Weekly Update: 09/06/2021

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Public Service Announcements

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. The deadline to register to vote online is October 25. Voters can register and vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of KCE’s Vote Center locations.

  2. Wednesday October 13, 6PM Aviation Town Hall with Rep. Adam Smith and 33rd District Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall!

  3. Wednesday October 13, 7PM On-Line Candidate Forum hosted by Yoshiko Grace Matsui and Jayme Quinn Wagner! (and to prep, you can watch last month’s Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce Candidate Forum!)

  4. he Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  5. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  6. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  7. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  8. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  9. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  10. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  11. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Monday: Meetings with candidates for Port Of Seattle Commissioner. Can I share one of my frustrations? 😀 The big mistake all our Cities make in dealing with the Port is talking about the wrong things. Many of the things residents want the Port Commissioners to do, they legally cannot do. They’re not lying about their lack of control over various aspects of Sea-Tac Airport. You can grumble about the unfairness of life all you want, but that’s just the deal. The other side of the coin are my pro-Port colleagues who think that the Port is this economic fountain for Des Moines, while completely ignoring the environmental impacts. That too is ridiculous.

Candidates for Port Commission all basically have the same message. Jobs, economics. Progressive or conservative, they can talk all they want about ‘environment’, but the fact is that they all have to operate within a certain window. Also: the Port is like the City Of Des Moines. It has a very high complexity number. And a Port Commissioner is a part time job. They have no hope of understanding the issues and the corporation for several years.

What we should do is to educate every Port Candidate as to what they could be doing for us. We know what is possible. (And it’s significant.) But we never do. As I said, either the City gets hold of them with some minor economic pitch or the airport activists ask them to work on things they cannot do. The Port lobbies us. We should lobby right back.

Wednesday: Des Moines Parks Master Plan Update @ Senior Center 6-8PM!

Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association Meeting. You can visit their web site for information on the Marina Redevelopment.

Thursday: I will be giving testimony at the Joint Legislative Audit & Review Committee in support of continuing to fund a tax credit for local journalism. No, we don’t currently have a newspaper in Des Moines. But hope springs eternal. 🙂 That tax credit is one of the few things keeping local papers in business and we must support it in order to keep the possibility of local journalism alive.

That’s it. The rest of the week is a black hole of emptiness. So give me a call and tell me what’s on your mind about Des Moines (206) 878-0578.

Last Week

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Growth Management Board (Agenda).

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) (Video) One highlight was a presentation by Skylab Architects of Portland which did the original renderings for Marina Redevelopment. The Request For Proposal (RFQ) is also supposed to be unveiled–which will flesh out some of the details on the various building proposals.

The other issue was a first reading of our ordinance to comply with HB1220–the new law insisting that we develop zoning to allow for homeless shelters and develop a more aggressive approach towards Affordable Housing. This is another one of those policy issues that I know the public cares about, but which no one ever shows up for. Please watch the presentation and then show up for the second hearing in October.

Happy Labor Day!

I just realised: I’ve been a member of four unions: two for musicians, one for electrical workers and one for professional engineers I kinda forgot about.

I was required to join a union for a factory gig I had in college. Being a jerk, I kinda laughed at how seriously my co-workers took the union. But that was because I was ‘going places’. For them it was their j.o.b. I don’t know what it did for me except that, in spite of being around a lot of dangerous electricity I do not recall anyone getting hurt and I got paid slightly more than I expected. Today, that job would be done by  a computer and a robot and both would have better attitudes.

When I moved to Manhattan it was a rite of passage to join the musicians union. It meant that you were making a (real) living wage in the greatest city on earth. Now? The few remaining union musicians are mostly in orchestras. Ironically, the biggest bargaining issue was also automation. We all knew we were being replaced by synthesizers and computers.

My last union vaguely optional. The idea was to organize professional engineers to negotiate contracts with the State Of Michigan as a single unit. At the time, I thought it was kinda cockamamie because despite any merits of the idea, its success depended on the willingness of a bunch of independent-minded guys to cooperate. Candidly, we were nothing like these women or any other model of solidarity. So we self-destructed. No robots required. I now realize that it was a very worthy goal and very much ahead of its time. Some of us did better without the union, some worse. But it would have simplified very useful things like health insurance and retirement planning for all of us–things you don’t pay attention to when you think you’re special and have all the time in the world. There’s a lesson there. Maybe. 😀

The older I get the more I see the benefits of organized labour. If you’re an employer (or a City) you’re not always thrilled to be on the other side of the table. But opportunities to spend one’s days productively and to be paid fairly do not happen by themselves. Sooner or later we may all get replaced by a robot. But if no one speaks up, you most definitely will.

Something I think about is how much I took for granted the stability on my street in Des Moines. It’s not at all a wealthy neighbourhood. But everybody seemed to have jobs they liked and that paid enough to get their kids through college. I’ve decided that it is that simple lack of anxiety that defines ‘the American Dream’ for me.

I hope your Labor Day has been relaxing. And I hope you enjoy your work. I hope it affords you the freedom to live the way you want to live today and the security to feel hopeful about tomorrow.

Weekly Update: 08/29/2021

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Hopefully you’ve already seen the Christmas In July post. I’ve submitted six ideas so far.  Please send me yours by Monday September 6, 2021!

The writing critiques generally fall into two camps: “Too damned long” or Too damned short, I have no idea what you’re talking about.” Over the next few weeks, I’ll be experimenting with ways to break the thing up into biter-sizes. The challenge is that some of you follow along but there are new readers who have no idea about many of the things I’m referring to. I’ve started using footnotes more. My newest innovation is to put background information into these clever things they invented called ‘boxes’ which you can skip over if you’ve already been reading along. 🙂

Public Service Announcements

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. The deadline to register to vote online is October 25. Voters can register and vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of KCE’s Vote Center locations.

  2. Wednesday October 13, 6PM Aviation Town Hall with Rep. Adam Smith and 33rd District Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall!

  3. Wednesday October 13, 7PM On-Line Candidate Forum hosted by Yoshiko Grace Matsui and Jayme Quinn Wagner! (and to prep, you can watch last month’s Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce Candidate Forum!)

  4. he Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  5. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  6. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  7. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  8. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  9. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  10. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  11. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Thursday: Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) Growth Management Board (Agenda).

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) The highlight will include a presentation by Skylab Architects of Portland which did the original renderings for Marina Redevelopment. The Request For Proposal (RFQ) is also supposed to be unveiled–which will flesh out some of the details on the various building proposals.

Last Week

Monday: Meetings with Port people, including Comissioner Ryan Calkins on the SeatacNoise.info Check Box thing.

Wednesday: Sea-Tac Airport Roundtable StART Meeting. This was the first ‘reveal’ of the Sustainable Airport Master Plan environmental review process. The funny thing (for me) is that basically nobody shows up for these things. But over 70 people showed up for this thing–thinking that there would be some big ‘reveal’. Not at all. The public has such a poor understanding of the process or what is possible I honestly don’t know what to do about it. However, well done to Vashon Island for getting organized! Most of the people who showed up were VI residents who want to be included in the discussion.

Thursday: Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission (Video). Des Moines resident Steve Edmiston is a member of the commission and gave a passionate presentation on why health impacts should be a consideration in deciding where to locate a second airport.

And… as the official crusher of people’s hopes: Sounds like a no-brainer, right? Nope. A motion to add such language did not pass. And it’s easy to say that it was just the pro-aviation bastards, right? OK, but think about what you want, Des Moines.

If you really believe that a second airport might divert traffic from Des Moines, you gotta let people build a second airport. Airports are like any power plant. They’re gonna suck for communities; there’s no way to make them healthy. If you insist on pre-conditions to do so, I applaud your concern for your fellow man, but you’re also making it impossible to build a second airport.

Which is fine by me. As I keep saying, I don’t care one way or another. 1Because a second airport will never provide any relief for Des Moines.

My biggest challenge has been convincing you of that. Electeds and candidates and activists just loooove selling this as some ‘solution’ for the noise and pollution. And I wish they would stop doing that because it is not true. All the energy we spending on that canard should be better spent doing something that will actually help Des Moines.

Friday: I spoke with 30th District Senator Claire Wilson on the SeatacNoise.Info proposal The Check Box. And of course, the Senator just blew me out of the water. I’ve given this pitch a dozen times now and I still can’t get it right. The Senator distracts people with her stunning eye wear and then destroys them with a highly pointed question.

Look, all this is is ‘car pooling for planes’. When car pooling and van pooling started in the 70’s it was a total joke. You think people love cars now? Americans looooved cars back then. You could not deal with the problem of traffic (the ‘demand’) directly. So whoever thunk it up began with a totally voluntary program which nobody could be against because they didn’t really take it seriously. The only trick was getting someone to take it seriously enough to fund it, but not seriously enough that the auto industry would kill it.

But little by little it got people used to the idea of conservation. Same thing can happen with air travel. People have been using Zoom for a year. They don’t need to fly as much now. It used to be a treat. It’s only a mess because we do so much of it that we don’t need to.

The only reason it’s hard to pitch is because every organization does event planning and travel scheduling slightly differently. So you pitch the idea to someone and invariably they explain how “we have a different process here.” Same thing happened with car pooling. People argued endlessly about the small stuff. We’ll get there.

Senator Wilson and I also talked about the Fair Start legislation she got passed this Spring. As the pandemic has become endless I keep hearing this drum beat from parents about the need for more parks more activities and basically how damned expensive it is to raise a child.

Friday: South King County Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) Executive Board Meeting. There was a fairly devastating presentation by Tim Thomas from UC Berkley on what we can expect here from the coming eviction tsunami. I don’t have numbers to show yet, but the curve is ugly. And why you should care about that is because stability means community safety. Anybody who lived here during the Great Recession knows that a ton of house-flipping is something to be avoided.

Kent Mayor Dana Ralph made a good point: Some cities have instituted ordinances to lean on landlords when it comes to tenant issues like mold and poor appliances–common complaints everywhere. The tension is that any pressure you apply to landlords to improve housing also puts pressure on rents–and round and round things go.

Let’s pretend…

Out of the blue, I got a call from Councilmember Buxton asking me if I had questions about that SKHHP meeting. I asked her her impressions of the group and then gave her a couple of my thoughts.

I then gave her my obligatory “I object” speech which I now give to any Councilmember or candidate or community member who does not speak up and it basically goes like this (ahem):

“I object to the constant the preferential treatment the City Manager gives the members of the current majority and the terrible way he has treated both myself and Councilmember Martinelli. As much as I always appreciate hearing from any colleague or community member, this speech will be a part of every discussion we have until the Council establishes an ethical relationship with the City Manager where are all CMs are treated fairly.

I refuse to pretend or compartmentalize or otherwise normalize the bullying by calling it ‘just politics’. Dismissiveness and and victim blaming are unacceptable. Every Councilmember’s primary job is to provide oversight of the administration and that cannot happen when the City Manager and Council majority constantly discriminate against the minority and when members of the community do not speak up. Every member of Council deserves the protection of his colleagues and the full cooperation of the administration. To do otherwise is corruption pure and simple and we should stop pretending that it is anything else. It’s bad for governance and worse for the community. There is simply no excuse. Every person who does not speak up: elected or community member is an enabler.”

I don’t obsess about it; every week you see I work on all sorts of stuff. But I’m never going slide it under the rug either because it makes it harder for me to serve you when I do not enjoy the same cooperation that Councilmember Buxton takes for granted. And it needs to be constantly talked or it will never get solved. It’s become so normal here that most people think that this is how the world should work–which is just nuts.

Let’s Get Organisised

OK, referencing Taxi Driver is probably not a great way to open a topic on parenting, but I keep having these fascinating discussions about Public Outreach as part of things like the ARPA Stimulus, Marina Redevelopment and Parks Master Plan.

For long time, the City had a Citizens Advisory Committee. I guess it still exists. In theory. There’d be one community representative from each of nine neighbourhoods. It sorta ‘dissolved’ around 2017. Now you can say that ‘those uncaring people’ at the City stopped doing it and I half-agree. But you could also say that it became impossible because of all ‘those uncaring people’ in each neighbourhood. Frankly, often there weren’t community members who wanted to do it.

And that’s the thing: I hear all the time, “We need to do better public outreach!” and I 100% agree. The thing I struggle with is: how?

The push back from the City is basically, ‘ the public just doesn’t give a hoot’. On the other hand, I think the City has an ongoing responsibility to aggressively recruit residents. I keep saying it: more than half of the city has turned over in the past 15 years. New people keep coming here and they have no idea about a ‘Citizens Advisory Committee’ unless someone tells them.

There is also an uncomfortable little ‘secret’. There are still a few people in town who do organise for their neighbourhoods. And because you aren’t engaged, they basically have waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay too much influence. They’re not doing anything ‘wrong’. They’re doing what democracy says is good: advocating for their interest. It’s like a teeter-totter. They’re on one side and you’re not on the other so they always get more attention.

So the question then becomes: Should the City put effort into getting more people to volunteer for groups like the Citizen Advisory Committee? Or at the other end of the scale should it simply acknowledge the fact that nobody has the time in 2021 and try to create other mechanisms to ‘find out what you want’?

One common notion is ‘the town hall’ or ‘open house’. Very cool. We’ve got one coming up next week for the Parks Master Plan. The problem with Town Halls is the same as Citizen Advisory Committees. The same people tend to show up and it can be difficult getting truly equitable results.

That said, the City has a Senior Advisory Committee to indicate our strong commitment to that constituency. However, the average age of Des Moines is now 39. We have an entirely new generation of families. And yet there’s no “Family Advisory Committee”. Maybe there should be. But it will only happen if… wait for it… enough ‘Moms’ get organisised to make it happen.

I see scoffs from some of my colleagues and staff, but at the end of the day, City resources are a zero-sum game. There is only so much money, and also only so much attention to go around. That’s why I’m constantly badgering residents to write the City Council, set up a neighbourhood group, generally… be a (nice) pain in the ass. That actually is democracy.

Every staff member will say that the City takes a completely technocratic and fair approach to all this stuff. And I agree–to a point. That approach also appeals to residents because it asks nothing of them. “Hey, if the City is doing everything fairly, I’m already getting the best possible service, right?”

THWWPTPPWPWWPWPWWPPWPT. (That’s my raspberry emoji. 😀 )

This is no slam against any staff member. But I ran customer service systems for a living. And no matter how even-handed an organisation attempts to be, the people who organise tend to get better results. It’s just a fact that’s been borne out by studies since the dawn of… er… dawn. So if you want more attention for “Mom’s” or “Traffic Calming” or “Racism” or whatever your deal is, you have to do your part. That’s the short term answer.

In the long term…

The City currently does very little in the way of organised community research. We can and should do reporting on police stats, business performance, customer spending, real estate and human service needs at a neighbourhood level of granularity. It’s not rocket surgery and other cities our size already do it. We just have to recognise that the out of pocket costs of such information gathering pay for themselves.

You can’t handle the truth…

Speaking of information. I am the most sympathetic mofo you ever met when it comes to your street. But the truth is that a lot of the time, Cities run studies on traffic or crime or whatever and it turns out that “people are constantly going eighty miles an hour!” is actually “people are constantly going twenty eight miles an hour.”

And that’s the kind of thing that makes decision makers a bit jaded.

The solution is actually more information–which is why I want all that survey data. If you respond to a resident concern with “Dude, it’s not that bad” it’s not gonna go over well. But if you communicate what the resources are city-wide and then can demonstrate where the needs actually are, it makes the medicine go down a lot easier. Theoretically. 😀

One minor detail…

No matter what you do, the squeaky wheel does get the grease. It’s supposed to in a democracy. There’s always gonna be some group that organises and gets something you don’t. I’m not saying that to squash your dreams of fair service. I’m just pointing out that, you know, until ‘the great revolution’, it will always be to your advantage to get as many people together as you can and advocate for what you want. And I want to help you do that. 🙂


1People in other areas see what the airport has done to our area and they’re like, “Yeah you can keep that.” The reasons are exactly the same as in 1989 when we had a similar commission. And whenever this conversation comes up I feel like it’s my duty to mention that, even if ‘they’ built a second airport, doesn’t matter what kind or where it’s located it will never reduce the operations at Sea-Tac Airport. Ever. ever. ever. ever ever. I could write ‘ever’ 150 times and you still would not believe me. 😀 Partly because people always have hope, right? But also for the same reason that most people believe that adding another lane to a highway reduces traffic congestion (It does not.)

You would think building a second airport would be like opening a second hamburger joint across the street–half the business would go there. Nope. If you build a second airport all that happens is that you get more hamburgers… er… planes at the new airport. It does nothing to reduce traffic at the first airport. Really. Truly.

Weekly Update: 08/22/2021

Posted on Categories Engagement, Marina, Transparency, Weekly UpdatesLeave a comment on Weekly Update: 08/22/2021

Hopefully you’ve already seen the Christmas In July post.  Please send me your ideas!

Public Service Announcements

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. The deadline to register to vote online is October 25. Voters can register and vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of KCE’s Vote Center locations.

  2. Wednesday October 13, 6PM Aviation Town Hall with Rep. Adam Smith and 33rd District Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall!

  3. Wednesday October 13, 7PM On-Line Candidate Forum hosted by Yoshiko Grace Matsui and Jayme Quinn Wagner! (and to prep, you can watch last month’s Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce Candidate Forum!)

  4. he Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  5. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  6. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  7. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  8. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  9. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  10. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  11. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Monday: Meetings with Port people, including Comissioner Ryan Calkins on the SeatacNoise.Info Remote Works Better thing.

Wednesday: Sea-Tac Airport Roundtable StART Meeting. This is the first ‘reveal’ of the Sustainable Airport Master Plan environmental review process. Frankly, there hasn’t been much going on for almost a year, but this would be a good one to attend. Airport expansion is the biggest Des Moines issue you don’t know anything about.

Thursday: Commercial Aviation Coordinating Commission. Des Moines resident Steve Edmiston is a member of the commission and will be giving a presentation. I have nothing to do with it aside from watching, but I always mention their activities because it seems to be part of my job to crush people’s hopes. See below…

Fri: South King County Housing and Homelessness Partners (SKHHP) Executive Board Meeting.

Last Week

Sunday: I gave King County Council candidate Shukri Olow a tour of the south end of Des Moines. I generally don’t give or receive endorsements.  So the only reason to mention this is because I always encourage everyone to get to know everybody. You never know who will win. And I want everyone to get to know each other at least a little bit–what they care about and what I’m concerned about for Des Moines. We drove through the south end of town because frankly, whenever people visit Des Moines they usually seem to focus on other spots.

A brief word about the Metroplitan King County Council. Yes, it’s an over-simplification, but a big part of what King County does is ‘human services department’ for cities like Des Moines. They handle issues of health, housing, arts grants, etc. I get lots of impassioned calls begging the City to do something about various social problems when oftenn it’s really the County that has, not only the authority, but just as importantly the infrastructure already in place. And I mention that for two reasons:

  1. Because when you vote, candidates promise all sorts of stuff. So when you give some thought not to what they aspire to, but to what they actually have the authority to do for you and Des Moines.
  2. And also because there is so much attention now on the City using ARPA money for various purposes. So many great ideas that would be hard for Des Moines, but easy for King County.

Monday: I spoke with State Senator Karen Keiser about our Remote Works Better program. Yeah, not super excited. 😀 It’s interesting how different the reactions have been.

Wednesday: I attended the Reach Out Des Moines meeting. As usual, they discussed how to get more activities for kids in Pacific Ridge. The goal has been crime reduction and school attendance and they have been remarkably successful on both counts. Again, not to over-simplify, but accomplishing both goals often comes down to giving teens things to do. It’s cheap. It works. And we should do more of it throughout Des Moines.

Along those lines, there’s been talk of a building a community center in Des Moines for a long time. Everyone acknowledges the needs in Pacific Ridge. But there is also a very longstanding desire to have a similar activity center in the South end of town. I don’t want to take anything away from the great work happening in Pacific Ridge. But what I dearly want to see is a proper survey of Des Moines–neighbourhood-level detail to assess where we stand throughout the City.

Thursday: I met with Noemie Maxwell an activist working to save North SeaTac Park from development by the Port Of Seattle. She’s also  thinking about how we could have a more regional approach to tree cover.

All the airport communities really are defined by Sea-Tac Airport. If it weren’t for that property, it’s likely that most of our cities would have formed some sort of a single ‘Highline’ government decades ago. From the air there is an obvious outline of one big ‘city’ and ‘forest’. Sea-Tac Airport is like that giant foot that came down in Monty Python sketches and artificially divided the entire region. It would be much more efficient if we could somehow plan regionally for the forest and creek systems.

Oh, you want answers?

The paradox of City Councilmember is that the gig allows you to really understand what is needed at the street level. On the other hand, you’re often not in a position to actually do much. You have to (sigh) you know, ‘convince people’.

Dumb engineer guys like me want to be able to say to residents, “Look, here’s what’s really going on. Here’s why it hasn’t been solved. Here’s what we need to do (finally) to get there.” I believe the current term is ‘mansplaining’? People really love that. 😀

You also want to be able to question every program the City engages in, not just at the City level but also regionally. But this is not ‘academia’ where people like me are used to giving each other routine grillings. So if you do that,  you’re instantly hurting a lot of hard working people’s feelings. They themselves would be the first to acknowledge that a lot of these programs are not the greatest but they’re making the best of the situation. So you feel like a jerk pointing out that that this is, ya know, public money.

At the end of the day you run the risk of seeming heartless to everybody. Never underestimate how much the desire to look like government is trying drives so much bad policy and bad spending. If you’re me, this cocktail of easy and ineffective can have you constantly checking the clock to see if it’s not too early in the day for that first drink.

Two practical Notes from the week…

  • I sincerely support what SKHHP is trying to do. But at the end of the day, the main reason we haven’t built ‘affordable housing’ in Des Moines is not because of any mysterious forces of nature. It’s because voters told us what they wanted and government has responded. If the people who actually vote really, really wanted more places for people to live? We’d have had them decades ago. Groups like SKHHP exist because the term ‘affordable housing’ is just one of a growing list of items that Cities now spend money on in order to try to secretly wish problems away. It won’t.
  • I fully support the CACC. 1But it won’t help Des Moines at all. Again, the reason there isn’t a second airport in the area is because nobody else wants a second airport. But governments keep putting energy into this rather than things that would help Des Moines because, again, it’s just easier.

The fact is, we spend a ton of energy and/or money on policy stuff like this that is at best questionable, but woe unto you for saying so. (Talk to me about the squillions we’ve wasted on salmon recovery. See? Now you think I’m a 4salmon hater, too right? 😀 )

Poking the bear…

I often discuss thorny issues here, mainly because no one else does. You cannot expect the public to engage on the issues unless they are aware of the issues. The City communicates its successes, generally not the problems. Some people perceive these criticisms as ‘poking the bear’, but that’s really not the point. The real point is that we haven’t had a decent argument in Des Moines for a very long time.

Where are the town halls?

Almost every day now, I also talk with residents who demand, “Where are the Town Halls!?!” And I’m like, “3Dude, we did have town halls back in the day. Ya know why we don’t have town halls now? Because  people screamed a lot!”

You don’t know that because, more than half of you only moved here within the past decade. You have no idea how much things have changed. The City gradually abandoned all sorts of public engagement for a very practical reason: Having real discussions means people disagree.

See you think there’s a lack of ‘public engagement’, but I know that it’s really a lack of basic accountability. (I told you there would be man-splaining.) The administration thinks it’s perfectly fine to treat both of us as they do. And why shouldn’t they? Who is out there telling them otherwise? (I’m not being rhetorical. Councilmembers get lots of letters. But the number demanding better public engagement is exactly the same as the number demanding equal treatment for all Councilmembers. 😀 )

I ‘poke the bear’, not to be prickly, but because I have the right to ask any damned thing I want in order to serve you. I don’t work for the administration. I work for you. I know who works for who. The administration may not. My colleagues may not. But that’s not my fault. It’s their fault for trying to game the system. And it’s also yours if you don’t speak up in support of Councilmembers who poke the bear. (See what I did there? 😀 )

Seriously, though: you want town halls? As soon as you insist on a government that understands who works for whom, trust me, you’ll get your town halls. (And progress on airport issues, housing and all that stuff we spend money on as opposed to actually doing something.)


1People in other areas see what the airport has done to our area and they’re like, “Yeah you can keep that.” The reasons are exactly the same as in 1989 when we had a similar commission. And whenever this conversation comes up I feel like it’s my duty to mention that, even if ‘they’ built a second airport, doesn’t matter what kind or where it’s located it will never reduce the operations at Sea-Tac Airport. Ever. ever. ever. ever ever. I could write ‘ever’ 150 times and you still would not believe me. 😀 Partly because people always have hope, right? But also for the same reason that most people believe that adding another lane to a highway reduces traffic congestion (It does not.)

You would think building a second airport would be like opening a second hamburger joint across the street–half the business would go there. Nope. If you build a second airport all that happens is that you get more hamburgers… er… planes at the new airport. It does nothing to reduce traffic at the first airport. Really. Truly. And I keep hammering away at that, one voter at a time, because so long as people have this misguided hope that a second airport will reduce traffic, we can never deal properly with Sea-Tac.

2OK, except Chinook and Coho. Unless human beings pack up and leave Des Moines, they’re probably screwed.

3Artistic license. I really don’t address constituents as ‘Dude’ all that much.

4I have a deep and, some would say, almost spiritual connection with fish. The Incredible Mr. Limpet is a true classic of film, OK?

 

Marina Redevelopment Talking Points

Posted on Categories Engagement, Environment, Marina, Transparency

On August 6, 2021, the City Of Des Moines published its 2021 Draft Marina Master Plan Update.  Almost immediately, residents began speaking with me about serious concerns. The proposal very complicated so most residents have had trouble putting their concerns into words. I was asked to create ‘talking points’ to help express these concerns to the City.

If you can only remember one thing…

Here’s your first talking point: It’s hard to create short ‘talking points’ without creating a long ‘explainer’ because the scheme is so complex and there are so many unknowns. But if you can remember only one thing, remember this:

The land side must pay for the water side

Key problems with the proposal

  • The proposal is simply too vague, particularly financing. But despite many gaps and unknowns, the City has already moved ahead. Some of the needed analysis is now occurring but a lot more should have happened and needs to happen before we can acknowledge the risks and benefits.
  • The proposal conflates need with want and does not at all make clear that various aspects are financed independently.
  • The proposal shamelessly includes several “glamor features” to sell the idea, including a passenger ferry, hotel and year-round-market, while failing to acknowledge that their revenue potential is not just unknown but unknowable.
  • The proposal repurposes the Marina towards wealthier boaters and does not consider the possible effects to small boat users or the larger community which uses the Marina Floor as a park.
  • Making the Des Moines Marina Association (DMMA) the only stakeholder in the planning calls into question the City’s management and oversight.
  • For all these reasons, the lack of public outreach is simply grievous.

Ten Takeaways From The Report

Most people kinda/sorta get that the land side has two big features:

  • A Steps project at the end of 223rd (Overlook II) for people to walk down to the Marina Floor.
  • A large multi-level Adaptive Purpose Building (APB) which will replace the boat storage sheds.

The Steps seem universally popular. The APB? Eh, not so much. Regardless, here are ten things to think about.

  1. This is the largest and longest capital project in our history: 15-20 years and $35-50 million. That one sentence should been enough to merit a Town Hall before proceeding with any aspect of the projects.
  2. The land side must pay for the water side. This requires a walk-through:
    • The Marina is a semi-private and self-sustaining business referred to as an Enterprise Fund. The Marina’s own borrowing power is barely enough to start on the first two docks and there will be no more borrowing for the foreseeable future.
    • The City has not discussed borrowing from its General Fund to finance this. The only answer I’ve been able to obtain is that we’re maxing that borrowing out now for the North Bulkhead and the 223rd Steps.
    • There has been no discussion of going to the voters (bonds) to pay for docks replacement. I do not know why.
    • So, every aspect of the land side redevelopment: the APB and any other proposals to be determined (including passenger ferry, boutique hotel, parking, you name it) is the funding source for dock replacement.
    • So the land side needs to generate enough ongoing (structural) revenue to pay that $35-50M bill for dock replacement over that 15-20 year cycle. That is $1.75M – $3M per year. And that is above and beyond any revenue from existing lessees (SR3, CSR, Quarterdeck, etc.)
  3. The proposal has serious gaps. At our September 2 City Council Meeting the Administration will unveil a Request For Proposal (RFQ) to developers. That will be anyone’s first look at what the City is looking for in terms of land side development. It will then be up to whichever developers respond to flesh out a vision for the APB and other projects. But it is important to note that internally, the City must already have a pretty good idea of what it wants the Marina Floor to be like in order to prepare that RFQ. And it is disappointing that they have not shared any of that with the public.
  4. Do not conflate the desires of various self-interests to develop the land side with the need to rebuild the docks or sea walls.
    • The docks and the seawalls (the water side) must be replaced now. There is a years-long process of permitting and planning. No one argues that. If we as a City are committed to having a Marina, we must begin work on the docks now.
    • The docks and the seawalls and land side are all financed separately. (In fact, the City has already received funding to repair the North sea wall. Work on that is already beginning and it has nothing to do with the land side.)
    • There are land side amenities that boaters highly desire (parking, good restrooms, etc.) and the land side should be planned strategically to fully accommodate those needs. But it is only the docks that are in peril. And it is only the docks that depend on land side development to pay for.
  5. The knowable land side revenue generators are not solid:
    • Build a dry stack storage system with 240 spaces into the east side of the hill near the south end of the floor. Presumably, all the small boats displaced by the removal of the current storage sheds will go there. Best case, it generates $1.1M/year in revenue, however operational cost has not been discussed. We are assuming that there will be immediate and 100% demand for that storage.
    • Build a second dry stack storage system with another 240 spaces inside the APB. See above.
    • Move the harbor master’s office into the APB and lease out or redevelop the building for retail/restaurant. Revenue unknown.
  6. The most glamorous revenue generators are unknown and unknowable:
    • Passenger ferry
    • Boutique hotel
    • Move the Farmers Market inside the APB and convert it into a year-round concern

    There’s no way to comment on any of these without more information. They sound wonderful. Who doesn’t like the sound of a ferry or a boutique hotel or a year round market. But there are no numbers. And no discussion as to the impacts on our transportation infrastructure including parking.

    Perhaps the biggest problem with any of these glamour items is that they are being sold as economic drivers. The pitch is that, if we had a ferry or a hotel, regardless of any direct revenue, their presence somehow attracts more visitors, people spending money and general business development. We heard that same argument with the Des Moines Creek Business Park and whatever it’s other virtues, the DMCBP has not been that great economic driver. If people want those things just because they are fun? Great. Sell them like that. But do not include them in the mix of revenue sources for dock replacement.

    Also:

    • The hotel would likely be instead of that second dry stack system, not in addition to it. So regardless of any glamour, it must perform better than $1.1M/year in tax revenue.
    • The demand for a ferry is based on a private study done by the City in 2019 but only revealed a few months ago. Those results are not exactly echoed by a very thorough study done by the Puget Sound Regional Council where a Des Moines route came in dead last.
    • Although the Farmers Market is a beloved institution, a big money maker it is not. It is fantasy to think that a year-round concern would do any better. And again: every inch of the APB must, above all things, be an efficient money maker.
  7. The public outreach has been terrible.
    • The City’s last real ‘town hall’ about the proposal was in 2017. There was also a Yacht Club event which was far less well attended. But in the end, the total number of residents reached at both these events would have been at best several hundreds. Not exactly representative of the entire community. Also: these were not proposals concerning financing or dock replacement or anything real.. They were at best surveys of public interest on three broad options; nothing more. And to say otherwise is completely disingenuous.
    • The sole outreach about the current plan was by distributing flyers inside the docks to the 750-ish boat owners, 80% of whom are not residents. They were the only stakeholders asked to submit questions and not a single member outside of that community attended the initial planning meetings before the Council voted to move ahead with design. You can verify this for yourself by looking at page 11 of the Draft Proposal or here for a list of all documents reviewed before the City Council voted to move ahead.
  8. The plan plan changes the entire focus of moorage towards larger boats or wealthier tenants and that has far bigger consequences than just the docks. The dream would be to make Des Moines a weekend destination for boat owners similar to the San Juans. And that means that any other developments on the land side will also shift upmarket. Does the community believe in and want that sort of long term vision? There are is a small, but important group of residents who disagree because it is such a change from the original mission. Some boat owners still dearly miss the ‘sling’ removed in 2009. Many resent having to go down to Redondo to launch, which they consider inconvenient and much more challenging to use.
  9. The Marina Floor is smaller than people think. If there is a ferry, dry stack operations, a boutique hotel and retail space in the APB and the harbor master’s office, the logistics will be non-trivial. Some people will use the new Steps on 223rd. But many will need parking or shuttles or ride shares to at least get up to Marine View Drive.  Also, there are many ways to implement dry stack storage and we are considering not one but two systems–which means potentially launching seven times as many boats..
  10. For 99% of Des Moines, the practical function of the Marina is as a public park. It has always been that way. The Marina Floor is the City’s gathering space–and so much so that most people have forgotten that it is, in fact, a business. Thus far, apart from the 223rd Steps, the entire discussion has been around ‘boaters’ and ‘revenue’, ignoring entirely the fact that the Marina is a park and that the vast majority of users will never set foot on the docks.

The ends do not justify the means…

I want to acknowledge that the proposal and every one of its assumptions could turn out to be absolutely wonderful. Really. But at the end of the day, the ends do not justify the means. The issue is not the actual proposal, which could be fixed, but rather the process which was and continues to be fraught.

Dismissive…

The City and the Council majority have been completely dismissive of any complaints. The administration denies that there has been any problem with the process. This is not only a failure of government, it is a lack of regard for your intelligence.

  • To insist that there has been anything approaching a proper level of public outreach is to deny reality.
  • Demanding a decent business proposal before proceeding is the very definition of good business.

Three messages to government…

We must send a strong message to our government:

  • The Marina belongs to the entire City. The entire community are the stakeholders and must have a voice at every stage of planning.
  • The City must communicate properly and that includes both high quality information and serious public outreach on programs of this scale.
  • The City must provide complete proposals before asking the City Council to vote and the City Council must not tolerate anything less.

Action Items

To send these messages, I’m asking you to write, not only the City Council, but also to all candidates. Many of the biggest decisions will happen in 2021. So you should be getting specific answers from them now.

  1. Ask them to support of my Marina Redevelopment Presentation ARPA Stimulus Proposal. which will be discussed at our September 16 City Council Meeting.
  2. Ask them to support creating a new Marina Committee of the City Council to provide oversight and planning of Marina and Redondo Zones. This would insure that the entire community had a voice in Marina planning, not merely the DMMA.

1To give you some perspective, SR3 currently pays the City about $450K/year for its piece of the Marina floor.

Marina Redevelopment Town Hall ARPA Proposal

Posted on Categories Engagement, Marina1 Comment on Marina Redevelopment Town Hall ARPA Proposal

My fifth formal proposal to the City Council for ARPA spending is to fund a multi-media presentation ‘explainer’ and Town Hall for Marina Redevelopment.

Background

The City recently released it’s 2021 Draft Marina Master Plan, which I’ll refer to here as ‘Marina Redevelopment’. But having now spoken with a lot of residents who are lobbying the Council to spend ARPA money on everything except the Marina, I’ve heard four themes which should not be underestimated in my opinion:

1. Everyone is very interested in the Marina Redevelopment–even if they have no interest in using ARPA money. I have heard over and over that people feel excluded… ie. they don’t bother asking because they feel like “if the City cared, they would have already done outreach.” That had never occurred to me: if you don’t do outreach, far from demanding information, a lot of people simply get the message that you don’t care and check out.

2. Everyone and I do mean everyone is having a great deal of trouble visualising any projected outcomes. I cannot stress that enough. Even the condo owners just can’t ‘see’ what the 223rd stairs, APB (including views from above), hotel, ferry, might look like, let alone any intentions re. parking, movement of boats to/from dry stock, boat launch, rest room. It is all an abstraction. Those Skylab drawings may have performed well as a sales pitch 7-8 years ago, but now they are deeply frustrating. People have actually told me that they feel stupid for not getting it. They don’t mention it because they assume that everyone else gets it or surely someone else would’ve complained.

3. Residents absolutely no idea about the money: what financing looks like. They have no idea what an 2Enterprise Fund is. If it’s more money for the Marina why should I as a resident care? How does the Adaptive Purpose Building (APB) translate into money for dock replacement? Do larger boats mean something for the town beyond moorage fees? Those are not bad questions. I have them myself.

4. When residents first started talking  about a ‘Town Hall’, I thought what they meant was a ‘public gathering’ where the City Council and Administration stood there and took questions and complaints. Actually, that is not what the people I’ve spoken with want at all–at least, not at this point. For everyone I’ve sat down with, ‘Town Hall’ is at least partly code for “I tried reading that Master Plan and I still don’t get it.”  I’m stunned by how many people have taken the time to read the thing only to have even more questions at the end.

Proposal

What I want to propose is that the City immediately hire a for realz media presentation company to create a for realz presentation consisting of:

    1. A Virtual Tour. A 3d fly-through animation demonstrating all aspects of the proposal as far as they can be known. I mean like showing a ferry docking, boats going in and out of dry stack to the launch, a view from the condos looking down on the APB, a view of the APB from the docks, people descending the 223rd stairs, a re-purposed harbormaster building, parking flows. and of course a fly over of the re-configured moorage. Maybe we do a ‘before and after’ fly-over so people can get a sense of just how big a change it is: the new covered moorage look, how guest moorage changes, the fairways, expansion of Ranger, the various environmental concerns that we are addressing–and why permitting is so costly and so fraught. Everything. (BTW: that environmental thing -really- matters to a small, but vocal number of residents. They really want to have a sense that the rebuild is compatible with their interest in wildlife.)

 

 

  1. Bulleted One-Pagers. Posters and hand outs, crafted at a sixth grade level explaining the costs, revenue forecasts, permitting challenges, how we intend to finance and also the appropriate uses of ongoing Marina money. That sounds like anyone can do it, but they can’t. You need an outsider–a media pro to make it work.

Then…

Once we have those tools, then we organize ‘Town Halls’. And we should record those meetings as well. I am sure that audience Q&A is something that people who cannot attend will find very useful.


1I’m over-simplifying here, but an enterprise fund is self-financing business that the City operates. Operations and finances are kept separate from other City funds.

Weekly Update: 08/08/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Engagement, Transparency, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 08/08/2021

Hopefully you’ve already seen the Christmas In July post.  Please send me your ideas!

Public Service Announcements

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. The deadline to register to vote online is October 25. Voters can register and vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of KCE’s Vote Center locations.

  2. Wednesday October 13, 6PM Aviation Town Hall with Rep. Adam Smith and 33rd District Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall!

  3. Wednesday October 13, 7PM On-Line Candidate Forum hosted by Yoshiko Grace Matsui and Jayme Quinn Wagner! (and to prep, you can watch last month’s Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce Candidate Forum!)

  4. he Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  5. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  6. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  7. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  8. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  9. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  10. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  11. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Monday: A new slug of Port Package home owners have come on the radar.

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda). Coincidentally, the Port will be giving an update on their Accelerated Port Package program from last February. The good news is that the Port is finally providing sound insulation to hundreds of untreated apartments in Des Moines–including several along Kent Des Moines Road. The bad news is that they have backtracked on their intent to provide updates per State Law HB2315 to existing homes that have experienced a range of problems–including structural damage.

Wednesday: Friends Of Saltwater Park meeting to discuss their long term plans. FOSP have become an important partner in monitoring the health of McSorley Creek and Puget Sound and we should support their efforts.

Thursday: Meeting (again) with Adam Smith’s office on federal grants for airport communities. This is one of this little ‘details’ that our City should be working on. Currently there is no FAA funding available directly to a city like Des Moines–you always have to go through the owner of the airport–which is the Port. That’s what makes it so hard for us to get any funding for studies or relief.

Friday: Several meetings with local groups on parks. I’ve received dozens of great suggestions for ARPA funding, but these are the first I’ve heard concerning parks–which is near and dear to my heart.

Last Week

Tuesday: Adam Smith. I keep pitching our the SeatacNoise.Info Remote Works Better proposal. Anything that gets any department or organization thinking about Zoom instead of getting on an unnecessary flight is worth doing. 🙂

Thursday: The Budget Retreat City Council Meeting (Agenda) (Video) This is the meeting that kicks off the only State-mandated process of a City Council: passing a budget. For decades that basically was the only function of most small town City Councils. There was a department by department presentation and there were many questions. Too much to include here. More soon…

Debt, Freedom, Vaccines and Stimulus…

Councilmembers routinely get anonymous emails advocating for some issue–often using hyperbolic language. I got one this week saying “Vaccine Mandates Are Slavery!”

To which I reply: No, dude. Slavery is slavery.

But OK, being told you have no choice to get a vaccine is, to some degree, a loss of freedom. I’m not trying to minimize people’s feelings on this.

Now: wanna know what else is not freedom? Crushing debt. Just ask anyone on the 2016 City Council. Owe enough money and you no longer get to choose anything. Debt can take away everything, including your City.

So I want to throw something out there about debt and the Pandemic and Stimulus. Aside from the deaths and illness, the damage COVID-19 has done in terms of lives, jobs, businesses, homes is historic. And that damage will not stop until everyone is vaccinated. And the kicker? Almost 100% of the suffering now is completely unnecessary. Every month people do not get vaccinated adds billions of dollars of long term debt and keeps millions of citizens in a state of constant anxiety. That is not freedom.

No matter how fast we ‘recover’, that debt has no reasonable expectation of being addressed in our lifetimes. We are simply moving those trillions of dollars of debt (and anxiety) onto future generations.

So any stimulus money the City Of Des Moines receives should not be thought of as Christmas In July… which I meant sarcastically. Rather, this $9M should be thought of more like a ginormous pay day loan that our grandchildren will be stuck with.

The last twenty years of federal debt

In 2000, the federal debt was $5.6 trillion. It is now over $26 trillion. And after this year’s ‘stimuli’ it will surely blow past $30 trillion.

Cumulative Federal Debt 2000 – 2020

Date Dollar Amount
09/30/2020 26,945,391,194,615.15
09/30/2019 22,719,401,753,433.78
09/30/2018 21,516,058,183,180.23
09/30/2017 20,244,900,016,053.51
09/30/2016 19,573,444,713,936.79
09/30/2015 18,150,617,666,484.33
09/30/2014 17,824,071,380,733.82
09/30/2013 16,738,183,526,697.32
09/30/2012 16,066,241,407,385.89
09/30/2011 14,790,340,328,557.15
09/30/2010 13,561,623,030,891.79
09/30/2009 11,909,829,003,511.75
09/30/2008 10,024,724,896,912.49
09/30/2007 9,007,653,372,262.48
09/30/2006 8,506,973,899,215.23
09/30/2005 7,932,709,661,723.50
09/30/2004 7,379,052,696,330.32
09/30/2003 6,783,231,062,743.62
09/30/2002 6,228,235,965,597.16
09/30/2001 5,807,463,412,200.06
09/30/2000 5,674,178,209,886.86

Many economists don’t worry about short term deficits. But no one can ignore such a vast amount of structural debt indefinitely.  Sooner or later the rent comes due. Just as it did for the City Of Des Moines five years ago.

Our grandchildren…

Future generations will rightly ask why we allowed the pandemic to drag on needlessly. They will wonder how the hell we could increase the national debt 600% in 20 years—and what we really got in return for all that spending. And my guess is that their resentment will be profound.

I know all that may seem high falutin’. People are suffering now. They want relief now. But I ran for office with the slogan, “I’ve lived here 25 years. And I want to make Des Moines even better for the next 25 years.” So the long term is also on my mind as I think about how we should spend our $9M share of stimulus money. The staggering amount of debt we are foisting on future generations obligates us to consider doing something really important with that check–for the future of Des Moines.

Committee Video Recordings

Posted on Categories Engagement, Public Safety, Transparency

The City is making good on a proposal I made at our June 20th City Council Meeting to publish the video of Committee Meetings. The first batch are now available on the Des Moines Councilmember Youtube Channel. Go get ’em!

Thanks to Councilmember Martinelli and Deputy Mayor Mahoney for supporting the idea. And of course, thanks to our IT staff, Dale Southwick and our City Clerk Bonnie Wilkins for making it happen!  This has been a long time coming. I’ve been trying to educate the public about the importance of Committees since forever.

What’s so special about Committees?

People who attend full City Council Meetings often comment that they seem somewhat ‘pre-decided’. They’re not wrong, but that in itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It’s at the Committees are where most policy actually happens. The members are expected to know more about their specific area than the rest of the Council. Each committee receives more detailed briefings and the discussions are far more specific. So when an item comes to the Council from one of the five committees, it should sail through nine times out of ten. If items referred from a committee were routinely being argued over it would indicate that the full Council did not have confidence in the referring committee.

Unfortunately, just between us, Committee Meeting Agendas and Minutes are often not exactly… how do I put this delicately? Detailed. For example, here is the Agenda for the June 20 Public Safety Committee Meeting. This is where the PSEM discussed Body Cameras in detail. The description is… blank. Absolutely no detail. At the next full Council Meeting, the Council voted 6-1 for the proposal. I was the lone vote against it and I struggled to explain my vote to residents (who were mostly in favour of the idea in the broad strokes) because until now, the public could not see what I saw.

This is where you come in…

The public has an interest in showing up to committees to engage on issues that are of specific concern to you. If there is an item relevant to your neighbourhood, you want to be at those Committee discussions and presentations and make sure that your voice is heard before it gets to the full Council. Because, again, by the time a referred item gets to the full Council, the CMs consider it ‘pre-vetted’. So, if you show up to a full Council meeting upset about an issue that has already been approved by one or more Committees, you’re asking the full Council to vote against their colleagues who usually know more about the issue than they do. Awkward. 😀

Unfortunately, you’re super-busy and Committee Meetings are at the super-inconvenient time of 3PM in the afternoon. So without the video, you could never really know what was going on. Now you can.

There’s always room for improvement…

OK so, how do you know when there are ‘items relevant to your neighbourhood’? Still working on that. 😀 Improving transparency and public engagement were among my primary bitches … er,,, ‘goals’ 😀  in wanting to join the City Council in the first place. It’s an ongoing process, but I want to acknowledge that this is a step in the right direction.

Another one of my  ‘asks’ has been to add a Calendar on the City web site that will allow you to be automatically notified of meetings and other events. That’s coming soon, too!

Can we do even better? You bet. We could refine that notification system to alert you not just when a meeting occurs, but when it contains items that might be of interest to you. (Eg. based on your location or a school or a particular program.) We can provide public comment at Committee Meetings. (And on a side note, we could also enhance the system to notify you of emergencies like the recent beach closure. 🙂 )

There are a lot of things we can do, not just to make the system more ‘transparent’ but also to make it more relevant to you–which will hopefully get more of you to engage in public life–advocating for issues, volunteering 🙂

No drama…

Now, a word about politics. For a small portion of the public, there is this notion of a ‘lack of civility’ on our City Council. That is actually quite true–but not in the way people think and I’ll talk about that another time. The point is: I want people to watch these committee meetings not just to learn about issues, but also to see how drama-free things go when the discussion sticks to policy. There is (almost) never any of the ‘cringey’ stuff that people make so much hay about when watching full Council meetings. You can see how things could work and should work on the full Council.

Why? I think the reasons things are calmer at Committee Meetings boil down to:

  1. The tasks are specific. So there’s no room for extraneous posturing or no speechifying.
  2. But ironically, there are also no limits (eg. the dreaded ‘2X rule’). It’s more of a conversation with staff. (And honestly? That’s how full Council Meetings used to be.)
  3. The goals are all short term and obvious. There are rarely any big strategic decisions or new policy ideas. In other words, although the meetings are supposed to be ‘Council’, they are actually Staff meetings where they discuss their agenda. We agree on mostly everything because the current meeting configuration does not support doing anything we might disagree about.

Anyhoo, if you’ve heard about all the ‘conflict’ on the Council,  the thing you will notice is that when it comes to the actual policy, things run smoothly and there actually is cooperation that you can feel good about as a resident.

It ain’t Netflix…

As of today, only six videos are published and unless I’m mistaken there are at least fifty more coming from the past year. I’m not suggesting you start plowing through all of these like Netflix. They’re not that compelling. 😀 But now that we’re starting, I hope to provide some ‘highlights’ on items where I think the discussion went beyond the presentations I attach to each Weekly Update. And somehow I hope we can connect the videos and the agendas and presentations in Search so you can see everything about an issue at a glance.

A practical example…

Back to that PSEM discussion on Body Cameras. Here is the Video 06/03/2021.  Again, here is the Agenda, with absolutely no detail. The full Council voted 6-1 for the proposal.

I voted against it because the Committee approved the plan without answers to some basic questions like “When can the officer turn the camera on and off?” I had hoped that in the interim period, the administration would flesh out ‘details’ like that. But it came to the full Council with the same questions left unanswered. And I won’t vote for anything that leaves basic questions like that unanswered.

Now that you have the video, you can see what I saw and decide for yourself whether or not I made the right call.

Weekly Update: 08/01/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Engagement, Transparency, Weekly UpdatesLeave a comment on Weekly Update: 08/01/2021

Hopefully you’ve already seen the Christmas In July post.  Please send me your ideas!

Public Service Announcements

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. The deadline to register to vote online is October 25. Voters can register and vote through 8 p.m. on Election Day at any of KCE’s Vote Center locations.

  2. Wednesday October 13, 6PM Aviation Town Hall with Rep. Adam Smith and 33rd District Sen. Karen Keiser and Rep. Tina Orwall!

  3. Wednesday October 13, 7PM On-Line Candidate Forum hosted by Yoshiko Grace Matsui and Jayme Quinn Wagner! (and to prep, you can watch last month’s Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce Candidate Forum!)

  4. he Utility Moratorium ended September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  5. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  6. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  7. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  8. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  9. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  10. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  11. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  12. 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.
  13. 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.
  14. 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: Adam Smith. I keep pitching our the SeatacNoise.Info Remote Works Better proposal. Anything that gets any department or organization thinking about Zoom instead of getting on an unnecessary flight is worth doing. 🙂

Thursday: The Budget Retreat City Council Meeting (Agenda) This is the meeting that kicks off the only State-mandated process of a City Council: passing a budget. For decades that basically was the only function of most small town City Councils. If it’s like previous years, there will be a department by department presentation which is typically the best overview of the City you’ll see all year. Just to be clear though: this is not an objective assessment of the City. It is the administration’s point of view. That’s not any slam; not at all. It’s the simple truth.  every statement from management comes with a point of view.

Anyhoo, Councilmembers ask questions, offer direction and the staff goes off and next month the City Manager presents the First Draft Budget as prescribed by law.

As usual, the City Manager requested questions about the Agenda. For me, this week was easy: I just re-submitted the same questions I did not get answers to from the last meeting. 😀 Now, I get scowls about being snarky, but overall, I think I’m pretty nice about it. On any properly functioning Board, a CEO who refused to answer questions from a Board Member would be subject to removal for cause. Occasionally I remind readers: it is unethical for a City Manager to treat any Councilmember differently from another. And it’s only the current majority that makes this possible. The fact that such conduct was ever tolerated, either by my colleagues or the voters is a real problem.

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Thursday: Friends Of Saltwater State Park (if I make it on time!) Despite my main ARPA Stimulus proposals, I’m also ‘taking requests’. 😀 My interest in FOSSP is part of a bigger picture: water quality in Des Moines. FOSSP have been the lookout on all the Midway Sewer problems over the past two years and we owe them thanks–and our support. We’re stewards of three significant stretches of shoreline, important creeks and thousands of inter-connected water, sewer and storm water systems.

Last Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission Meeting (Agenda) I guess the ‘highlight’ is the allocation of $2M for the South King County Fund–which Cities and various organizations can obtain various grants. The reason I always hem and haw on these is that this is actually your money. Like all Port grants, it comes from your Property Tax Levy. So basically you’re just paying yourself. It’s not airline or cruise revenue.

And this is an intrinsic problem with our relationship with the Port. It looks like the Port is doing all these great projects and it directs attention away from the fact that the Port is not doing anything meaningful to reduce airport noise and emissions. Plus, there is an insidious quality which rarely gets talked about: once an organization accepts any of these grants, it’s unlikely to expect them to oppose the Port on anything real concerning noise and pollution. In other words: the SKCF is a powerful lobbying tool which prevents doing big things by helping people do small things–using our own money.

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee Meeting (Agenda) There was a review of Capital Improvement Projects plan and an update on the Marina Master Plan. This struck me as sort of a recap of 2021 accomplishments–which was great. There are hold-ups on some playground projects and I’m now struck by how outrageously expensive the equipment items have become. I don’t know if all that is pandemic-related or just that you can’t throw up a set of steel monkey bars and call it good. (Sorry, my fingers could not seem to stop from typing a Dad joke about the bad old days.) But seriously, I was going to do a short piece on the pricing but I’ve run out of time here.

Thursday: Economic Development Committee Meeting (Agenda) This is a continuation of the HB1220 discussion and I hope you will view the presentation. I wish the video was on-line! This will sound unkind, but frankly, the discussion centered on all the places Committee Members want to exclude from use as homeless shelters and affordable housing. The only place mentioned as acceptable? Pacific Ridge, of course.

Look: I have exactly the same concerns about all these issues as you do. I am by far the most aggressive CM on Code Enforcement. However, like all cities, our government has officially been saying for years how committed we are to solving these problems. But most cities actually did very little. So the State called our bluff. We now have to allow these structures. But by the same token, I do not want Pacific Ridge to be the ‘affordable housing spot’. I don’t know what or where at this point, but I do know that that idea is not fair. We can’t stop this or try to ‘work around it’. We need to make it work well. And the only way affordable housing works we is to put our energies towards insisting that it be attractive and available throughout Des Moines.

Saturday: A tour of the new Why Not You? Academy. This is a Charter School that will start this autumn with about 113 9th Graders. I met Scott (the boss) and one of the engineers who helped redo the building and I was impressed. They already have a waiting list, which is a good sign.

My Four ARPA Proposals…

Update 08/31/21: Since this original post, I have added two other proposals for a total of six. I’ve added them below.

As I said in the Christmas in July post on spending our $9M in stimulus money, after the July 22 City Council Meeting, Councilmembers were given an application by the City Manager to fill out potential programs for research.

As I wrote last Sunday, I’ve had lots of suggestions from very informed citizens. But I’ve had no blazing insights as to which ideas to put forward.

So far, I have submitted four ideas. I could’ve submitted dozens. What I submitted have the following shared features:

  • I think I know enough about the idea to know if it might work
  • I think the City has the ability to execute it’s part with excellence
  • Each is strategic, as opposed to short term relief
  • Each would improve the quality of life for most or all residents
  • Each would lead to ongoing sustainable economic benefit to the City

And just to be clear: based on everything I have learned thus far, the primary goal I have is: the City Of Des Moines needs more money. You can’t do anything the public wants if you don’t have the money.

Consolation prize

A few words as to why I did not prioritize other stuff.

First off, I had a slew of questions about almost every line item on the City Manager’s draft proposal. It’s exactly the kind of detail-free thing that drives me nuts. It’s like designed to mess with me. So as I said last Sunday, more than anything else, I would like to slow down the entire train. We have plenty of time to decide most (not all) of these things.

Second, all the suggestions I have received are wonderful. I’m not kidding. Some of these proposals are so detailed, I was thinking, “Man if I was still working, I’d want that person’s résumé” If it were appropriate, I’d share a few of your suggestions just to show you how thoughtful and civic-minded so many of our residents really are. And that’s the problem: there are so many equivalently wonderful ideas I have no way of deeming one better than the other. So I took the coward’s way out. 😀

Third–every corporation has core competencies; things it excels at and things it finds more challenging. For example, my experiences with EATS and GRO were not exactly great, so I’m not as jazzed to repeat those, unless I get assurances that they’ll be handled differently in REV 2.0.

Fourth–with regard to anything ‘human servicesy’, again, I just found a lot of ittoo vague. I’m happy to provide funding for programs that have demonstrable need and a proven track record. However, I’m very reluctant to talk about any new program that we might have to build from scratch (see EATS and GRO.) Again, you’d have to show me that they can be executed well. If that sounds like micro-managing? Sorry. I just can’t support a blank check made out to ‘Mental Health’ or whatever. This has nothing to do with my support for the issue. *I just want evidence.

And parenthetically–I have to point out something I’ve been grousing about since day one: the fact that all our Advisory Committees (especially our Human Services Advisory Committee–which is where the majority of our social services spending is generated) is something of a black box to me. The Council gets only a single annual report during budgeting season. I’ve asked for information and been denied. If Council could get more routine information about the programs they fund–I’d be thrilled to be more supportive. I just refuse to spend money without details. Which makes me heartless, of course. And cold. Probably cruel to small animals as well.

The proposals

And with all that build -up:

#1 ENVIRONMENTAL Strategist

As most of you know “the airport” was and is my issue. The Sustainable Airport Master Plan (SAMP) is here. People are often asking me “OK, what’s the answer?” This proposal is a big part of it. I would like the City to create a full-time position dedicated  to managing the negative impacts of Sea-Tac Airport. We’ve needed such a person since basically forever.

It’s one of the few ideas I’ll ever float that has some ‘what?’ factor. As far as I know, there is literally no person doing this job in the United States. But there should be.

People always complain that I’m gassing on, but there have been successes  in managing the airport, you know about them, you just don’t hear about them. (Until 1990, the airport literally dumped untreated waste directly into Des Moines Creek and Puget Sound.) But those successes have been epic and  inexpensive. They were also local talent and that was the key. Unfortunately, the only thing that ever got newspaper coverage seems to have been the truly spectacular wastes of money (eg. over $5.5M on Third Runway legal fees).

Anyhoo, I’m being a terrible tease and  I’ll come back to this another time. For now: the key mistake we always make is to outsource airport management–as a reaction to the Port. We hire outsiders from a small club of people inside the airline world, to come in, usually at the 11th hour. And that is why it is always unbelievably expensive and totally ineffective.

But among this person’s duties would be:

  1. Develop a strategic approach towards all negative impacts from Sea-Tac Airport.
  2. Educate the public and improve awareness to build regional support
  3. Act as legislative advocate on all related legislation.
  4. Identify and develop grant funding both for this department, but also to create mitigation programs that benefit the entire community.
  5. Organize other governments and organizations towards coordinated and strategic responses.
  6. Facilitate a new Council/Citizen Committee that can create legislation for the full Council.

This person needs to have a very specific set of skills: environmental law, communication, and the ability to grok airports. I’m asking for funding for three years as a proof of concept–and I’m applying the same standard our City Manager proposed when he accepted his job: if the work product isn’t paying for itself, it should be terminated.

The City Manager has chaired our Aviation Advisory Committee and currently represents the City on all airport-related groups. This person will take over that slot.

#2 DIRECTOR OF Business formation

I would like the City to create a dedicated business formation program. The program would initially consist of an FTE who’s job would be to:

  1. Promote Des Moines businesses, both locally and regionally
  2. Assist new business formation and existing business relocation to Des Moines
  3. Use a dedicated fund to provide start-up money as needed
  4. Provide ongoing surveys, events and other support services to help the business community support and grow their customer bases

Currently the City Manager also functions as Economic Development Director. But this is actually a very different job. The job of EDD is strategic planning–and in practice that has meant land development. But Des Moines also (and especially) needs someone to help the business owners. Years ago we had a Chamber Of Commerce but it was not particularly effective. This person will recruit promising businesses to locate here. When someone begins the process, this person will make it their mission to help them open and then thrive. To build their digital presence. To market. And to keep their finger on the pulse of every business and help raise their profile with media.

One of the first thing my critics often say about me is that I hate business. Sometimes I think I’m the only person on the Council who actually likes  running a business. I think we’ve often confused ‘building’ and ‘real estate’ as ‘business’. Construction is great. But a business–something that serves customers–is an ongoing process. A City that says it supports business should provide services that actually, you know, support business.

#3 Second metro shuttle

The Metro Shuttle that runs down 216th was a very good idea. Now let’s bring it to the rest of Des Moines. I propose to establish a second and permanent Metro Shuttle line for the south end of town with a route heading south from Marine View Drive and the Marina down to Judson, Huntington Park and Highline College. This will help us in our stated goals as a transit-centered community and it will help tie the south end of town into the downtown core–especially for our large senior community.

#4 Accelerated Marina Dock Replacement

I would like the City to research the possibilities of using as much of the $9M, up to the entire amount, to accelerate dock replacement. Not land side or restrooms. Just the docks.

I would like to research how much/if any cost savings, economic benefits or other advantages there might be in using all or a much larger portion of this money to complete multiple docks. Are there some docks we could use this money to replace now that would immediately start generating more revenue? If so, how much? How much borrowing costs would we save over the long haul?

If not the full $9M does $6M give significant benefits?  $4M? I’m trying to get a sense of what the relative benefits (if any) might be to each of these spending points.

#5 MARINA COMMUNITY OUTREACH PRESENTATIONS

The Marina Master Plan is very complex. The document is good, but it is very difficult for most people to visualize what the experience will be given so many various possibilities. Some of the options discussed compete for the same space. It is also challenging to understand many of the financial aspects, including revenue potential and costs.

It is essential to provide the public with a clear understanding of what this all might mean for the future of the Marina … and for them. To create that understanding, the City will immediately identify and engage with a specialist in creating media presentations to create a series of materials:

  1. A Virtual Tour Of The Marina. These are common in residential and commercial real estate. It would consist of a video animation allowing the viewer to “fly over and through” the area and explore what the Marina might look like from several perspectives (birds eye, street level pedestrian, etc.) The animation will demonstrate all aspects of the proposal in the document as far as they can currently be known. It might begin with a ‘before’ fly-over approaching the Marina entrance and showing how the Marina looks now and then transition to an ‘after’ fly-over showing the new elements. It could also give a visitor’s viewpoint taking walk though various features on the land side. The following list of elements to be included is by no means comprehensive but is provided to give a sense of scope:
    1. Waterside
      • The new covered moorage look
      • How guest moorage changes
      • Changes to the fairways
      • Possible Expansion of Ranger
      • A view of the APB from the docks
      • A ferry docking
      • Views of the various seawalls – most of the public never sees these and do not understand what it does or the challenges to wildlife. This is important to residents who want to have confidence that the rebuild is compatible with ongoing interest in wildlife
    2. Landside
      • Hotel
      • Pedestrians moving from the ferry to parking
      • Movement of boats going in and out of the APB dry stack to the launch
      • Movement of boats going in and out of the east bank dry stack to the launch
      • A view from the condos looking down on the APB
      • Interiors of the APB with proposed uses
      • Pedestrians descending the 223rd stairs
      • A re-purposed harbormaster building
      • Parking flows
  2. A series of posters and hand outs, and web pages, crafted at a sixth grade level , explaining the various environmental concerns: why permitting is so costly and so fraught. This is important to residents who want to have confidence that the rebuild is compatible with ongoing interest in wildlife.
  3. A series of posters, hand outs and web pages, crafted at a sixth grade level, explaining the costs, revenue forecasts, permitting challenges, how we intend to finance and also the appropriate uses of ongoing Marina money (eg. how an Enterprise Fund works.)

Important: All these materials will be updated as various elements of the project are approved and a complete set of all revisions will be maintained so that the public can see how the project evolves over time.

These materials will be created to be both self-standing, but also with a presenter in mind. The goal will be to support community meetings where experts from the City and its partners can use these to enhance their presentations and Q&A sessions with the public.

$20,000.

#6 FRIENDS OF SALTWATER STATE PARK WEB SITE

“The Friends Of Saltwater State Park are invaluable to the City and our residents through their efforts at park clean up, education and in monitoring the health of Puget Sound and the water quality at McSorley Creek. Their ongoing efforts to monitor and report spills from Midway Sewer District are much appreciated by our residents who feel safer knowing that they are watching. Their work also greatly enhances the value of the park as a tourist destination both at the water and on the forest trails.

Like many non-profits, FOSWSP struggles to attract volunteers and the donations necessary to provide these valuable benefits to Des Moines. To address these challenges, they are asking for our help to create a new web site to attract volunteers and donations. The new site will also provide educational opportunities and keep the public updated on the health of McSorley Creek, Puget Sound and the forest. Please see their attached proposal with details.”

Full proposal

$7,500

Summary: Tie it together

Look, I don’t know if any of this is going anywhere. But I’m sharing this with you because I honestly have never been clear as to the City’s strategy. We talk about the ‘Marina Redevelopment’ and other projects, but they always feel like separate and unrelated items. At the end of the day, Des Moines started out in 1959 as a very small city that grew by leaps and bounds with many small annexations. And in truth, the City still feels like all those separate ‘chunks’.

Part of that is just life. An administration is busy enough with the day to day stuff. But at some point we have to make real efforts to stamp Des Moines as a unified City. I’ve already suggested having unified branding across the City. Beyond that, we need to have a series of strategic goals that get beyond this project and that project–and finally gets us to being a unified city.


*Some day I’ll write an article on Detroit during the late 70’s. I’ll call it “How to waste half a billion dollars with only the best of intentions.” The City of Detroit went through a very long phase where it received absolutely lavish sums of Federal grants. And it just poured money into various social programs that were almost uniformly ineffective. But after so many decades of abject racism, questioning the effectiveness of any of these programs was politically impossible. Outcomes mattered far less than simply to appear to be trying. I still have a bad taste in my mouth thinking back on all the neighbourhoods that should have been helped.