct impression of “well, that’s life in 2021, whaddaya gonna do?” At the risk of sounding like ‘OK, Boomer’, I think we have to do something. It’s corrosive to the fabric of society to make what we used to call ‘grand theft auto’ into a collective shoulder shrug.

The Masonic Home

Second, I did spend a good deal of time researching the Masonic Home and I learned a few things: First, how totally aware the rest of Washington is about this building. I thought that at least a part of the reason it hadn’t been rescued was because no one else knows about it. Nope. Everybody at all levels of government and in philanthropy knows. And they want it to be saved. The message I heard over and over was that they’ve been waiting for our City to get fully engaged.

As I’ve written is at least part of the problem is philosophical. We have had an extremely strong tradition of property rights on our City Council, so no matter how special a building is, there will be lots of people who simply do not believe in the City getting involved. But the thing I want to stress is that no one I’ve spoken with wants anything but a healthy return for the current owner. Whatever solution that arises has to be a real win-win for all parties. And that shouldn’t be hard. There are many really great ideas for preserving the property and creating value for the owner.

The Airport and the water

Third, as you know, I’ve been continuing work on the History Of Sea-Tac Airport project with SeatacNoise.Info. Over the holidays, I did a ton of digging into the earliest days of Sea-Tac Airport–even before the big change of 1961. Now this whole ‘history’ game is not easy work because obviously, a lot of people are now gone. Also there’s the pandemic, so getting access to paper records is problematic.

This is Sea-Tac Airport c. 1948. The ‘x’ pattern is the original two runways. Shortly after Des Moines incorporated in 1959 the angled runway was removed and the horizontal runway was lengthened into what is now the First (east) runway–the one which tracks directly over so many of our schools on 24th. That was the ‘big change’.

I put this up because, if you’re under seventy-ish you probably don’t realize how much the entire landscape of our area has changed.  There was a marvelous wetland system that surrounded the airport (including underneath what are now the second and third runways.) There were houses and forests and active creeks with lots of fish from the back end on 188th all the way south to 216th.

Which is my way of leading up to telling you just how awful the Port (and the airlines) treated the surrounding environment until at least the 1970’s. But back then the issue was not so much noise or air pollution but water. For decades the airlines dumped raw aviation waste directly into every major creek as well as Puget Sound. One property owner famously demonstrated the problem by walking over to a rock in the north end of Des Moines Creek and setting it on fire with a lighted match! The damage the airport did to the entire eco-system is unbelievable and probably irreparable.

The Port has been successfully sued at least a dozen times to create and improve this state of affairs. In fact, those law suits over ‘water’ were the ones that held up Third Runway construction for over a decade; nothing to do with ‘noise’ or ‘air pollution’. Water. And the Port still hasn’t finished that clean up. Just this year they’re spending $800k to clean up Miller Creek in Burien. But that’s really just continuing to mitigate bad acts dating back to the 1950’s.

Other than giving you a sad story, the point for today has to do with expectations. See the Port is only paying to clean up that creek–nothing more. But when creeks die or the forests are cut down or homes are removed, it permanently damages the City. It reduces property values, increases our costs, makes our City less desirable, and it reduces our property tax rolls (which means we then have to tax you more to make up the lost income.)

Say I injured you in a car accident. You have surgery, but even after that you’ve got some permanent disability. I agree to pay for your surgery, but nothing else; nothing to help you deal with your ongoing problems, including permanent loss of income. Does that sound fair?

That has always been the essential problem with the airport–when it harms surrounding Cities it may pay the proximate costs (if one is willing to sue) but that is all. It never makes Cities whole by covering the true damages. And they can do that because, unlike other airports in America, we don’t own it. The Port does. And it is our failure, as airport communities, to have not fully recognized this inequity and done all we can to be fairly compensated.

Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

Merry Christmas! And Happy Holidays and all that sort of thing. Just pretend I know how to insert a really clever ‘meme’ or Santa emoji <here>. 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. Sunday’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!
  2. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. 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.”

Last Week

Tuesday: South County Combined Are Transportation Board (SCATBd) Meeting.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Ferry Study. This is different from the study the City has launched with private consultants. The PSRC did not find evidence of sufficient demand for a State-run ferry. This matters because a private ferry system would likely be funded by airport and cruise ship operations. And the last thing in Des Moines should be doing is enabling more flights from Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: A conference with Congressman Adam Smith regarding an FAA Rule Change which would, in effect, make the language of the State law HB 2315 (which allows the Port to repair and update pre-existing sound insulation systems) as a Federal regulation and thus of benefit to all American airport communities. The news was not good. According to his staff, there has been push back from electeds in district with airports. I have another private meeting scheduled to understand the ‘why’? Frankly, any congressman who votes against this is basically telling his residents, “I could care less about your health.”

The Masonic Home

There has been a certain amount of the old Much Ado About Nothing on social media this week in response to a Seattle Times Article about the impending demise of the Masonic Home.

As you know, I’ve been a big proponent of saving the place since, basically forever. I even made that one of my main campaign videos when I ran:

I want to clear up some misinformation, which I hope you will help me share to the public, because frankly, I get worn out countering the same stuff over and over and over and over. And over…  (Ah… I do believe I hear the native call of the Whiny Northwestern Sextagenarian 😀 )

  1. Neither the Seattle Times or Thunderword articles contain any new information. So all previous comments expressing the sentiment that “I guess it’s decided” are incorrect. Nothing has changed.
  2. The current status of the building is that it is owned by a private developer who keeps renewing a demolition permit with the City (demo permits have a 180 day expiration date, but are renewable.)
  3. Other than renewing that permit, the City claims that have had no contact from the developer, nor do they have any ideas on their intentions.
  4. There will be public hearings if/when the developer takes next steps towards either demolition or planning.
  5. And that makes me want to know why the reporter chose to do the story now. IOW: there’s no ‘news’ so why run this now?
  6. It also makes me wonder how the reporter picked up the story. IOW: we don’t get a ton of stories about DM so someone must’ve convinced the reporter to write this and get it printed. Who?
  7. And then there’s a line in there where the reporter says that, according to the City, “it was sold without any pushback from local residents”. This is simply untrue. The public has made it clear for over a decade that they really want the place saved. What they (we) have been told over and over and over and over by the City is that “there is nothing to be done about it.” The City has never made any serious efforts to save the building. It has been the City’s position that this is like any other private sale and in fact have made every effort to downplay any possibility that the public could play a part in saving the building.
  8. This bears repeating: The public was told over and over that there was nothing they could do. But that is not true. If the City had taken a position of fully supporting restoration and preservation, things could have gone quite differently. There have never been any town meetings or substantial form of public engagement to discuss the situation and ask the public to consider other options. (Contrast that with the Burien Annex–where the Burien City Council held several public meetings to discuss alternatives and really listen to stakeholders.)
  9. Finally, apart from saving the building, I have very practical concerns about the current zoning. Note that it was re-zoned as ‘IC’ which means an institutional purpose similar to Wesley or Judson. I have been told over and over by residents in the neighborhood that you are not thrilled with a significant increase in traffic at that intersection. And I don’t blame you.

Irish Castles?

Many of you will make the decidedly free-market argument that, “It’s a nice building, but… the Masons let it rot, so why should we foot the bill?” And my answer is “Irish Castles”.

As many of you know, I grew up in Ireland. And when Ireland first gained independence in the 20’s, we had hundreds of broken down castles left over from English landlords who, just like the Masons today, could no longer afford the upkeep on their very nice private properties. Now Ireland as a whole was dirt poor back then. Like Albania poor. Americans have no idea. So the huge argument for leaders was: sell these lands to farmers or developers for much needed short-term cash or preserve it for future generations. That is essentially the same choice as here: the City can promote a private sale and pocket the one-time money or help to invest in the property for the long-term good of the City.

Now a lot of those fancy lands were sold off for development, but the most significant of these falling down estates were turned into ‘monuments’; a policy which made absolutely no short-term financial sense. But over the long term this strategy has been an absolutely genius move for Ireland, both in terms of tourism and more general economic development. It turns out that having a truly unique place drives a lot of good things to your neighbourhood.

Every time the City Of Des Moines has renovated a building it has paid big dividends. Want proof? Just visit the Field House on 220th or the Beach Park Auditorium. Done right, historic preservation always pays over the long -term.

As I’ve written, the Masonic Home is one of the top five most significant combinations of architecture/grounds in the entire region. The competition is extremely thin because Puget Sound has never really placed a high value on historical buildings. All the more reason to save this amazing property for future generations It’s completely unique and it’s all ours.

One last thing for me to gush on. As anyone who approaches Des Moines from the water, the Masonic Home is the defining landmark. Not the Marina; the Masonic Home. For me as a sailor, it literally guides one home to Des Moines.

Costs?

As jazzed as I am about the place, I fully acknowledge that the costs of renovating the place would be somewhere between ‘seriously expensive‘ and ‘are you shitting me, dude?‘.

In addition to all the other work that was never done, there are probably earthquake retrofits, hazmat remediation and on and on and on. It’s not a money pit, it’s probably a money crater from that asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs.

And. I. do. not. care.

This is the one time you will hear me talk about going big on public spending because I believe I can make a strong case that, in addition to the historic importance of the building, the Masonic Home is essential to the City’s long term financial and civic success–certainly as much as the Marina.

I hope it goes without saying that we can’t do it all on our own. We should aggressively court investors and Federal and State funding. And we’ve got some of the best legislators at both levels to help us do it (as well as infrastructure spending likely coming in the next administration.) But we have to be willing to do at least our part.

The South End

The City of Des Moines is actually a collection of about a dozen annexations from the original very small geography established in 1959. And since then almost all of the City’s resources have focused on this northern end of town. But nowadays, the majority of residents actually live in the southern portions of town acquired through all those annexations.

But despite being the true majority, the South end of Des Moines has no public buildings, no community center and a complete deficit of parks. Reclaiming the Masonic Home as some combination of City Hall, Community Center, light commercial space (restaurants, professional) would give the South end the connection to the City they have been missing out on for decades.

Destination Des Moines?

We’ve been talk, talk, TALKING about ‘making Des Moines a destination‘ since I’ve lived here. And I know many of you are sick of all that talk. I know I am. The last time we really invested in this City’s future was in 1971 when we opened the Marina. I think once every fifty years isn’t too often to put our money where our mouth is. That is, if we ever hope to get to that destination.

Weekly Update: 12/13/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Engagement, Transparency, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 12/13/2020

The universe is telling me to slow down. I broke my toe last week which has limited my ability to get out–and provided yet another convenient excuse to be a day late. 😀

Public Service Announcements

  1. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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

Tuesday: South County Combined Are Transportation Board (SCATBd) Meeting.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Ferry Study. This is different from the study the City has launched with private consultants. The PSRC did not find evidence of sufficient demand for a State-run ferry. This matters because a private ferry system would likely be funded by airport and cruise ship operations. And the last thing in Des Moines should be doing is enabling more flights from Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: A conference with Congressman Adam Smith regarding an FAA Rule Change which would, in effect, make the language of the State law HB 2315 (which allows the Port to repair and update pre-existing sound insulation systems) as a Federal regulation and thus of benefit to all American airport communities. I cannot stress enough that this is how all airport mitigations will be done in the next decade and it is the single biggest error our local leaders have made. We must focus our attention on local mitigations which then propagate up to the Federal level, rather than waiting for some mythical ‘bi-partisanship’ to help us from the top down.

Last Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Meeting (Agenda). On Page 3 is the Port’s 2021 Legislative Agenda which has some very fine ideas about Federal legislation to reduce noise and pollution. The Port is supporting its own interests, which do not currently include anything that would reduce their revenues. They are not ready to take a hit financially in order to reduce noise, pollution or work substantively on climate change.

Wednesday: Rotary Club. I gave a speech on Sea-Tac Airport and new opportunities for airport mitigation that I urge everyone to read it.

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Council Transportation Board. The notable item for me was looking at how much funding each City is getting. Des Moines got grants to work on the Highline College segment of Barnes Creek Trail, which is great. But I sure wish we could get more!

Friday: Sound Cities Association Board Elections. Both Traci Buxton and I ran (and lost) to represent the City Of Des Moines on the South Board. The winners were basically chosen because they had more experience so the decision made sense. My goal was simply to get my name out there–which has been challenging in the pandemic world where almost all the normal ‘schmoozing’ opportunities have been cut off.

City Currents Magazine

*Hopefully by now you have received your copy of the City Currents Magazine (and if you’ve visited the Post Office, you can’t help but be inundated by copies). Many of us just sort of toss them away, perhaps after a quick browse. But the thing is often packed with really useful information and I would encourage residents to really read it.

My biggest issue (get it? 😀 ) with the City Currents is actually the same thing I like most about it: the fact that it does provide a lot of really useful information, summarized in a nice, digestible format. It’s just that it only gets out into the world four times a year. I’m not at all suggesting that the City put more money into printing; actually the opposite.

I go on a lot about how much I hate the City’s web site. And occasionally someone will ask me to ‘stop criticizing and give a positive solution’. OK, the positive solution is to simply make the City web site do what the City Currents does: clear, easy to understand information that’s easy to get through.

Just in this current issue, you’ve got:

  • A wonderful directory of your City Employees
  • A nice one page summary of City Council ordinances and resolutions
  • A letter from Mayor Matt Pina summarizing the Council’s work over the past quarter
  • A super nice City Directory with phone numbers
  • A summary of the City’s EATS program for seniors and Vets
  • An explanation of work being done at the Field House Park
  • An article on the City’s ongoing Minor Home Repair Program
  • A nice update on all the great things happening at Midway Park
  • An update of the Senior Activity Center
  • The first thorough description I’ve seen of the City’s GRO Business Grant program (including recipients)
  • An article on proper storm water discharge practices

That is all good stuff, much of it I’m sure most of you haven’t hear about yet. Which brings up my two big niggles:

  • First, almost all of this is not ‘news’. Almost all of it is months behind the actual events.
  • Second, again almost all of this could be put on the City’s web site in a fun and easy to find format that would engage the public the moment you get to the City’s home page.

The home page

In effect, the City’s home page should be the City Currents magazine. And it should be available to the community as events happen. The web site should also have a very prominent calendar, which allows the public to drill down to all events, both municipal and civic, so as to maximize the number of people who can learn about and participate in all our great programs (including volunteer opportunities.)

What we currently have is a web site that technically has a lot of information, but much of it is just buried so deep good luck finding it. And the current (cough) ‘calendar’ doesn’t work the way people expect it to. It is missing many, many events. And even with those that are listed,  it tells them ‘what’, but it doesn’t lead them to the information they want. The net effect of all this is to reduce the number of people who engage with our City on all levels, from volunteering to attending meetings, to finding out about available programs and on and on…

I don’t want to keep beating on this, but most of our sister cities do a much better job in these regards. It’s not a lack of capability, it’s just that we haven’t made the effort here. Yet.

Hang onto your City Currents!

And until we do, I urge you to really read and then keep your copy of City Currents (and if you’d like a copy I’ve got extras). The list of phone numbers alone may come in handy. But the information in every issue gives residents insights into what the City is doing and planning that do not happen all that often.

*The most current online version should be available soon.

Weekly Update: 11/22/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Environment, Taxes, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates2 Comments on Weekly Update: 11/22/2020

This Week

Well, this is gonna be an odd Thanksgiving, am I right? 😀 There wasn’t much scheduled to begin with. However, it will be especially constrained for moi.

As you may have heard, I am in ‘quarantine’ for the next ten days. A person I came in contact with last weekend tested positive and is symptomatic. Currently I have no symptoms–beyond my usual delightful disposition.

I have contacted everyone I have been face to face with recently and I have gotten an initial test (which was negative.) That said, I’m in the jailhouse for ten more days.

I’m only tellin’ y’all to emphasize that this is no joke and if you’ve been slacking recently? Get on the stick. You know what to do.  I know it’s tough with the holidays, but… you gotta stop rationalizing risky behavior. You know what I’m talking about. It reminds me of teenagers. “I’m sure it’ll be fine just this one time, Betty!” 😀 Uh huh.
Anyhoo… have a very Happy Holiday. On Zoom.
(I’m waiting to see Santa show up on a Zoom call. 😀 )

Last Week

Tuesday: Port of Seattle regular Commission Meeting (Agenda) This meeting finalized their 2021 Budget and Tax Levy and included a 3% increase in Property Taxes. On the other hand, it also did set aside more money for Port Packages than in the past ten years, so that’s something. One thing you’ll be hearing about a lot is something called the South King County Fund. Originally, this was the Port’s attempt at providing money for airport mitigation programs. Very quickly however, our Cities did what they often do best: disagree. Some of the Cities were like, “environment, schmironment, just give us money for general improvements (like sidewalks). And some areas affected by the planes (Beacon Hill) were upset that they were not included. So now the program has morphed into something of a general ‘grant’ program. I object to these sorts of grab bag programs. The Port should be budgeting specifically to pay for the environmental problems of the airport.

Tuesday: Burien Airport Committee I always highlight their work for a few reasons: a) They’re currently the only group that is doing any real work on behalf of the communities.  b) Simply because their web site is so much more user-friendly than Des Moines. For those watching, we have two ‘official’ groups which purport to be working on airport issues: The Highline Forum (which is electeds) and the Sea-Tac Airport Stakeholder Advisory Committee (StART) which was supposed to be for community residents. Neither has turned out to be particularly useful because neither has worked on actual legislation or negotiation with the Port of Seattle. The BAC is the one remaining group (well, besides SeatacNoise.Info) doing actual research and asking tough questions.

Wednesday: Highline Forum. Speaking of which: this one had great presentations on Sound Transit and SR-509. Heading back to StART for a minute, there is talk about somehow ‘reforming’ both StART and the Highline Forum so that they might function more like you expect them to (ie. actually advocate for changes to the airport.) I am not thrilled about this notion for a couple of reasons because a) It would still be run by the Port, which is a bit like having yer wife’s attorney mediate yer divorce settlement. b) The fact is that, as with that SKCF, there is simply not a lot of engagement from some Cities. Many of the Cities (including ours, frankly) focus on getting economic development money from the Port and not actually reducing the negative impacts from the airport. There are plenty of organisations now supporting economic development. There should be at least one organisation which is solely dedicated to reducing the noise and pollution.

Friday: South King County Housing and Homelessness Partnership (SKHPP). An Inter-Local Agreement between many Cities in SKC. The name pretty much says it all. All the Cities have agreed to put in a pot of money, which is great. But as I keep saying, the real question is, “Now what?” In other words, at some point you have to do something with it and that’s gonna be tough because, frankly, the issues are so tough. One of the participants is Master Builders–an organization representing developers. They have a Toolkit which I think you’ll find interesting because it offers several ways forward for increasing housing. One thing I disagreed with the City on over the years was land use and now we have very little space left. But there are some great options in that toolkit.

Friday: Sound Cities Assocation Legislative Agenda presentation. Our own 30th District Rep. Jesse Johnson was in attendance. Here is a letter written by the SCA to Governor Jay Inslee which asks for help for restaurants. If you are concerned that the tone of the letter seems to go against health guidelines, recognise the desperate situation: the Federal Government has totally dropped the ball. And the State has serious Constitutional limits on grants it can supply to Cities (the previous money the State distributed was from Federal CARES Act money). My hope is that the State holds a Special Session and acts to provide more money to Cities. However, based on the dialogue I heard today from State lawmakers, I am not confident. I also want to say one other thing on this: The Stock Market is at a record high which is very misleading. We currently have two very different economies in Des Moines. On the one hand we have these large companies that are doing amazingly well: and those are primarily ones that sell products (Amazon, Lowes, etc.) But then there is the service economy, which is in the tank. And it’s that service economy that comprises the majority of small business in a City like Des Moines. I support the State health guidelines. But I keep reminding people how rough things were for our local businesses after the 2008 recession: it decimated Marine View Drive. We cannot let that happen again.

A quick note on Motions…

I wrote the following letter to our City Attorney last week to ask for a ruling on parliamentary procedure based on a potential problem at our last City Council Meeting (Video) where I proposed that the City rejoin the National League Of Cities (NLC). There were several problems with that motion, but I only want to focus on the parliamentary issue here. I had hoped to receive an answer in time for this article. Hopefully soon. 🙂

Hi Tim,

A parliamentary question. I hope you’re the right person to ask. If not, please direct me to the proper individual for future questions.

At several meetings this year, Mayor Pina has warned me that if I make a motion, it is seconded, and then fails, it is ‘dead’. He did just this in our last meeting.

He has not specified exactly what that means, but the implication is that he means that this is permanent, ie. that particular motion can never be made again. In fact CM Buxton said that she chose not to second my motion to join *National League Of Cities (NLC) specifically because if she had done so it could never be brought up again. She felt that she was doing me a service by not seconding my motion. (ie. by having it die for lack of a second, it could then be brought up again at a future meeting.)

I can’t seem to find that in my reading of Robert’s.

Please provide the specific place in our Rules Of Procedure (or RROO or other City code?) which lays out the specifics of when/if a motion may be renewed.

Thanks in advance,

—JC

Just to be clear, I can find no such rule, either in Robert’s Rules Of Order (RROO) or in our Council Rules Of Procedure.

According to RROO and JurassicParliament (the fantastic training service that our City uses to train Councilmembers), if a motion does not pass, it is only ‘dead’ for that particular meeting. A Councilmember can bring back the same motion at the next meeting. (Of course, when one renews a previously failed motion one should always include new information in order to change hearts and minds.)

This is a great case of why all that ‘parliamentary’ jazz actually matters. A lot.

*The National League Of Cities is just what it says it is, a nationwide group of Cities that lobbies at the Federal level in order to further interests that all Cities tend to share. The City Of Des Moines was a member for many years and we left when the current majority took over. I strongly favor re-joining not only because all our sister cities are members, but because the NLC has been particularly strong in advocating for Airport/FAA reform and in returning more Federal money to Cities.

Weekly Update: 11/15/2020

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This’ll be a long-winded one (sorry). Last week’s City Council Meeting was, arguably, the most important of the year. There was the Budget, Property Taxes, Human Services spending and I got to be the one yelling at my colleagues (for a change) rather than just sitting there and taking it. And tucked in the DMMA thing is a presentation you should watch. So… ya know… it’s a lot. 😀

This Week

Tuesday: Burien Airport Committee.

Wednesday: Have lunch with me at the Senior Center. Get an EATS voucher!

Wednesday: Highline Forum. There will be updates on SR-509 and the StART. Usually a snoozer, but who knows? 😀

Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines. This group of education and youth professionals (including our DMPD Community Service Officer) meets to discuss ways to improve school attendance and reduce teen violence in Des Moines.

Thursday: PSRC Growth Management Policy Board There will be a presentation on housing needs in King County. I’ve already hinted at this a few times. It is critical to our City to understand the various demands that the PSRC foresees for our area in order to do our own planning. There are (cough) ‘targets’ each City is expected to meet.

Last Week

Tuesday: Port of Seattle regular Commission Meeting (Agenda) This meeting finalizes the 2021 Tax Levy. Their Budget proposed to increase  this item on your taxes by 3%, which I find outrageous given the pandemic. Here is my letter to the Commission in protest.

Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association Meeting. The contents is actually a ‘State Of The City’ tag team presentation by Mayor Matt Pina and Deputy Mayor Matt Mahoney. I strongly encourage everyone to watch it because it covers pretty much big area of the City (with plenty of questions re. the Marina at the very end.)

Thursday: Environmental Committee Meeting. The single item was the Storm Water Comprehensive Plan Update presentation, which I am quite interested in given the various infra-structure problems we’ve had over the past year. Here is the presentation: Surface Water Comp Plan Update

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) (Video). Recap below.

Thursday: Sound Cities Association ‘PIC’ Meeting. The Public Issues Committee is is always fascinating to me because you get to hear about what all the other Cities are dealing with, plus upcoming legislation from the State and Federal governments. It’s one of the best ways to get a sense of how other Cities function and how we all see our role in the region. Traci Buxton is our official representative.

A quick note on how Councilmember can help you…

If you watch the City Council Meetings or you are on-line, there is some confusion as to what/how a Councilmember may help a resident with a particular issue or a problem with the City itself. Here is what Council Rules Of Procedure Rule 32 says:

RULE 32. When administrative policy or administrative performance complaints are made directly to individual Councilmembers, the Councilmember may then refer the matter directly to the City Manager for his/her view and/or action. The individual Councilmember may request to be informed of the action or response made to the complaint. (Res. 525 §1, 1988).

So, if you contact me (or any Councilmember), we’ll refer it to the City Manager and his staff to deal with on your behalf. The advantage in bringing a problem to your Councilmember is in that last sentence: you get another (hopefully well-informed) set of eyes on the issue so we can make sure that you’re getting the best possible customer service. It also helps me/ us know what’s going on–which helps everybody. If you know the numbers? Contact the City directly. If you want to call me personally? I’m always happy to help. 🙂

Meeting Recap

City Recap here. Full packet here. Video here.

Normally, I put in timings at the various points in the vide I’m referencing. I got lazy this week. These things are already work. But when I go on about making our web site more helpful to the public, here is just one thing I’d like to implement. When you look at a Burien Meeting Agenda, it has bookmarks to all the important moments in the video. That’s good public communication.

We passed the Budget.

Yay? 😀

The good news is that we got away this year without significant harm. That is no mean feat and I applaud the Finance team. Our City Manager, has told me that I don’t ‘appreciate them’. As a guy who worked for companies like Arthur Andersen, I’m probably the only person on the Council who fully appreciates their job. I salute them not only for keeping the City on track, but also because the basic day to day mechanics of finance and ‘bookkeeping’ are tough enough without having to screw with telecommuting. Thanks a million. (Get it? Million? I kill me. 😀 )

But I don’t want to be too super jazzed for a couple of reasons. First, we pulled this off by basically:

  • Holding off on any new capital improvement stuff. Which means we’re kinda losing not one but two years on a lot of very worthy projects. (On the other hand, with the repeal of I-976 we may be able to do some road stuff. Stay tuned.)
  • CARES Act funding. And who knows if there will ever be another Federal stimulus package. (Gosh I hope so, Ma. 🙂 )
  • Using one-time money–which was the bane of the City in the bad old days. We voted to allow for it (if necessary) again in 2021. Hopefully it won’t be necessary. But I’ve made it clear that 2021 is the last year I’ll vote for that. *I’m sayin’ two Hail Marys and four Our Fathers every day that the local economy will be back by then. 🙂

Is there anybody in there?

(Boomer reference to Pink Floyd) As I said, this was arguably the most important meeting of the year. And at 1:43 it was twice as long as a typical meeting (which still makes it shorter than every one of our sister cities.)  It covered the Budget, your Property Taxes, our Human Services Budget (which helps thousands of people.) And yet a grand total of zero people signed up to comment. As of this writing a whopping 43 people have watched it. (sigh)

Yes, but are you paying attention?

People see me looking away during the Zoom meetings and wonder if I’m even paying attention. The nerve! 😀 For the record, I’m taking notes on another computer screen.

But as some of you know, a lot of the material is already covered in Committee Meetings, so most of the presentations are things I’ve already seen. There’s very little ‘new’ material at our City Council Meetings. Also there’s no real dialogue to speak of (it’s not like Councilmembers are debating or trying to convince each other of anything or even modifying stuff as happens in other Cities.

So you’re not wrong if you wonder who’s actually paying attention. Because most of it is a formality. And when it comes to Councilmember comments, a lot of those are also not really information sharing per se. Eg. Councilmember Nutting, in his comments described the absolute perfection of our 2021 Budget stating something like (and I’ll get the quote wrong here but I do think I’m capturing the sense of what he said) “You couldn’t move five dollars around without breaking the whole thing.” Now that’s something, right? 😀

Being best isn’t all it’s cracked up to be…

The point I’m trying to make is that there’s this vibe that everything presented to the Council is, worry-free, baked to a golden brown and not to be messed with. If the Council believes that the Budget presented to them has such a delicate balance, why would anyone try to amend anything, right? You might break something!

I’m not being snarky (OK, maybe about 10%) But making everything that the administration presents so ‘perfect’ scares me. Not because it’s untrue (there are many ways that Budget might be tweaked without risk–some might even be 😯 better.) And not just because we’re not really participating in the process (let alone performing oversight). No, what scares me is that I know a certain portion of the public recognizes the performative aspect of our Council Meetings and that makes them even more cynical in any already cynical world.

I think my colleagues see all these claims of “we’re the best” and clockwork precision as a plus–I think they truly believe that such hyperbole inspires confidence with Developers and generally boosts our image. I’m not so sure. I think it makes the public feel like their participation is irrelevant.

In Councilmember Bangs’ comments, she encouraged more volunteerism. As I’ve written many times there is an absolute dearth in volunteerism in Des Moines. But what my colleagues don’t seem to recognize is that the City has done almost everything possible to push away the public over the past five years. I made a comment at the beginning of the meeting that the City should do more to provide outreach to the public on how we determine their taxes. And the reply I got from Mayor Pina was, “Anyone can find this out if they go looking.” That basically sums up the philosophical difference between myself and the rest of the Council. I believe that it’s 2020 and we need to reach out to you. The more information we provide, the more welcoming we are, the more likely we are to feel like the City is a place they want to volunteer.

Human Services Advisory Fund

As I said l would do last week, I voted ‘no’ on the Consent Agenda item to fund the Human Services Advisory Fund. I did so not because I object to the grants. I voted no because I asked for some very basic information on each of the grants ahead of the meeting from our City Manager and got… Nada. Niente. Bupkis. That is simply intolerable conduct. As I’ve said many times, Councilmembers should be able to receive fulsome responses to their requests for basic information on any topic they feel will help them do the job.

Sadly, the current majority is fine with it. (Maybe they don’t care to know about all these programs to any depth, but I certainly do.)

Currently the only form of protest I have is my vote.

I applaud the great work these volunteers and our staff are doing. And in fairness, the City is edging closer to a long-standing goal we’ve had to get to 2% of Total Budget for these grants. We’re not there yet. But it’s progress and I am very glad that we’re heading in the right direction.

Property Taxes

Some good news here. But getting back to that whole ‘public engagement’ thing for a minute: open that packet and go almost to the end (pg 168ish?) and it will show how your property tax dollars are spent. Note that the portion of the pie that the City gets keeps going down over time. In other words, don’t blame the City for your property taxes. Cities have been getting slowly starved for cash now for two decades. And this is just one of those ways.

During the public hearing on property taxes I commented that the City should do more to make the public aware of how we use your tax dollars. I already gave you Mayor Pina’s reply to this suggestion. Councilmember Bangs stated that there really was nothing to worry about given that we’re not raising taxes. In other words, if it doesn’t cost you more money, you probably don’t care. I strongly disagree.

Anyhoo, we did vote on next year’s property tax. The good news is that, unlike the Port Of Seattle, we are freezing the rate at current levels and not raising the rate 1% as has become the usual practice. Well done. The only caveat is that the law says that we can push that increase into future years. Remember how I said I was worried about our Budget for 2022? We could theoretically come back then and retroactively charge the 2021 one percent on top of that current year’s increase. I would not vote for such a thing.

Storm Water Management (Environment Committee)

Surface Water Comp Plan Update

OK, this is the bad news. Maybe. The Storm Water Fund is kinda the biggest piece of business for the Environment Committee. I wish the committee could do a lot more real ‘environment’ stuff (water and air quality), but that’s what it is for now.

The amount of money that the City needs to prepare for future issues is high. We have a 1.3% reserve for unexpected issues. I have no idea if that is sufficient or not. It seems low to me, but what do I know, right? All I know is that we blew through that with one landslide last year. In fact, we’re under-funded by over $3.6 million dollars to do all the projects we need by the next big review in 2026. To fully fund them would add about $2.80 a month to the average homeowner’s bill. I have very mixed feelings on this. Three bucks a month isn’t the world. But I know many of you feel nickeled and dimed to death. Because we do have quite the array of fees and utility taxes. And taken together it adds up to real money for you.

My concern is that if we don’t keep ahead of these projects we’ll be in real trouble. As you know, we’ve had several water-infrastructure problems this year. The infrastructure in much of our City is at or near end of life. And then there’s that pesky climate change–the more it rains, the more work there will be to do.

I’ll close this week by mentioning yet another information request I made that went unfulfilled. I asked for some background information that might help me to decide on how much funding to vote for. As you can see from the presentation, we can be aggressive in funding these programs or we can do less and hope for the best. Right now, I don’t have an idea of how to think about this more broadly.

*I may be exaggerating my prayer routine slightly. Bad Catholic. Bad Catholic, JC.

Weekly Update: 09/29/2020

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Mea Culpa: Yeah, late again. But this time I have a really really good excuse, Ma! I’m working on this SeatacNoise.Info history thingee and… Oh, never mind. 🙂

Kudos: To our Communications Director Bonnie Wilkins for publishing her own Meeting Recaps which you can find on the City’s Facebook Page and the official web site. They’re not ‘Minutes’, more like the Agenda sheet with all the fluff stripped out. But they are definitely useful in summarizing the issues that were discussed and voted on–and which I don’t have time to get into here. Well done.

PSA: We’re getting down to the wire! You really gotta sign up for the Census. We’re getting down to the wire and DM is currently only at about 71% participation (Washington State is actually second best in the nation) BUT STILL NOT ENOUGH! 😀 We need every living body counted. Each person counted represents about $30,000 in State and Local funding!

This Week

Thursday: Public Safety Committee meetings. These are public meetings so sign up  to listen in and comment. I believe the big discussion this time will be about body cameras. Our City Manager has already added $140k for this to the 2021 budget so I guess that’s a done deal?

Last Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Regular Meeting and Audit Meetings (Agendas). What I’m watching and lobbying for is money specifically set aside for Port Package Updates.

Wednesday: come have lunch with me at the Senior Center. Get an EATS voucher!

Wednesday: Highline Forum. This is a bi-monthly meeting hosted by the Port Of Seattle. It is attended by electeds from the six airport communities, plus Highline Schools. It was started years ago in the aftermath of the Third Runway conflicts. Do I sound bored yet? 😀 The communities wish it would be more like an ongoing negotiation but it really isn’t. There’s usually some presentation re. noise, pollution, construction. It’s worth attending to get up to speed and to get an idea of which communities are engaged and which are not.

Wednesday: Puget Sound Regional Council Aviation Baseline Study Open House.

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee and Economic Development Committee meetings. There was a discussion regarding the G.R.O. business grant program as well as the five year Capital Improvement Projects budget.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)  (Video1, Video2) Much of the discussion centered around recaps of the MFP and ED committee presentations. As I wrote last week, the highlight (for me) will be the first reading of approving our first Comcast agreement in ten years. I was, frankly, surprised that there was no public comment on this–given how much grousing there is on social media regarding Comcast’s pricing and service.

Gaslight

When people ask me about Des Moines politics I often refer to a truly great movie from 1944, Gaslight, starring Ingrid Bergman. It’s the story of a woman who witnesses a terrible crime and as a result gradually starts thinking she is going insane. The twist is that it’s her husband and his friends who are actually working to convince her (and everyone around her) that she’s nuts in order to cover up the fact that he is the criminal. The expression ‘gaslighting’ comes this movie/play–the tactic of trying to explain away bad behaviour by convincing people that it is the accusers who are batty.

 

At our last City Council Meeting I was once again attacked (Video go to 36:00)–this time by our City Manager and then scolded by my Councilmembers for having done whatever. Of course, as before, they have no facts or evidence or even a specific ‘charge’. They just believed the City Manager’s spiel and decided it was good idea to pile on because if one is doing anything he dislikes, hey, it’s time to get the cuffs, ossifer.

You and me both have grown weary of these cases of funny business. At the risk of sounding blasphemous, at night, I occasionally ask Jesus to bring some real investigative journalism to Des Moines. Until then, I’ll do what I’ve done before: document what happened and publish the results next week. For now…

Business Grants

This case revolves around my desire to help local businesses participate in the City’s G.R.O. business grant program . You would think that wanting to increase participation would be welcomed by our City, but apparently not.

What is frustrating for me is how ‘black box’ the program has been. According to the presentation there are 26 businesses to be assisted (which is great) for a total of $432,000. However some of them will receive more than they requested (which does raise an eyebrow.) We know Richard Shockley from the Highline College Small Business Development Center. But we have not been given the business’ names or the methodology used to evaluate their applications. And I find that a bit unusual.

And apparently, other Cities agree. Because the common practice, and what MRSC recommends, is that Cities outsource these sorts of programs to an external agency (like a Chamber Of Commerce or other group with specific expertise) so that there can be no question of outreach or bias or equity.

On the other hand

Now 26 businesses get $432,000 sounds pretty sweet. But on the other hand, there are literally hundreds and hundreds of businesses operating in Des Moines. Yes, many of them do not qualify for grants for various obvious reasons, but still:  twenty six ain’t exactly ‘huge’ given the number of operating establishments. And then there’s this: there was 100% acceptance. Literally everyone who applied got a grant. Those were the only Des Moines businesses with genuine needs?

So forgive me if I ask at least a few questions regarding how our program was set up. I’m not being vindictive. I just want all the facts, before I render judgment.

*The City Of Des Moines was given $1.4 million dollars in Federal CARES Act money. Our City Manager spent it, all on his own, without a single vote or input from our City Council. And the rest of the Council had no problem with that. In fact, as the City Manager has talked about this spending there has not been a single objection or even question about it–only applause, which I find kinda nuts.

What is wrong with you?

But if one asks reasonable questions about the program design, the response is, “So you’re against business grants? You’re against money for the Food Bank? You’re against money to prevent lay-offs?” What are you, nuts? 😀

No. I’m not nuts. I’m trying to look out for your money. It’s your tax money. Whether or not twenty six businesses got much needed money is not the whole story. What really matters is that one person ultimately decided how to spend every dollar of that money. And that ain’t how public spending is supposed to work. How it’s supposed to work is that we, the Council, put forward proposals which represent what we think you want and best represents your interests.

Boys Town

I’ll just close by pointing out one bust out lie from the dais which I’ve heard over and over. One doesn’t usually like to use the ‘L’ word, but I admit I’ve kinda lost patience with this one thing.

It’s the plaint, “We’ve reached out to JC many times and tried to guide him….” Aside from the fact that this isn’t Boys Town and I’m not some wayward youth to be put back on the straight and narrow by Father Flanagan, this is simply untrue.

I want to make it clear that almost 100% of the ‘reaching out’ that has happened since my election has been me reaching out to my colleagues. Every Councilmember knows that I have tried to reach out to them–not just in Des Moines, but regionally. Councilmembers across all of Puget Sound know that I really value a collaborative approach. But in fact, the only members of the Council who have actually initiated contact with me since November have been Traci Buxton and Luisa Bangs–which I welcomed. But they weren’t exactly “Let’s all work together!” kinda deals. There were never any sincere, high-minded discussions like that. If I had a dime for all the number of un-returned emails and phone calls… I’d have a lot of dimes. 🙂  In fact, I’ve had DM Councilmembers make appointments with me and simply not show up. Not just once, but many times. What is this, Tinder for local government? 😀

So with regard to this latest attack (or any prior issues), you might think that my colleagues would at least, Oh I dunno, try to talk to me about the issue before sounding off. But you’d be wrong. They simply took the City Manager’s bogus narrative at face value. In short, it’s just more of the same ‘7-0’ deal I campaigned against.

And the reason you should care about it, apart from my delicate ‘feelings’ or whatever, is that, remember, the City Council is the oversight of government. We like to think of local government as not subject to the same pettiness and partisanship as the State or Federal levels, but that was and is simply not true.

One way to tell…

See, you the public can’t know directly what’s what because you don’t get to see the ‘inside baseball’. But I’ll just leave you with this:

If you think back to the Mayor and Deputy Mayor’s made up attacks back in April there is a recurring theme of making accusations that are not only vague but serve no civic purpose. They’re not about an ordinance or action that can be taken. They’re simply an attempt at public embarrassment, dressed up to sound authoritative, when in truth they are empty words–merely an expression of personal annoyance. In short, a waste of the Council’s time. It’s bad enough when politicians do it. But an administrator who is paid really well to stay above the fray should never go there.

Man, I hate sounding so ‘cranky’. Because that just plays into the narrative I’ve heard over and over since the night I made my first public comment at a Des Moines City Council Meeting. But that was always just the gaslighting playbook: Don’t pay attention to what is actually being said. Just be charming. And label all those inconvenient facts (and people) as ‘cranky’.

*As one example of alternative spending. According to Highline Schools, there are close to a 1,000 students in Des Moines who may have poor or no Internet service. Other cities devoted a portion of their CARES Act money to helping them through the pandemic. We did not. But education is such an important issue that there should have at least been an opportunity for discussion from the dais. That’s the problem with a pre-decided system: it sounds great until you start to think about the options that were not thought of.

Weekly Update: 09/21/2020

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PSA #1: Now that the Federal Way light rail construction is really beginning in earnest, you may want to sign up for email updates from Sound Transit. There will be many road closures over the next year or so.

PSA #2: Dude: you really gotta sign up for the Census. We’re getting down to the wire and DM is currently only at about 71% participation (Washington State is actually second best in the nation) BUT STILL NOT ENOUGH! 😀 We need every living body counted. Each person counted represents about $30,000 in State and Local funding!

RIP: I note and deeply mourn the passing of Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg. Just perusing her bio reminds me of how much the world has improved for women in my lifetime–and how much she did to make that happen. When I was in grad school, which wasn’t that long ago, there were fifty nine guys in my class and one woman. I distinctly remember the Dean making a statement about why there weren’t more women. “Possibly because most girls don’t want to be engineers.” Oof. Lots accomplished. Lots more still to do. Thank you for your service.

This Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Regular Meeting and Audit Meetings (Agendas)

Wednesday: come have lunch with me at the Senior Center. Get an EATS voucher!

Wednesday: Highline Forum. This is a bi-monthly meeting hosted by the Port Of Seattle. It is attended by electeds from the six airport communities, plus Highline Schools. It was started years ago in the aftermath of the Third Runway conflicts. Do I sound bored yet? 😀 The communities wish it would be more like an ongoing negotiation but it really isn’t. There’s usually some presentation re. noise, pollution, construction. It’s worth attending to get up to speed and to get an idea of which communities are engaged and which are not.

Wednesday: Puget Sound Regional Council Aviation Baseline Study Open House Sign up to learn about progress on siting a second airport.

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee and Economic Development Committee meetings. These are public meetings so sign up  to listen in and comment.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) We’ll get an update on the G.R.O. business grant program. But the highlight (for me) will be the first reading of approving our first Comcast agreement in ten years. I am not on the Franchise Committee which oversees that. But considering Comcast is running neck and neck in terms of public hatred with the Port Of Seattle :D, I will be very interested to see if we have achieved any tangible improvements since the 2009 agreement. The answer to the obvious question is, “no we can’t lower your rates.” But there are possible improvements. I may sound snippy here, but based on previous meetings involving contract review I expect defensiveness–which I hate. I can never understand why there is tension. I’m supposed to ask tough questions of the staff negotiating this because I know this is one of the most visceral issues for you as residents. You feel ill-treated by Comcast, right? (OK, I do. 😀 ) Please read these notes from the last Franchise Committee Meeting for background and let the City Council know what you think!

Last Week

Tuesday: SCAtbd Meeting all that ‘transportation’ stuff–like

Tuesday: Burien Airport Committee (Agenda).

Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines. I should remind people periodically that this is a King County-funded program that works to reduce youth violence and improve school attendance. It’s success has been dramatic over the past five years, thanks in part to Officer Tanya Seaberry. It shows that an extremely effective way to reduce crime and improve outcomes for students is with some pretty basic and low dollar programs. Give kids interesting things to do and some attention and good things happen. 🙂

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Council Growth Management Board Meeting. This mattered partly because of this Aviation Baseline Study presentation. The bottom line is that almost no aviation planning includes a discussion of ‘externalities’… those pesky effects on us. This study has been ongoing for two years and literally no work has been done on the negative impacts on airport communities. As I keep trying to say, this is outrageous and simply would not happen in any other type of public project.

Thursday: Transportation Meeting 3:00pm (Agenda). What was great about this was that we had a member of the public attending a public meeting. 😀 (Thanks to Cory O’Brien for being a guinea pig.) I also learned that our Mayor and Deputy Mayor dislike roundabouts. Whereas the City Manager does not. I happen to believe in roundabouts because all the evidence says that they improve traffic flows dramatically–so much so that State law strongly encourages their adoption.

Thursday: Environment Committee. These are probably the most boringest of all committees (even for attendees), mainly because they are currently limited in scope to riveting topics like storm water. For the long term I’m interested that it should include broader topics like shore and off-shore water quality (spoiler alert: not good) and, of course, the airport.

Thursday (Thursday is quite a day, right?) : City Council General Meeting (Agenda). Recap below.

Saturday: Marina/Beach Cleanup organised by SR3 and Seattle Dive Tours. I spent an hour ostensibly looking for trash along the North seawall. Didn’t find much. But I’ll tell ya what I did find–a lot of the seawall. 😀 What I mean is that a surprising amount of it is now falling onto the beach and into Puget Sound and I wish we could pick up all that creosote-coated wood, but that’s a job on a different scale. I had an interesting conversation with the boss at Seattle Dive Tours and it got me thinking about our unique relationship to environmental issues with both the water and air.

Lobbyist Contract

Last Thursday’s City Council Meeting (video) was, like almost all meetings since the Declaration Of Emergency in March, basically a Consent Agenda. The only ‘excitement’ was that I pulled the item amending and enhancing our lobbyist’s contract. That led to (yet another) trolling by the City Manager.

Preamble: strategery

When you’re part of a group like a City Council, you will routinely come up against issues that are no-win. And this *contract enhancement was one of them. In these cases you can take the principled position, get attacked and lose or you can go along, not make waves and wait for a future opportunity to undo the thing you dislike.

Believe it or not, I choose Door #2 on most issues for several reasons: first of all, the City Manager should have the team he wants; I’m not here to micro-manage. Second of all, it’s generally a waste of time arguing over issues where I’ll lose. I only take the principled (aka ‘guy asking to be trolled’) stance when there is something going on.

I ran to change things

I ran as a change candidate on at least two big issues. I said that we were not doing economic development well. And I said, especially, that we had not handled the negative impacts from Sea-Tac Airport well. Both those departments are run by Michael Matthias. Unlike other cities, he is not only our City Manager, he is also our Economic Development Director and our lead on all airport issues, including the upcoming SAMP. In other words, Mr. Matthias is not just an administrator, he is the policy driver on the two key issues I  ran to try and change. So it was inevitable that we would have disagreements. The question always came down to, would we be able to work together respectfully.

Why complain?

Once again, the City Manager made some disparaging comments about me from the dais which were, well, let’s just say, not 100% accurate. And I want to point out three things:

1. This has become something of a recurring deal with Mr. Matthias and our Mayor. If I disagree. If I question the wonderfulness of a policy? If I do anything they dislike? Attack. Make some claim that I’m doing something ‘inappropriate’ or even ‘dangerous’! If you watch City Council Meetings, or read the Waterland Blog you’ve seen a few of these admonitions. But at some point I’ll publish a full list of these beauties (which are part of the public record–I’m would never betray confidences.) I don’t want to be a tease, but they are truly ridiculous. And they will make the people who supported them look ridiculous.

2. The thing I truly do not get is that there is absolutely no need to do so. As usual, he/they have the votes, so why not just ignore me, especially when I make reasonable objections? Why be blatantly disrespectful? As always, I said nothing disparaging. But I did speak from research and personal experience.

3. Most troubling, once again my colleagues seem to find nothing out of the ordinary with this. Regardless of who you voted for you, it is not in your interest as a voter to allow the administration to ever publicly criticize an elected official. When that decorum breaks down, it should tell you something about what is going on ‘under the hood’.

New duties

To begin with, I asked for specifics as to what Mr. Hemstad would be doing for his raise and got no reply. That right there gets my antennae up. But here are my educated guesses.

Airport

For what it’s worth: I’ve had over a dozen chances to engage with Mr. Hemstad over the past two years. I had these opportunities because I was a part of SB5370 (siting a second airport) in 2018 and then I came up with the original plan that became legislation to expand Port Packages (HB2315 and HB1847) in 2019. I knew the extent of his knowledge on airport issues–which is similar to most lobbyists, and which was, to put it bluntly, none.

Mr. Matthias and Mr. Hemstad are now our representatives on the StART, which was designed to be a citizen-led group as part of an FAA mandate on community outreach. So what we’re now doing is sending the two highest paid people in the City to attend meetings that were better served by far more knowledgeable residents? Not my preferred plan.

Economic Development

That’s my personal research. As to the other selling points, as I said, I am not happy with the City’s current economic development strategy. I asked for specifics as to his new portfolio and got no reply. So I did some research. And what seems to be the case is that Mr. Hemstad and Mr. Matthias have worked together at least twice before in other cities. I believe that is why he was hired in the first place–which is fine, Mr. Matthias wanted people he knows and trusts. Great. But I examined those City’s economic development plans and I did not find them to be great roadmaps for Des Moines. So why would I support doubling down on more of the strategies I already think are bad for Des Moines future?

Added Value

And finally, there was much talk about ‘what a deal’ we were getting–that Mr. Hemstad combined best-in-class service with the lowest price one could find anywhere. The claims were just effusive. Mr. Hemstad gets $6,000 per month for non-exclusive services–meaning he can (and does) take on work for other clients. So I reached out to a long-time friend and Olympia lobbyist and to colleagues in five other cities. And I found that there are other similar-sized cities which pay the same or less for similarly effective services; some as little has half that amount. Some have larger staffs with greater resources and some have in-house, full-time lobbyists that provide exclusive services.

Overall grading

I am in no way disparaging the work that Mr. Hemstad does or the fees he has received. I’m sure he earns his money. I liked him personally when we collaborated before. His accomplishments are real and I appreciate everything he has done for Des Moines–so much so that I wanted him to keep doing exactly what he’s been doing! Just not all this new nonsense.

Two things to think about

I want residents to understand that if they voted for me they voted for change in our economic development and airport strategies. And that means pointing out when I believe we are headed in the wrong direction–even if it would tactically better to ‘go along’.

You as a resident will never have access to the petty ‘inside baseball’ that is behind most of these fights. But once again, I want to emphasize that I did not pick this fight. Again, it would have been better if the other side had let me have my say and just moved on. From the dais I made a subtle (probably too subtle) policy objection to this raise. The City Manager (and the Council) had a choice. They have the votes. They could simply listen to my objections, vote to approve, and move on. Simple. No arguments, no wasting time. But noooooooo. (Hear the John Belushi voice, there?) Apparently, winning the vote is not sufficient.

I suppose one can read this and think, “Jeez, what a whiner. The vote was 6-1 so you were obviously wrong. Move on.” But when one is attacked from the dais, one has to respond. You, the voter, should  understand that their behavior is simply not appropriate and that my objections to this contract were fact-based and reasonable. Regardless of the tally, I am confident that I made the right call. And their bad behavior only reinforces that confidence.

I leave it to you to decide who is more credible.

*Despite what you may heard this is a raise, not just an ‘extension’ as was advertised, so to be generous I refer to it as an ‘enhancement’. The idea was sold that Mr. Hemstad is being paid simply to work more months of the year from home. But what those new tasks are–especially during the months when legislatures are not in session, was never spelled out. Don’t wanna call it a raise? Fine, call it a whole new consulting gig. But as a consultant myself, it is most definitely not ‘just an extension’.me.