Water District 54 Tower

Posted on Categories Environment, Neighborhoods

The King County Water District 54 reservoir, located on 11th Avenue between City Hall and the Police Department, is almost unique in Washington State. It is one of only three remaining well-water sources and is un-chlorinated. One ‘feature’ of the water is that it tends to contain high levels of manganese–a completely benign metal that is in high concentration in our area. You may notice this as an occasional gray cast in your water.

Effects of airplane exhaust

An easy way to see the effects of airplane exhaust from take-offs heading south from Sea-Tac Airport is to look at the tower.

04/01/2021 4pm South side (behind take-off path)

04/01/2021 4pm North side (facing take-off path)

Sailboat Logo

Until about 2010, the tower was painted with the Des Moines ‘sailboat’ logo. It was painted over with the current blue due to the increase in aircraft exhaust pollution. The custom artwork cost $12,000 and it was thought too expensive to have to keep re-doing every few years.

Summer 2009 with logo. The logo was display in four places around the circumference.

Summer 2009 with logo (close-up)

Letter of resignation from Des Moines Diversity Task Force: Meg Tapucol-Provo

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy, Public Safety, Transparency, UncategorizedTags 2 Comments on Letter of resignation from Des Moines Diversity Task Force: Meg Tapucol-Provo

Subject: Stepping down from the DMPD Diversity Task Force

To: Chief Ken Thomas,  Des Moines Police Guild, City Council, etc.

To the Members of the Des Moines Police Department Diversity Task Force,

I am regretfully writing to inform you that I am stepping down from the Diversity Task Force.

In joining this Task Force, my hope was built upon the expectation that the lived experiences of marginalized community members would be respected and prioritized.  I was told that the goal of the task force was to implement training on unconscious bias, and that opinions that provided different perspectives were welcome, particularly since I was not only a woman of color, but I had been working in the field of diversity and inclusion for over two decades.  I have facilitated Diversity and Inclusion Workshops throughout the country, from Atlanta to Hawaii, and all points in between and I have worked with all levels of employees, from line workers to CEO’s, from police officers, to scientists, to politicians.  I’ve taught college-level classes on Diversity and Multiculturalism for 13 years and I worked with educators as a facilitator for the Anti-Defamation League’s A World of Difference Institute leading prejudice reduction workshops.  So I came into this Task Force with a wealth and breadth of experience.  Social justice is something in which I believe passionately, and I was honored to be asked to be on the Task Force.

The first meeting was in August and I am still not clear on what the goal of the task force is.  There was one sparsely attended meeting in the fall in which diversity topics weren’t discussed at all.  I’m really not sure why.  At the end of that particular meeting, body cams were discussed, but for the most part I can’t recall what was discussed; I only remember thinking to myself, what does this have to do with diversity?

It is now March, seven months after the initial meeting and absolutely nothing has been accomplished.  There has been no discussion of training.  I feel that whenever issues around race are brought up, there is a feeling of defensiveness and attempts to justify actions by the police.  I tried to open up an honest conversation about the disparity between how black protesters are treated vs. the way white protesters are treated given what happened at the Capitol on January 6th.  There appeared to be a clear division between the people of color on the task force and the white officers on the task force, with the people of color feeling strongly that there is a disparity between how POC and white people are treated by law enforcement.  This is a quote from Robin DiAngelo: “If you haven’t spent years of sustained study, struggle and focus on issues of racism, then your opinion is necessarily limited.”  Whose opinion on racism holds more weight—those who have experienced racism, or those who haven’t?  What I felt was the invisible blue wall of silence go up.  What I believe is not understood by everyone in this Task Force is that racism does not necessarily have to be intentional.  Racism is a structure that maintains whiteness as the status quo. In this police department, whiteness is the status quo. If this Diversity Task Force cannot agree on what the realities are on racism in policing, what is the point of having the Task Force?

It was brought up during the first meeting that there were officers who weren’t happy that the Diversity Task Force was being put together.  As a former Diversity Consultant, I have worked with Police Officers in another jurisdiction and there was definitely a lot of reluctance going through Diversity Training on their part, so I don’t find this surprising. During the January meeting, I brought that issue up again, asking WHY those officers weren’t happy. The response to that question skirted the issue, stating that there were “different opinions” about the Diversity Task Force.  But the different opinions about the Task Force were never specified, leaving one to wonder, just exactly what ARE those differing opinions? And in fact, if there are officers who aren’t happy that the Diversity Task Force exists, why is that?  Does it conflict with their value system, their ideology?  Do they not value diversity and inclusion?  The only way we would know is if we knew what their opinions were.

Too often I have seen Diversity and Inclusion programs or Task Forces be implemented yet no change take place.  Organizations do this just to “check the box”, to say they did what they were supposed to do.  In the wake of the George Floyd murder, maybe it looks good to take that step.  But if this is just performative, then this is not the right task force for me.

Des Moines’ demographics have been steadily changing over the past two decades.  I’ve put together the attached Excel graphic (Des Moines Demographics 2000-2020) to show how the population has been changing since 2000.  There are currently about an equal number of people of color in Des Moines as there are white people, yet the police department does not reflect that reality.  If your department doesn’t reflect who they represent, how can you adequately protect and serve them?  These numbers will continue to change and people of color will become the majority.  How is the police department going to adequately understand the needs of the population it serves if the 99% of the officers continue to view things through their own cultural lenses?

One suggestion I have is that a third party outside of the police department with professional experience in diversity and inclusion act as a facilitator for the task force.  I believe that would be a better way to conduct task force meetings and to keep topics focused on diversity-related issues.  I also feel there should be more gender diversity among the people of color—where are the men of color who are not police officers?  Whether intentional or unintentional, there seems to be an out-of-balance power dynamic when the police officers are almost all White males and the citizens are all women of color.  Also, since this is a city government organization, I don’t see why City Council members should be banned from attending task force meetings.  I am aware that Councilmember J.C. Harris has asked to attend the task force meeting and was denied, and I am not sure I understand why.  It would seem to me that complete transparency would be a good thing.

I’ve attached some articles for your information.  I hope that in the near future you are able to determine what your diversity and inclusion goals are and accomplish them.

And I strongly urge EVERYONE on the task force to read “White Fragility” by Robin DiAngelo.

Also, I think you will find this an eye-opening video to watch:  A Conversation With the Police – Uncomfortable Conversations With a Black Man – Emmanuel Acho has a conversation with the Petaluma Police Department “Proximity breeds care; distance breeds fear.” –  Emmanuel Acho

Meg Tapucol-Provo

Notes on the attached articles:

  1. “10 Things We Know About Race and Policing in the U.S.”, an excellent article by the Pew Research Center.  One big takeaway from this article is that Black police officers view fatal encounters between law enforcement and Black people very differently than White police officers.  The majority of Black police officers view these incidents as signs of a larger problem between the police and Black people, whereas only 26% of White police officers believe this to be true.  In fact, the majority of Americans, both Black and White, believe Blacks are treated less fairly than Whites by law enforcement and by the criminal justice system.
  2. “The Numbers Don’t Speak for Themselves: Racial Disparities and the Persistence of Inequality in the Criminal Justice System”.  A great article exploring the way different people interpret statistical analyses about racism based on their own stereotypes about different groups of people and strategies on how to mitigate the unintended consequences of these stereotypes.
  3. “Racial Bias and Disparities in Policing”.  A thorough exploration of the racial bias and disparities in policing.
  4. “Federal judge holds Seattle Police Department in contempt for use of pepper spray, blast balls during Black Lives Matter protests”.  Seattle Times article shows that Seattle police did in fact use violence on peaceful BLM protesters, in contrast to what was claimed during January task force meeting.
  5. “The Inaction of Capitol Police Was by Design”.  “In December, a 111-page investigative report about the New York Police Department revealed that last year’s Black Lives Matter protests had been grossly mishandled by officers. The report, conducted by a city oversight agency, confirmed what millions of Americans had seen after the killing of George Floyd on May 25: Police responses during peaceful protests were characterized by “excessive enforcement” and the violation of First Amendment rights. Yet one month before Floyd’s death, on April 30, the country had watched as white protesters, some of them heavily armed, swarmed the Michigan state capitol to object to stay-at-home orders, resulting in little incident from Michigan State Police troopers and only two arrests.” – Excerpt from the article
  6. “Police Shrugged Off the Proud Boys, Until They Attacked the Capitol”, New York Times article does a deep dive into local police departments and how sometimes they have even appeared to side with the Proud Boys, especially when they have squared off against leftists openly critical of law enforcement.
  7. “Stop Turning Your Head: Black Cops Speak Out Against Blanket of Racism”,   “A department leadership that condones or ignores these levels of racism among its officers and fails to establish strict policies against it, or hold officers who break those policies accountable creates a culture of acceptance, denial and inaction that breeds bad behavior, Williams and others told The Crime Report.  ‘Old habits, old traditions, old structures are hard to break,’ said Williams. ‘It’s easy when you’re not affected by it to make an excuse for it, deny it, and just turn your head.’ However, willful ignorance by the leadership feeds a culture that can have dangerous consequences for communities around the country.” – Excerpt from the article.

2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – proper uses of funds for local governments

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy1 Comment on 2021 American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) – proper uses of funds for local governments

According to the American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA), local governments have until December 31, 2024 to spend the funds on eligible purposes.  These funds cannot be banked.  ARPA states that these funds can be spent:

  • To respond to the public health emergency caused by COVID-19
  • To provide assistance to households, small business, and nonprofits
  • To aid impacted industries such as tourism, travel, and hospitality
  • For premium pay to eligible workers performing essential work
  • For grants to eligible employers that have eligible workers who perform essential work
  • To make necessary investments in water, sewer, or broadband infrastructure

Weekly Update: 01/17/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates7 Comments on Weekly Update: 01/17/2021

If you check the site you’ll see a few tweaks. The Public Service Announcements now have their own page so you can always see what’s current. And the COVID-19 info has moved to the top next to the hat. You should check there because there are some big changes to do with finding out where/when you can get vaccinated and which new benefits are available for small business and unemployment.

Public Service Announcements

  1. The new round of Federal PPP loan program just opened up. And it is much better than the first round last year. If you need more information, here is a presentation from the Small Business Administration with lots of links to more information.
  2. There is new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  3. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  4. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  5. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  6. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

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

You can (and should) attend any of these meetings by signing up at:  https://www.desmoineswa.gov/FormCenter/City-Forms-3/Council-Meeting-Comments-49 by 4PM the day of the meeting.

Last Week

  1. Wednesday: I attended a small business administration webinar hosted by Congressman Adam Smith. There was some great info on the new PPP loan program. Check it out!
  2. Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association meeting.
  3. Somewhere in there I had a meeting with the University Of Washington Department Of Environment And Occupational Health Sciences (UWDEOHS), the people who are doing so much great work on air quality around Sea-Tac Airport. This meeting was  to finalize the air quality monitor proposal. Please read that proposal. Now!
  4. Saturday: There was a Downtown Clean-Up organized by Salon Michelle’s Michelle Fawcett-Johnson. And I had absolutely nothing to do with it. But that ain’t gonna stop me from talking about it, no sirree! 😀

Now what?

As I said, I conveniently missed the downtown cleanup. So I walked along MVD and 7th Avenue today seeing the results and talking to local business people. Everyone is grateful of course, but there’s also the question of, “OK, Now what?”

One reason I am so jazzed about the idea of ‘cleanups’ in general is not about the trash per sé, but because they can act as a catalyst towards much more transformational change.

For example, what got Midway Park turned around was at least partly the cleanups and the Garden organized by Alena Rogers. At first, it was a bit disheartening to me because the trash began re-appearing almost immediately. So… another one was organized. And then another. And another. And for whatever reason, after a couple of years the changes became somewhat ‘sticky’. The cleanups are necessary less often. The crime has been reduced dramatically. It turns out that if people pay attention, good things happen. And after the area became more inviting, then the City came in with grants and new equipment. Next year the park will be extended even further. That’s one way real change occurs.

I’m so glad that Michelle got fired up enough to organize this. She did a great job. And I’m sure she’ll get even more people for the next cleanup. So perhaps, as with Midway Park, it will become a ‘thing’ beyond one person’s activism and drive much more substantial change.

But again, what will that change look like? I ask because we’ve already made a number of cosmetic improvements to MVD in the past few years–like the summer planters that everyone loves. Cool. But my feeling is that it’s time to really consider moving beyond cosmetics. You can make the place cleaner. You can reduce the number of vagrants. Those are good things and I am not minimizing those changes at all. They are real. But then you gotta take it to the next level.

So what does that look like? How can we leverage this enthusiasm into something more transformational–as is happening at Midway Park and Pacific Ridge?

Backwards

One thing that young people don’t realize is that what we think of as ‘the ‘business district’ along Marine View Drive isn’t where it’s supposed to be.  The reason MVD acts as such a traffic magnet is because it was always supposed to be the road heading south. The ‘business district’ should actually have been along Sixth and Seventh Avenues. Those two streets are the ‘walkable neighborhood’ that everyone always dreams about.

Somewhere along the way, previous city governments made the absolutely terrible decisions to literally flip those two functions–zoning for apartments and condos where the walkable business center should be. And then promoting businesses on cockamamie strip malls along MVD. That is what now makes it so difficult to create a cohesive ‘downtown’. And we did it for the same reason we’ve always done such things: short term cash from developers, with no consideration for the long-term implications. And that Dear Reader, is why I always grouse about ‘planning’.

Apparently, it’s not useful crying over spilt milk. But at the end of the day, that’s gonna be the challenge if we ever want to make Des Moines a ‘destination’. We’re gonna have to start incentivizing development to move the gravity of downtown back to where it was always meant to be. Which should take, oh I dunno, five maybe six weeks, right? 😀

Seriously, it’s gonna be hard. And it’s gonna take years. Which means that there will be resistance–as there is to anything challenging.  There is a momentum to planning mistakes which often keeps nudging one down the road to even more mistakes (like losing the Masonic Home and the Van Gasken House). It’s like a strong current in a river. But at some point, if you ever want your City to live up to its potential, you gotta start pushing back against that current.

Where was I?

Oh yeah, Michelle’s cleanup. 😀 I’m so glad that so many people signed up and followed through. Whenever I see a group of Des Moines residents get organized to do something like this I gets to dreaming about bigger things. 😉

Mid-Weekly Update: 01/14/2021

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Neighborhoods, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Mid-Weekly Update: 01/14/2021

This Weekly Update is even later than usual due to a big outage at my web hosting company. The entire web site was down, up, then down again for three days. Apparently, someone forgot to feed the hamster. 😀 Sorry for the inconvenience, but as always, it’s interesting to see just how many people are actually even noticing this thing. 😀

And yes, I did get my car back. It’s in the shop now trying to determine why the check engine light is now on.  😯 Thanks for all the nice notes. 🙂

Public Service Announcements

  1. The new round of Federal PPP loan program just opened up. And it is much better than the first round last year. If you need more information, here is a presentation from the Small Business Administration with lots of links to more information.
  2. There will be a Downtown Clean-Up this Saturday January 16th at 10AM organized by Salon Michelle’s Michelle Fawcett-Johnson. Show up at Salon Michelle to take part.
  3. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  4. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  5. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  6. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Well…. this week is almost over so… You’ll just have to read about it next week. 😀

Last Week

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda, Video, Recap)

Council Meeting Recap

Executive Session

The meeting opened with an Executive Session regarding possible legal stuff involving land stuff. I was admonished by the City Attorney to not be any more specific than that. 😀 No, really. But I will say that there was one attorney there who was not Tim George and who spoke for almost 50 minutes about how bad it might be for the City if any CM talks in public with regard to that possible legal land stuff. And then I asked some questions about how the public might do something about… er… something. The most titillating moments of the discussion involved the phrases ‘safe sex’ and ‘abstinence’. 😯 And then a couple of other CMs asked some questions… regarding this blog.  😀 Because, at the end, when the attorney who was not Tim George said at least twenty times, “I’m not singling out any particular Councilmember” I got the clear impression that about 50% of the whole thing was definitely for the benefit of one particular Councilmember.

But as I said from the dais: I’m about 100% sure that almost none of this should have been private. In fact, it contained information that the public should know about the proper role of the City (and Councilmembers) when it comes to…er…. ‘land stuff’. 😀 But ironically none of it was about that ‘land stuff’. Rather it was mainly about how concerned Cities must be about litigation. In short: it was an interesting civics lesson that we should try to find a legal way to present to interested residents.

Tree Cover

There was a really good presentation by Ali Lakehart of the Green Cities Partnership on tree cover in Des Moines. For me, the takeaway is that we have to find ways to have more trees in DM. The current estimated tree cover is 29%–which is a lot less than in the past due to the Port and commercial development. New residential developments tend not to have as many trees as older neighborhoods. Plus businesses have very few trees on their properties. Aside from aesthetics, trees are especially important in an airport community to maintain air quality and provide noise reduction. They can even improve yer mood. 🙂 (Seriously–look at the presentation.)

Masonic Home

But speaking of something which could not possibly have anything to do with the aforementioned Executive Session, City Manager Michael Matthias gave a great presentation on the current state of the Masonic Home.

And… that was about it. 😀 No, actually there was a Consent Agenda which was, unlike so many other meetings, exactly what a Unanimous Consent Agenda should be. Non-controversial. 🙂

Councilmember Comments

There were three sets of comments that were noteworthy. Which is about… oh… three more than usual. (I’m keeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeding. 😀 )

Deputy Mayor Matt Mahoney spoke practically about the storm water situation–how residents can and should report problems. Here is the City Fixit Form for reporting any kind of general problem you want the City to look at. He also reminded residents that it’s fine (and appreciated) to help out  and clear minor storm water clogs. (I would caution trying to unclog big openings, especially during storms like last night. The drains process tons of water and it’s slippier than ya think. We don’t want anyone getting injured trying to be a good citizen. 🙂 ) Frankly, as a member of the Environment Committee, I should be making those sorts of suggestions. Darn him. 😀

Luisa Bangs made a speech regarding the January 6th insurrection at the Capitol in Washington D.C. I generally don’t comment on national events unless they have a direct connection to something specific for Des Moines , but I agree with much of what she said and especially her passion on issues of racism.

The bulk of my comments had to do with a national issue that definitely has a direct link to Des Moines: The large number of people, especially people who serve the public, who are deciding not to receive COVID-19 vaccinations. Frankly, I find this to be completely unacceptable.

All the leading scientists are quite clear: we will not get past COVID-19 until 80-90% of people are vaccinated. If electeds, public employees, front-line workers, business owners, religious leader and other influencers opt out that sets a horrible example for the rest of the public. We simply must create a sense of shared civic duty around this issue. I want to encourage every employee of the City Of Des Moines to set the right example and get vaccinated the moment it is offered. And as a resident, I want you also to get the shots as soon as possible! I know many of you have your reasons for not wanting the vaccine (eg. if yer a Black person in America you totally have yer reasons.) But do it anyway.  This is the only way we will all be able to be safe and go back to living normal lives.

As a nation, we’ve done just about everything wrong when it came to dealing with the pandemic. This is our chance to take control of the situation and finally put it to an end. Do the right thing. Get vaccinated. No excuses.

Weekly Update: 01/03/2021

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

Happy New Year!

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

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

Public Service Announcements

  1. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  2. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  3. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  4. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

This Week

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

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

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

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

Last Two Weeks

Or: “How I spent my holidays.” 😀

Grand Theft Auto

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

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

The Masonic Home

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

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

The Airport and the water

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Weekly Update: 12/21/2020

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

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

Public Service Announcements

  1. Sunday’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved!
  2. Working Washington Small Business Grants (Round 3) If you have a small business of any kind do this now!
  3. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  4. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  5. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”

Last Week

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

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

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

The Masonic Home

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

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

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

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

Irish Castles?

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

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

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

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

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

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

Costs?

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

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

And. I. do. not. care.

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

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

The South End

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

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

Destination Des Moines?

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