Weekly Update: 04/04/2021

Posted on Categories Marina, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates10 Comments on Weekly Update: 04/04/2021

HAPPY EASTER! My absolutely fave day of the year. Nice weather. Almost a third of Americans vaccinated. And several big projects on the agenda for Des Moines this year. I hope you feel the sense of hopefulness that I do for the coming year.

But for cryin’ out loud…

Before we get going, I feel obligated to mention a safety announcement. Yesterday I watched my new neighbor do something I’ve watched two other people do in my time in Des Moines: fall off an unsafe ladder while trying to prune a tree. Here’s what you don’t want on yer tombstone:

SURVIVED COVID. DONE IN BY FRUIT TREE.

Right? The only good news is that South King Fire & Rescue got there in under eight minutes. Great work!

But please. Be safe on a ladder. Better still, hire someone else to do it for you. You deserve to live. 🙂

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. Saturday October 9 Salmon Counting at McSorley Creek . Contact John Muramatsu
  2. The Utility Moratorium ends September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  3. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  4. Watch the Candidate Forum from Seattle Southside Chamber!
  5. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  6. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  7. 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
  8. 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.
  9. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  10. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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: Public Safety Committee Meeting (Agenda) An update on vaccinations in the DMPD and the SWAT team.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) I strongly encourage you to show up for this one as it will be the first public unveiling of the Marina Re-development plan, first discussed at the Municipal Facilities Committee presentation on Marina Redevelopment 03/25/21. You can get all the materials here at the Des Moines Marina web site.

Last Week

Monday: Meeting with 30th District State Representative Jamila Taylor. There are currently about ten bills going through the legislature on police reform and Rep. Taylor is in the thick of it. Since none of these are on our City’s official legislative agenda there is little chance the topic will get discussed by our Council. But I know many of you are concerned about it so I’m trying to stay informed. Of particular interest to me is HB1203, sponsored by our own Rep. Jesse Johnson.

Tuesday: Meeting with Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. As you may know, Federal Way is a part of both the StART and Highline Forum. Due to the gradual way planes land, they have neighborhoods that are almost as impacted by Sea-Tac Airport as Des Moines. The discussion is: how do we expand sound insulation further South? Obviously, if that was possible, homes in the South end of Des Moines would also qualify.

Friday: I completed the City Manager Annual Review. I’m not gonna get into it except to say how hard I worked at it. Which is frustrating. It reminds me of so many people here in Des Moines who used to show up for public comment at City Council Meetings and walked away feeling like, “I wasted an hour of my life for that?  That feeling that what you just did made absolutely no difference. But it’s kinda my job to take it seriously.

Future Agendas

The Future Agendas Report is the most important City document that most people have no idea even exists. It acts as sort of a calendar as to what/when things will be discussed at various upcoming public meetings. For example, if you have an interest in a certain project (eg. when are they redoing the Redondo Fishing Pier) you could look here to know when to show up and give your input.

Now you would think that such an important document would be easy to find. And you would be wrong. Which is why it’s always on my Links page along with all the other important stuff I think you should have easy access to.

Most of the time, our Future Agendas Report is very sparsely populated. As it says right at the top it changes all the time so it’s kinda tough to know when the administration might throw in things to talk about. (Eg. last month the mayor cancelled both the Environment and Transportation Committee meetings because the staff had nothing they wanted to talk about.) Which basically tells you that it is the administration driving the bus on meetings, not the actual members of the Committee.

For example, want to know what is not on the Futures report as of today? Anything about a private passenger ferry. But if you read the latest City Currents Magazine or saw the Deputy Mayor’s posts on social media, you’d probably think that had already been discussed and voted on in the Transportation Committee. Or if not already discussed, perhaps that it would be coming before a Committee soon… or at least the full Council… at some time. Nope.Wanna know what else hasn’t shown up on the Futures report? Marina Re-development. The most significant economic development event in DM in two decades pretty much just popped out of thin air in the last week following the 3-25 Municipal Facilities Committee meeting.

Councilmembers often have no idea what the administration will talk about in advance of meetings. Which can make it kinda tough to ask the right questions.

In the administration’s defense, the City Manager and my colleagues probably consider this state of affairs a feature and not a bug. Last year I proposed that the City Manager be required to post his schedule (since managers in all our sister cities file full reports weekly, I considered this to be pretty easy.) Yeah, that went nowhere. The only logical reason I can come up with for not providing a more structured public calendar is that it afford the administration more flexibility in responding to ‘breaking events’. To which I would reply: Flexibility is fine, but oversight is better. And besides, if you really do need to respond to breaking events, then just update the Future Agendas report when the events… er… ‘break’. 🙂

There are reforms and then there are reforms…

At our 8 April Council Meeting CM Martinelli will be proposing a change to Committee meetings to allow for public comment–which I fully support. But I want the public to understand that this reform, as welcome as it may be, is perhaps 5% of the problem.

Because the truth is, I cannot honestly remember when I was asked to vote on anything at a Committee Meeting, other than to a) appoint a Chair b) approve previous minutes c) adjourn. That’s been the extent of Committee ‘decision-making’. I cannot recall the last time I or my colleagues were asked to take a vote on an issue of policy. I cannot recall the last time the administration asked for a formal direction on a policy. These things do not happen… or if they do, so infrequently that the exception proves the rule.

Even at last week’s Municipal Facilities Committee meeting, there was no vote or ‘ask’. What happens is that the administration does presentations and the Committee members ask a few questions within a very narrow window (usually 45 minutes.) Meetings are almost 100% informational and almost 0% decision-making.

The thing I want the public to understand, once again, is that this is not how local government is supposed to work and in fact it is not how things work in other cities.

Whether the policies being moved forward by our administration are good, bad or indifferent is not the point. Good process matters not just because it fosters a culture of open government, but because they make the government functionally better.

Making the sausage…

For many of you, all this governance jazz I go on about may seem a bit ‘high-falootin’. I get it. For most people, local government is transactional; so long as what you see the City doing seems cool, most of us don’t know or care how the sausage is made. I was exactly the same. I only got involved when the City was doing something that I didn’t like.

But as they say, “fish don’t know they’re wet.” It’s been so long since we’ve had an open culture of government here that you likely don’t have a frame of reference as to the benefits–unless you’re one of the incredibly few people who have experience with how other cities work.

But this lack of transparency is especially important this year.

  • First of all, we are still technically in a State Of Emergency. That gives the City Manager essentially unlimited spending authority. Eg. last year, the City Manager spent almost one million dollars of State aid without a single vote or discussion from the Council. For the record, about $500,000 went to salaries (good.) The other $500k went to grants to twenty six lucky businesses; which also sounds good until you realize that there are over seventeen hundred registered businesses in Des Moines who did not get in on that program. (not good.)
  • Second, this year the prizes are going to be extra special. We’re likely going to get close to eight million in similar State money, which could also be spent by the City Manager without having to take any pesky votes.
  • Third, as I said, this is Marina Redevelopment year. Our plan–for both the waterside (the dock replacements) and the landside (what to do with the Marina floor) is the work of a single individual–no second opinions for us. And the schedule (such as it is) calls for a decision to be made on this plan by August. Which is not exactly a lot of time for public input or, hate to sound like a broken record, Council discussion and votes. The Deputy Mayor has already pre-announced one component (that private ferry) as a done deal without any input from the public or the Council–which should be a good indicator of how the broader roll out will go.

So let’s sum it up: we’re going to be doing more stuff this year than in decades, with a ton of free money and none of the usual constraints on spending due to the ‘State Of Emergency’. We’re also making generational decisions in record time with no second opinion. Oh, and this is an election year.

What could possibly go wrong? 😀

I can dream…

I want to be perfectly clear (now there’s a blast from the past), that I have no idea whether the passenger ferry or the current Marina redevelopment plan or anything are good ideas or bad ideas. Maybe they’re absolutely great ideas. But that’s the point: without better processes, including a much more transparent process, I cannot be sure. In fact, no one can. And with the high stakes involved, we deserve the highest level of confidence possible.

What I would like to see happen this year is:

  1. The administration should be required to update the Futures Report with the full calendar of items that will be discussed throughout the year. There should be almost no last minute surprises at City Council meetings. And as I proposed last year, the City Manager should be required to publish his calendar–as is standard practice in all our sister cities.
  2. The City Council should be brought into separate discussions on any and all spending from the upcoming stimulus.
  3. We should have full discussion of any important issue (like the passenger ferry proposal), including a town hall meeting, before moving ahead. In the case of a ferry, bring in independent voices (like the Puget Sound Regional Council) to outline the true demand opportunities and potential pitfalls.
  4. Hire a third-party to implement any future business or employee grants to insure that everyone in Des Moines gets a fair shot.
  5. Engage a second consultant and an urban planner to give our Marina Redevelopment proposal a once-over. You’d get three bids on a new roof. You’d at least get a second opinion on an important surgery. This is a once in a generation project. We owe it to ourselves to perform due diligence.

Action items…

As I said, there are reforms and then there are reforms. A lot of this is not about creating new rules, it’s about a change in work culture at the City. If you have the right culture, you don’t actually need a lot of these rules; the right things just tend to happen. But until we get there (and it’s probably at least one election off) rule changes such as welcoming public comment at all our City meetings are essential first steps.

As always, if you agree with me that these seem like sensible steps to take, I urge you to write the City Council and show your support.

Weekly Update: 03/28/2021

Posted on Categories Public Safety, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly UpdatesLeave a comment on Weekly Update: 03/28/2021

Late again. As often happens, I usually finish these things on Sunday, but I’ll wait to post because I’ll be waiting for either answers to questions from the dais or materials from the administration which I want to talk about. It’s one reason I keep hoping we can improve the City web site–so that meeting information can made available to the public more quickly.

Public Service Announcements

  1. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  2. And Washington Historic Trust is also asking for your support on a tax credit for Main Street small business programs. Please give public comment to help ensure that it passes!
  3. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  4. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  5. Give public comment on Sound Transit’s Operations And Maintenance Facility March 24 and March 30!
  6. The fourth round of Washington State COVID-19 Small Business Grants starts March 29th. Go get ’em!
  7. If you are a local business, make the Southside Promise from the South Side Seattle Chamber Of Commerce! There are grants of up to $1,000 to help you now.
  8. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  9. 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.
  10. 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.
  11. 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.”
  12. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  13. 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: Meeting with 30th District State Representative Jamila Taylor. There are currently about ten bills going through the legislature on police reform and Rep. Taylor is in the thick of it. Since none of these are on our City’s official legislative agenda there is little chance the topic will get discussed by our Council. But I know many of you are concerned about it so I’m trying to stay informed.

Tuesday: Meeting with Federal Way Mayor Jim Ferrell. As you may know, Federal Way is a part of both the StART and Highline Forum. Due to the gradual way planes land, they have neighborhoods that are almost as impacted by Sea-Tac Airport as Des Moines. The discussion is: how do we expand sound insulation that far South? Obviously, if that was possible, homes in the South end of Des Moines would also qualify.

The other excuse for being late this week is that I’m spending some time doing the annual City Manager Review. And these are his 2020 Accomplishments and Actions as he sees them. My responses get compiled with my colleagues’ into a single document and then we have an Executive Session to discuss.

And speaking of which. Here is a statement from our Comms Director:

Pursuant to the City Manager’s contract, he is eligible for a salary step-increase following this evaluation. However, given the existing conditions in our community as well as nationwide due to the COVID 19 pandemic, Michael has asked that the Council not consider a step-increase or any other benefits. Additionally, Michael has voluntarily waived the 1% Cost of Living Adjustment that was approved by the Council for non-union City employees for 2021.

OK, that’s IT! So please fill up my calendar by giving me a call at (206) 878-0578. 🙂

Last Week

Monday: Chat with King County Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott on working with King County to include aviation-related emissions and green house gases in the Counties environmental planning. The good news is that the Beacon Hill groups have done a great job of organizing to get the issue in front of the County Council. The bad news is that the County Council really has no authority. But they have a large bully pulpit. The challenge is getting the Beacon Hill group working in concert with the Cities around the airport. That has always been the big problem in getting any relief: working together.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Resource Council (PSRC) Broadband Community Planning in Puget Sound. This was an excellent discussion and I encourage people who are interested in the topic to watch and read.

Tuesday: Highline Forum. Quick review: There are two bodies that meet bi-monthly with the Port to discuss airporty stuff. The StART is supposed to be for the ‘community’ and the Highline Forum is supposed to be for electeds. Why do we have two such groups? ‘Cause we’re special? 😀 Keeeeeding. I’m over-simplifying, but the StART has sub-committees that work on policy suggestions (reducing noise, voluntary curfews) while the Highline Forum is more like a way for the Port to inform all the Cities’ electeds en masse as to what it’s doing. There is a lot duplicative effort here.

Tuesday: City Of Burien Town Hall on DESC. First of all, they actually had a Town Hall. (It’s something we should be doing here!) Anyhoo, DESC, in a nutshell, is supportive, affordable housing for people who might otherwise be homeless. It follows the ‘housing-first’ model to address homelessness. Whether you’re enthused about this or not, The City Of Des Moines will be looking at the same issues in the near future. Let me be clear: I am not sold. But I am studying. However if you believe that the City has no business getting anywhere near such a program? Then I gotta ask you, sincerely: What is your suggestion? The problem of homelessness is only getting worse and the DMPD would be the first to tell you that we can’t police our way out of this–which is basically what we’ve been doing for forty years. So it’s a good idea to see how other Cities are tackling the problems of affordable housing and homelessness.

Wednesday: Testimony at King County Environment and Mobility Committee on air quality improvements  and health around the airport. As I’ve reported, King County recently released a report on the health impacts of aviation and it’s why I’ve been working with Rep. Orwall and UW on annual air quality monitoring around Sea-Tac Airport.

Wednesday: Public comment on Sound Transit’s Operations And Maintenance Facility siting. As I wrote last week, the Midway Landfill is in play, but there are significant downsides to any of the three remaining contestants.

Thursday: 30th District Legislative Call: I had a chance to get updates on what’s happening in Olympia that affects Des Moines from State Senator Claire Wilson and Representatives Jesse Johnson and Jamila Taylor. The big takeaway is how many bills that seem to be moving forward on various aspects of police reform and broadband.

Thursday: Economic Development Committee Meeting: This is one of the reasons why we need to record Committee Meetings. The City Manager gave a presentation on why he did not favor going ahead with CM Martinelli’s idea of Hazard Pay for Essential Workers. I guess where I come down is this: The Feds are sending us a big ol’ bag o’ money that we must spend on short-term stuff (not long-term capital projects as I would prefer.) That being the case, If we’re going to do anything, I’d be willing to consider a straight income-based voucher. That’s clear and easy to figure out. And my strong guess is that such a program would easily hit over 9x% of the essential workers that CM Martinelli wants to target, but without having to go through all that ‘who is most worthy’ jazz. Because let’s face it: most of the people who really need the dough and are at risk are overwhelmingly low-wage service employees.

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee Meeting: Van Gasken Park Update (20 minutes.) Redondo Restroom Replacement CIP (20 minutes.) Marina Master Plan Update (50 minutes.) This thing stretched to the full ninety minutes and it was the most consequential meeting I have attended in years. It was again attended by people from Redondo and those who live near the Van Gasken house. Both groups have issues with policing. I’m about 99% certain they were not entirely happy with what they heard and I will keep pushing for more public engagement because each of those two sites present real security problems that are not being properly addressed.

And so it begins: Marina 2.0

Edit (03/30/21): Here is the Municipal Facilities Committee presentation on Marina Redevelopment 03/25/21

That said, the main event was the unveiling of ‘the plan’ for the Marina. Again, this shoulda been recorded and the presentation materials shoulda been made available right away because this is big. I don’t wanna leave ya hanging, but I’ll write something more specific when I have the presentation. The highlights are that we’re basically going to build a very, very large multi-purpose, three-tier building right where the storage shed now are, move a lot of the small boats into dry-stacks, perhaps putting something like a full-time farmer’s market in there and re-configuring moorage for much larger boats. The over-arching idea seems to be that the Marina should, as much as possible, continue to be self-financing, ie. that all this should cover the costs of replacing the worn out docks of the Marina over time. To say that I have questions is to say that I enjoy waking up in the morning.

But I’ll just point out for now that the Marina has always been a revenue source for the City, not a ‘cost’. You don’t pay for the Marina. In fact, for many years, the Marina helped foot the City’s bills. There’s no use crying over spilt milk, but that matters. If the City hadn’t dug into the Marina fund all those years, we’d actually have the money to rebuild the docks now. For better or worse, by taking money from the Marina in the past, we created an enormous pressure on the present and future to re-develop in a way that generates a lot of cash; basically re-defining what the Marina is and does. I would much rather see that Joe Biden money (the strings on that money drive me nuts) be spendable for this kind of project because it would give us a lot more options to think about what is best for the Community long-term, rather than ‘how do we pay the bills?’

City Currents

This week, the City published its quarterly City Currents Magazine. This gives the Mayor and administration a chance to highlight the City’s accomplishments–which is great. A lot of cool things going on. I especially like the fact that the digital version is now available simultaneously with the print copies you probably have received in the mail.

In this issue, Deputy Mayor Matt Mahoney published an essay on the great possibilities for a private passenger-only ferry that I found really troubling.

First of all, the only presentation made to the Council on this issue was back in December of 2019. This was where the consultants were hired to do a study. That presentation was not the study. The actual study results have never been presented to Council.

Further, the article implies that there has already been public input on this idea. I have no idea where or how. Again, there is no record of any survey being taken. There have been no town halls or surveys or other positive public outreach. As of late Monday, all I have from our Comms Director is that the City Manager will present to the full Council, but that isn’t even on the future’s report.

The real study by the PSRC

However, last August the Puget Sound Regional Council (PSRC) did a very thorough regional ferry study–go to the last page. It ranks Des Moines near the bottom in terms of demand potential. So we’re not going to be a part of the State system.

Now to be fair, their analysis only discusses a Des Moines/Southworth route, which may make you think that there may be other routes which have more demand. But I contacted the analysts who conducted the study. And what they told me (and they did not put this in the study because it was not their mandate) was that they thought that there would need to be some form of external driver of demand to make it profitable, ie. some other entity would be required to provide a steady flow of passengers. The primary source they identified was the Port Of Seattle.

A private, passenger-only ferry could be great, but it also may have any number of impacts that should be considered by the full community and the full Council before plowing ahead. I believe there should be lots extensive public input (eg. town hall, Council presentations) and lots more details provided before we start promoting the idea.

There are lots of unintended consequences/costs to any sort of thing like this. I can think of many but here’s just one… we just paid over $400k to dredge the Marina. We have to do that every 8-10 years based on current usage. You increase usage with larger vessels and then you have to dredge much sooner… and then you get bigger permit fees and problems with the feds.

Bottom line

I thought hard about the tone of this article. I’ve been accused of  ‘snark’ and believe it or not, I try to stick to policy. But in this case, if the charge is snark? I reply: Guilty as charged, ossifer. If this were a proposal that the Council had received full objective data on, run through Committee and then voted on as a body, you wouldn’t hear a peep out of me. I have no problem losing votes. I expect to lose a lot of votes. That’s what it means to be in the minority.

But that article is basically a sales pitch and a re-election campaign piece for an idea that has gone through none of the proper government process. It’s exactly the kind of rubber-stamping I ran against and I want you to understand that, regardless of the merits of a private ferry, the manner in which it is being rolled out is unethical.

The City Currents is distributed to every resident and business in Des Moines. It’s literally the only interaction with the City that the majority of the public will have in any given quarter. So when it is used so poorly I do get snarky.

Weekly Update: 03/23/2021

Posted on Categories Public Safety, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 03/23/2021

Public Service Announcements

  1. Spring Recycling Event at the Des Moines Marina Saturday March 27. NEW: You can now bring TVs and electronics!
  2. Kent Des Moines Road Closure March 21 and 23rd!
  3. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  4. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  5. Give public comment on Sound Transit’s Operations And Maintenance Facility March 24 and March 30!
  6. The Rotary Club’s Poverty Bay Virtual Wine Festival is March 27th! Order a couple of glasses of great wine and support a great local charity!
  7. The fourth round of Washington State COVID-19 Small Business Grants starts March 29th. Go get ’em!
  8. If you are a local business, make the Southside Promise from the South Side Seattle Chamber Of Commerce! There are grants of up to $1,000 to help you now.
  9. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  10. The recent 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. 🙂
  11. 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.
  12. 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.
  13. 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.”
  14. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  15. 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: Chat with King County Council Vice Chair Joe McDermott on working with King County to include aviation-related emissions and green house gases in the Counties environmental planning.

Tuesday: Puget Sound Resource Council (PSRC) Broadband Community Planning in Puget Sound.

Tuesday: Highline Forum

Tuesday: City Of Burien Town Hall on DESC. First of all, they’re actually having a Town Hall. Second of all, even though it’s Burien, this matters for Des Moines. We will be looking at the same issues in the near future so it’s a good idea to see how other Cities are tackling the problems of affordable housing.

Wednesday: Testimony at King County Environment and Mobility Committee on air quality improvements around the airport.

Wednesday: Public comment on Sound Transit’s Operations And Maintenance Facility siting

Thursday: 30th District Legislative Call: A chance to get updates on what’s happening in Olympia that affects Des Moines from State Senator Claire Wilson and Representatives Jesse Johnson and Jamila Taylor.

Thursday: Economic Development Committee Meeting: Hazard Pay for Essential Workers

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee Meeting: Van Gasken Park Update (20 minutes) Redondo Restroom Replacement CIP (20 minutes)Staff will provide a project update highlighting public outreach and preferred options for the Redondo restroom replacement building. Marina Master Plan Update (50 minutes)

Sign up here to participate or provide public comment!

Last Week

Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines meeting. This was actually pretty huge. We got to see stats on youth crime in Des Moines and it’s taken a fairly predictable upward turn–most likely due to COVID.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) Baby, this was super-action packed. A bit more below.

Council Meeting Recap

(Agenda Packet), (Clerk’s Recap), ( Video)

(Check out the Northwest Maritime Center plans for a Maritime High School! It’s in that packet.)

As has been noted, the City has recently announced the retirement of more than one senior official in the building department. I asked the City Manager what the City’s hiring process was for encouraging diversity. He offered no immediate answer but promised an off-line reply. So far, no answer. This is concerning to me. As many of you have noticed, the City staff is overwhelmingly white. I know from my own hiring experience that there is an association representing virtually every combination of professions and minorities (eg. there is a Society Of Black Professional Engineers) and they love to hear from organisations like the City Of Des Moines. I hope that the City is making every effort to recruit people of color–especially at the level of department head.

We had a briefing from Sound Transit re. where to put the Operations And Maintenance Facility and their Draft EIS.–and more specifically, what might be the ramifications of choosing the Midway Landfill (You should provide your public comment.) There is a lot of support for the Midway site–turning lemons into lemonade, right? Well, even though it’s a much more expensive solution than the two FedWay sites, if I were betting (and I’m not) my guess is that it will end up there–at least, if enough Federal Way residents complain. Having seen what this sort of displacement does to an area after the Third Runway, I don’t blame them for not wanting it anywhere near their neighborhoods. That said, here are a couple of interesting notes if the Midway site is chosen.

  1. The whole area is squishy. It’s not solid ground, right? So you either gotta drill real deep or excavate the entire area in order to truck out all the crap in order to build on something stable.
  2. It might take up to twice as long to build. Seven years. (And that’s if it’s on schedule.)

Which means that there might be seven years of hundreds of giant trucks moving fill out of our area every damned day. Think about that.

Resignation from Diversity Task Force

After the whole George Floyd thing last Spring, the Police Department responded by creating a Diversity Task Force, consisting of both police and residents.

On Monday, the Council received this letter of resignation from one member of that Task Force, *Meg Tapucol-Provo. I encourage everyone to read it because it has some really great ideas for improving diversity in hiring–not just in Des Moines, but everywhere. And that is no accident. Apparently, Ms. Tapucol-Provo was something of a ringer. She has worked as a professional diversity trainer. I have spoken to several people who have worked with her and she is highly regarded as a trainer and educator.

I had no idea who Ms. Tapucol-Provo was until after she wrote this letter. I had absolutely no contact with the group and in fact I had no idea who was participating.  As readers of this column know, I have been denied access to any police advisory committee meetings and that the Chief does not return even routine inquiries from me.

I consider myself to be a major supporter of the Des Moines Police Department. In fact, if I had the authority, I would want to hire at least four officers because I know that’s what the overwhelming majority of residents want–more officers on the street–especially in critical areas. But the issues of police reform are real and they apply to Des Moines just like every other town in America.

Ms. Tapucol-Provo gave me her permission to publish this letter.

Weekly Update: 11/22/2020

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

This Week

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

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

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

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

Last Week

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

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

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

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

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

A quick note on Motions…

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

Hi Tim,

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

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

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

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

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

Thanks in advance,

—JC

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

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

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

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

Weekly Update: 11/15/2020

Posted on Categories Airport, Campaigning, Environment, Taxes, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates1 Comment on Weekly Update: 11/15/2020

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

This Week

Tuesday: Burien Airport Committee.

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

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

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

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

Last Week

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

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

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

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

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

A quick note on how Councilmember can help you…

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

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

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

Meeting Recap

City Recap here. Full packet here. Video here.

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

We passed the Budget.

Yay? 😀

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

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

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

Is there anybody in there?

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

Yes, but are you paying attention?

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Human Services Advisory Fund

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

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

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

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

Property Taxes

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

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

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

Storm Water Management (Environment Committee)

Surface Water Comp Plan Update

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

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

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

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

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