Weekly Update: 04/13/2021

Posted on Categories Marina, Transparency, Transportation, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Weekly Update: 04/13/2021

As some of you know, the web site (actually my ISP) was attacked by on Sunday causing yet another late, late Weekly Update. Apologies. This issue is seriously rushed so if you see any more typos than usual, please let me know.

Public Service Announcements

  1. Tree planting at Kiddie City Park Saturday April 17th, 9AM!
  2. Also Saturday April 17 at 9AM: Help me set the COHO free! At the Marina dock across from the Quarterdeck
  3. King County is in the process of updating their Climate Action Plan to hopefully include for the first time (unbelievably) aviation emissions. You can and should provide your support and public comment here!
  4. The City of Des Moines Surface Water Management Department is seeking public comments on the annual Surface Water Management Plan. To provide comments or obtain education materials, contact Ben Stryker at bstryker@desmoineswa.gov.
  5. Working Washington Round 4 Small Business Grant program application portal is open until 5 p.m., April 9. Focus ono small for-profit businesses, especially those required to close due to public health and safety measures.
  6. Learn about ShakeAlert the new earthquake early warning system https://www.facebook.com/events/278578143739633 Tuesday, May 4 6:30pm.
  7. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  8. 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!
  9. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  10. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  11. The fourth round of Washington State COVID-19 Small Business Grants starts March 29th. Go get ’em!
  12. 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.
  13. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.”
  17. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  18. 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: I attended the King County International Airport Roundtable. No, it’s not Sea-Tac, but we share the same air space and we need to work together on reducing the noise and pollution.

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission. I sent a letter on behalf of SeatacNoise.Info asking the Port to revise the Sustained Airport Master Plan (SAMP) in light of COVID-19. It is short and if you are concerned about the airport, I hope you will read it.

Wednesday: A presentation of the Marina Redevelopment Plan to the Des Moines Marina Association (DMMA). This will be their general membership’s first look at the proposal.

Thursday: I will be attending the Pacific Coast Congress Conference . The PCC is the big association that all west coast Marina’s belong to. Since this is our big marina re-development year, I thought it would be a good idea to check in and see what’s what.

Thursday: Environment Committee (Agenda)

Thursday: Transportation Committee (Agenda)

Thursday: City Council Study Session (Agenda) The topic will be State Of The City. If you wanna bone up on that, you can look at the version presented by the Mayor and Deputy Mayor last November at the Des Moines Marina Association.

Last Week

Thursday: I attended the Port Of Seattle’s Audit Committee. We have nothing like this in Des Moines. The Audit Committee is tasked by the Commission to investigate any and all issues the Commission may have concerns about. It was established in light of previous scandals and it has been a real help in making the Port more transparent. For several years I have been complaining that the Port’s Noise Monitor System was inaccurate. The Audit Committee has taken up the issue and has confirmed the issues we reported. Why does this matter? Without accurate data, we cannot hope to get better mitigation.

Thursday: Public Safety Committee Meeting (Agenda) There was a presentation on the Valley SWAT Team.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) This featured the 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.

Saturday: I attended a regional meeting on aviation impacts organized by El Centro De La Raza in Beacon Hill. The short version is that they are working to get King County to officially include aviation emissions in their climate action plan. Although King County does not control Sea-Tac Airport, this is a big deal since the County Dept. Of Health is instrumental in setting state policy. You can and should provide public comment here.

Council Meeting

Clerk’s Recap Agenda Packet Video

As I said last week, this may have been the most important City Council in years. It’s so huge, I can’t really cover it here. People will think I’m missing the point, but this is my initial over-simplification:

  1. Some of the docks need to be replaced within 5-10 years. But since it may take 3-5 years to get the permits we need to start that journey now.
  2. Unfortunately, we only have the money to replace the first three, so we’ll do them three at a time every few years over a 20 year period.
  3. Therefore, we need to identify an important long-term revenue source, right now, and if we’re lucky, using that we can squirrel away enough cash over time to pay as we go.
  4. The important revenue source that the administration is counting on is the land side… ie. building a massive Adaptive Purpose Building which will house things that generate revenue… somehow.
  5. So: the first step to fixing the real problem (the docks) is to start redoing the land side now, Now, NOW.

That’s the argument, anyhoo. As I always say: it could be a great idea. Or not. Without supporting data (the presentation offered none) I have no idea. What I do know is this: whenever a salesman tells you, “Honey, you gotta decide now.” you should be skeptical. And the salesman should respect that and not pressure you.

My colleagues, on the other hand, seemed ready to sign on the dotted line right then and there… for the largest capital project any Council is likely to confront in our lifetimes. And we’re basically expected to decide the entire shebang by the end of summer (the City establishes its draft budget in August.)

Yeah, I have questions. And if that makes me sound cranky or snarky or whatever, I’m sorry. But this is a fifty year deal.

I was both personally criticized and treated with major defensiveness simply for making the suggestion that the Council should have gotten at least one more opinion from a second consultant. I also am not thrilled that we were not offered any a la carte choices. It is being sold as a single grand option for both the land side and waterside of the Marina. And this is at the beginning of the process. Now that’s what I call defensiveness.

Speaking of which…

Defense

I’ve used the word ‘defensive’ a bit lately with regard to the administration and my colleagues. This started about the time Meg Tapucol-Provo published her resignation letter from the Police Diversity Committee. What I’ve tried to explain is that her experience on that committee was not isolated. She was simply reflecting on what is the culture of our current government.

Part of it is understandable. In the conversations I’ve had with long-time staff and the City Manager, they have said that improving morale was a key goal when City Manager Matthias took over. I fully support that, not just as a management-style but as basic good behavior. People deserve to be properly acknowledged for their good work and always understand that their work is highly valued–especially public employees, who serve us all.

However, morale does not come at the cost of oversight. At least half of the job of the City Council is to ask tough questions. The flip side is that it is the job of the administration to always provide their fullest cooperation to electeds. It is literally the administration’s job to convince the City Council that their proposals are in the best the interest of the public (even if it means having to answer to an idiot like me.) That’s one of the downsides of public service–the heightened accountability. It’s a pain. I’ve told City Manager Matthias that I wouldn’t want to have to deal with that for nothin’. But regardless, that’s just the deal. And an elected should not have to earn that cooperation. The office that the elected holds provides all the necessary bona fides. Or… at least, that’s the theory. 😀

Another meeting, another argument…

During my comments at the last City Council meeting I kinda went off on Deputy Mayor Mahoney… just a little bit… about his City Currents article re. pre-announcing a passenger ferry. That’s only the second time I’ve ever responded to an individual Councilmember. I told the truth, but perhaps one could argue that I could’ve been a bit ‘nicer’. Actually, I thought I was being a bit jokey to avoid displaying how truly upsetting it is.

But jokey or not, the Deputy Mayor and the City Manager do not take this sort of thing lying down. In fact, they spent twice my allotted time telling the public all sorts of anecdotal stuff to prove that not only was a passenger ferry a sound decision, but that the public had already been properly informed, fully engaged  and, in fact, love the idea. There were studies. There were surveys. There were talks. There were dinners. Only you, Mr. Harris, seem to have a problem with the plan.

I am all for studies. I am all for surveys. I am all for talks.  I am definitely all for dinners. But since this is public money I am also for disclosure. And survey results. And public comment. And votes. 🙂

Just to recap…

As I said, the only public presentation on the idea of a private ferry took place on December 2019. What the Council saw was a sample of the study yet to be done; not the actual study. Ten months later, on 24 September 2020,  the *City Manager provided an two minute update  to Council (go to about 18:30) where he stated that the study was complete, a survey had been done and the City was planning a Study Session. That Study Session has not happened. Several times over the past months I have asked the City for that data and been denied. I just did a public records request. Hope to get the results real soon. :).

Apart from how shameful it is that any Councilmember has to go to those lengths to get information about studies paid for with public money, I just don’t think it’s great to announce such a large policy in the City Current Magazine under those circumstances.

People love the idea…

At one point during his rebuttal, the Deputy Mayor said, as if this made it OK, “Hey, people love the idea!” Perhaps. People love a lot of things. But that is not how government works. Even if everyone is jumping up and down for something, you’re still supposed to go through the proper process.

We’re literally talking about a decision about millions of dollars. No Study Session. No survey results. No public comment. No vote of any kind.

And here’s the real point: Even if the City does eventually do all that stuff: has the Study Session, produces the study, and the survey, and  puts it on a meeting agenda for an official rubber stamp… er ‘vote’ of the Council? And even if they say, “See, we had it all right here. You got just got people riled up over nothing, son!” It would still be dead wrong. Because it was pre-decided.

I have no idea if a passenger ferry is a good idea or not. I have no idea if the current Marina redevelopment proposal is a good idea or not. But here’s what I do know: I am treated with defensiveness, deflection and personally criticised every time I simply ask for data and that good process be followed. You can dismiss my reactions as sour grapes or grandstanding, but I hope you keep reading.

The price to be paid

Now, as I said, occasionally I get comments from residents telling me that one should never be snarky. Point taken.

But in my defense (see what I just did there?) you should understand that I pay for my crimes. Whenever I say anything the administration doesn’t like, I know I will get triple-teamed. Specifically…

The rotating cast of characters

As you may have noticed, each councilmember gets four minutes of comment at the end of each City Council meeting. What you may not have noticed is that the Mayor rotates the order in which we speak. It changes from week to week for five of us. But the Deputy Mayor always goes  next to last and the Mayor always goes last. That’s not some ‘rule’, that’s just how Mayor Pina decided to do it. I’ve never asked him, but the only reasonable explanation is so that if some Councilmember says something they don’t like, then both the Deputy Mayor and then the Mayor can respond.

But wait, there’s more. What the Mayor also does–again which is not any rule, he just does it, is that he can call on the City Manager for a ‘response’. And there is no four minute time limit on that. The City Manager gets to say whatever he wants. Now this is a little weird to me because as you saw at the last meeting, a Councilmember is supposedly not allowed to respond to another. CM Martinelli actually tried to respond and was admonished by the Mayor. But the City Manager is invited to join in on the fun.

Anyhoo, I’ll get wailed on three times if I have the temerity to speak against any policy. (Actually, in the past it’s been up to five times, when I’ve been chosen to speak first. Then everyone gets a shot. 😀 )

What I’m trying to say is this: I could be as nice as Fred Rogers in my presentation. Wouldn’t matter. If I speak up against administration policy I will get triple-teamed. It’s not my ‘attitude’, it’s the disagreement itself. They always get in the last word(s). Thrice.

And they do take advantage of those opportunities as the video of any meeting where I’ve expressed concerns will show. It’s not like my colleagues just let me say my peace and move on. It’s not enough to win the votes and let the results speak for itself. A statement has to be made.

So let me ask you: what would you do if you show up for school every day  knowing yer gonna get beat up by at least three guys if you say something they don’t like? How well would you take to that state of affairs?

Is there something practical here or is this just more of your whining?

Is that a trick question? 😀 As I always say: most of you are transactional. So long as the City seems to be doing stuff that sounds good to you, you probably don’t care about this schoolhouse crap at City Hall. I know I didn’t until I started watching.

I point out these ‘inside baseball’ details because I know the public has a tough time telling who are the good guys and who are… well… less so.

But here’s one suggestion: I believe that you can tell a lot about an organization by how they respond to opposing points of view. They can either try to be open and willing to engage… or not. And whenever you are treated with defensiveness and deflection and personal attacks in a professional situation, your first move should be skepticism.

In short, organizations tend to handle the big things exactly the same way they handle the small things. And we got a lot of big things to decide this year.

l’m giving you the link to the City video web site because the video on the City’s Youtube channel omits the entire Administration Report. Again, another detail of process and transparency that drives me nuts.

 

 

 

 

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

  1. Tree planting at Kiddie City Park Saturday April 17th, 9AM!
  2. Also Saturday April 17 at 9AM: Help me set the COHO free! At the Marina dock across from the Quarterdeck
  3. King County is in the process of updating their Climate Action Plan to hopefully include for the first time (unbelievably) aviation emissions. You can and should provide your support and public comment here!
  4. The City of Des Moines Surface Water Management Department is seeking public comments on the annual Surface Water Management Plan. To provide comments or obtain education materials, contact Ben Stryker at bstryker@desmoineswa.gov.
  5. Working Washington Round 4 Small Business Grant program application portal is open until 5 p.m., April 9. Focus ono small for-profit businesses, especially those required to close due to public health and safety measures.
  6. Learn about ShakeAlert the new earthquake early warning system https://www.facebook.com/events/278578143739633 Tuesday, May 4 6:30pm.
  7. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  8. 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!
  9. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  10. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  11. The fourth round of Washington State COVID-19 Small Business Grants starts March 29th. Go get ’em!
  12. 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.
  13. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  14. 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.
  15. 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.
  16. 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.”
  17. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  18. 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: 03/14/2021

Posted on Categories Environment, Taxes, Transparency, Weekly Updates3 Comments on Weekly Update: 03/14/2021

Public Service Announcements

  1. Public Comment on the FAA’s Neighborhood Environmental Survey is due by March 15th. This is important. Please follow these instructions and comment TODAY (more below).
  2. Donate blood, win A NEW CAR! 😀 https://www.bloodworksnw.org/ Aside from the fabulous prize opportunities, there is currently a serious shortage of whole blood. Please schedule an apt. today
  3. Spring Recycling Event at the Des Moines Marina Saturday March 27. NEW: You can now bring TVs and electronics!
  4. Kent Des Moines Road Closure March 21 and 23rd!
  5. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  6. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  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. 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. 🙂
  10. 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.
  11. 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.
  12. 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.”
  13. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  14. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

Monday: Destination Des Moines meeting

Tuesday: South King County Area Transportation Board SCATBd (Agenda)

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.

Thursday: Sound Transit Finance Committee Meeting. Got a beef about S/T? I know I do. 😀 Sign for public comment. 🙂

Thursday: Transportation Committee Meeting (cancelled)

Thursday: Environment Committee Meeting (cancelled)

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) We will be asked to vote for two water/sewer projects. If you live on 8th Ave and 223rd or along 27nd, please read. There will also be an update on the choice of maintenance facility for Sound Transit.

Last Week

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Commission meeting (Agenda/Video). This was a biggee. Almost 90 minutes on how great the Sea-Tac Airport Round Table (StART) is going. (I can tell ya what a waste it is in 90 seconds. 😀 ) But second, what was intended to be a rather rushed item turned out to be a very good discussion on the Port’s 2020 ending financial results. OK, I want you to relax–I know you were getting nervous there for a minute, so here it is. The Port is doing just fine. 🙂 (In one sentence: the amount of money they got from CARES, oy we should all be so lucky.)

Wednesday: Sealife Response, Rehab, Research (SR3) Webinar. Mostly info on what they do. There will be a presentation about our location (which I’m still not wild about) on April 22. The one thing I did learn is that they want you to volunteer! And since it’s not a City deal, there are no requirements other than a willingness to learn. So go to their web site and sign up and learn how to… er… save something. 🙂

Wednesday: Des Moines Marina Association meeting. This doesn’t relate to the DMMA directly, but I am almost at a point where I would support a separate Council Committee for the Marina in order to insure involvement by Council and the public. I always want to remind residents that the Marina is a profit-center, not a ‘cost’ to taxpaypers–and that the primary revenue comes from boat owners. So boat owners rightly get a strong say in its future. My primary goal regarding the Marina is that it continue to be the best facility of its type in the region for boat owners. But as the years have gone on I feel a certain growing unease. Because the Marina is, of course, far more than a place for boat owners to do their thing. It’s basically the biggest public park in the City. The boat owners definitely have the ear of the City, but I’m never quite sure if the rest of the community does. The City hears from boat owners literally every month at DMMA meetings (which is great), but the rest of the community? Eh, not so much.

Friday: I had a conversation with the head of the Port Of Seattle’s External Real Estate Division–basically the guy who’s buying the SR-509 Surplus property off of 216th at the trail head to the Des Moines Creek Trail. More below.

FAA Neighborhood Environmental Survey (NES)

The NES is just a high-falutin’ way of saying that the FAA is, for the first time in forty years, re-evaluating the standards for acceptable noise levels around airports. By providing Public Comment, you’ll be telling the FAA something pretty obvious, that the current acceptable standards are simply too damned loud! If they rule to adopt lower levels, it will affect everything from allowable flight paths to which homes are eligible for sound insulation. It only takes 2 minutes to cut n’ paste the suggested text. The deadline is March 15 so do this today.

My uncomfortable phone call with the Port

I have phone calls like this every week and I almost never comment on them. But I received so much negativity after my election for doing stuff like this that I feel a need to periodically tell the public: This is a part of what you elected Councilmembers to do. And there is basically no danger of me, or any CM ‘mis-representing’ them self. And I will again tell you why: Because the person at the other end of the phone already knows that you have no authority. In fact, that’s probably why they are talking to you one on one. They know  they can safely ignore you because you don’t speak for the City. They’re indulging you. An elected is giving a somewhat elevated version of ‘public comment’. A CM with an IQ over 90 knows this and treats the call with gratitude. My policy: If the call is scheduled for fifteen minutes? I politely take my leave at about 13:30.

Now: What I was advocating for was for the Port to be as ‘green’ as possible in their development; to go beyond the call of duty. And I was frank in saying that ‘trees’ have been a sore point for me with the current administration. We have lost thousands of trees in the past twenty years and our City has done a miserable job of asking developers (or homeowners for that matter) to re-plant or otherwise develop and maintain properties sustainably. As of 2018 we now have a Tree Ordinance, which, on paper, is really good–if we enforce it. I was asking the Port to adhere to that Ordinance–and go even further if possible.

I also asked him to see if there might not be other ways to make that a sustainable development. For example, they could set up charging stations and give the City a leg up on that technical expertise. They could use innovative construction techniques that our building people have not had personal experience with. In other words, this could be a learning opportunity for the City; something that encourage us to make our building code greener.

And the Port has a track record of Green development. They have done good work on a variety of building projects. When you hear me bitch about them so mercilessly it’s because of the systemic hypocrisy present in so many large corporations–they will happily go above and beyond on many things, except for the one thing that truly affects us: the frickin’ airplanes! Anyhoo, that’s not his department. He was knowledgeable, open to my feedback, gracious and sincere about what he could and would attempt to do. 🙂

Oh yeah: the only ‘uncomfortable’ part of the call, which I brought up right at the start, was this: It is a weird thing begging a developer to do better on environmental issues than your own City has previously done. But again, that’s not the Port’s problem.

The office of ‘Councilmember’ is the lowest of the low. Nobody has to return yer calls. Part of the role is to advocacy on behalf of residents–knowing full well you don’t have any real ‘weight’. Which means that if you’re not getting ghosted fairly regularly? You’re just not trying. 😀

State Of The City

Back in November, Mayor Pina and Deputy Mayor Mahoney gave a presentation to the Des Moines Marina Association and it’s worth thinking about. I get comments sometimes complaining that all I do is bitch about picayune stuff like parliamentary procedure saying basically “Let’s talk about something real, Dude!” Well, this is as real as it gets. In this video, the Mayor/Deputy Mayor tag team on pretty much every current item on the City’s plate.Where they think we are and where they want us to go. I’m posting this again because it’s time to start talking about where I think they get it right and where I think we need to change direction. Thanks again to the DMMA for recording this.

There’s simply too much to cover in one bite so I’ll be covering it in sections and each time I do, I’ll add that to this post. When we’re done you can review the entire novel there.

By way of intro, I want to being by saying that this whole series will be about responsibility. I’m going to make the case that the progress (or lack thereof) is intentional. If you like the way the City is going, my colleagues in the majority deserve all the credit. If not, then those policies should be changed. What I do not accept is the notion that so much of our fate is out of our hands.

For years I’ve heard endless talk about how “There’s nothing we can do about the airport. There’s nothing we can do about the downtown. There’s nothing we can do about property crime.” Pick a thorny issue. Nothing, nothing, nothing. Their argument is that the set of things the City can actually do something about is quite limited. So stop complaining and focus on the much smaller domain of things we can accomplish. 

Grading on a curve

That is the primary reason I ran for City Council, because I know that much of that is untrue. What I will argue is that we have a far greater set of options and capabilities. We may choose not to tackle the big problems because they’re hard or controversial, but that is a choice, not fate. So when the current management says we’re doing great, recognize that those much tougher problems aren’t even part of their calculus. Sort of like your kid bringing home all A’s–which sounds great until you find out that they’re ‘grading on a curve’. You have to compare how Des Moines is doing relative to other Cities; not to how we may have done in the past.

Sometimes, angry residents will say unkind things about my colleagues like, “Why don’t those guys ever tell us what they would do!” And I gotta say in my colleagues’ defense: Look around! They’re actually doing it! In other words, just examine the City as it is. That is the story of current management. They don’t need to blather away like me because they’re accomplishing their agenda. For them, the way the City is running now speaks for itself. Again: if you like the way certain things are going, then my colleagues deserve serious applause. If not, they deserve criticism for those specifics. But what I will not accept is that “I’m always doing as good as I can do, Dad.” Good, bad or indifferent, I don’t believe in grading our City on a curve.

Weekly Update: 03/07/2021

Posted on Categories Environment, Taxes, Transparency, Weekly Updates5 Comments on Weekly Update: 03/07/2021

Public Service Announcements

  1. Public Comment on the FAA’s Neighborhood Environmental Survey is due by March 15th. This is important. Please follow these instructions and comment TODAY (more below).
  2. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  3. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  4. 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.
  5. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  6. 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. 🙂
  7. 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.
  8. 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.
  9. 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.”
  10. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  11. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

Last Week

Wednesday: N.O.I.S.E Eleanor Holmes Norton. Will send proposal to rejoin the National League Of Cities. It’s the only way to get intelligence on how groups are doing nationwide. The thing to understand about the airport is that we (and almost all airport communities) have lived in a filter bubble for decades. We literally had no idea about the activities of other communities until very recently so the level of nationwide organization is still not great. If you attend the StART meetings, the only items on the menu are those that the Port Of Seattle chooses. The more we communicate with our colleagues across America, the more we can expand the discussion.

Thursday: Public Safety Committee Meeting (Agenda) Met the two K-9s. We also heard that the City is (finally) getting licensing for pets fully on-line and implementing a reminder system. My guess is that this will increase revenues significantly.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda) Bonnie’s recap.

Friday: I had a meeting with former Harbormaster Joe Dusenberry. He still works a few hours for the City as a consultant on issues like permitting so he was the right person to explain the thing I’ve been griping about regarding the North Bulkhead replacement. To review, we’re paying $344,000 as mitigation for possible environmental damage due to the construction. (Actually, that’s not quite true, but I have a much longer piece on Marina redevelopment where I’ll go into all this.) The point I want to make is that Mr. Dusenberry was able to lay out the process in easy to understand terms, which means to me that this could (and should) have been explained to Council, not just for our benefit, but so that the public better understands what the Marina means to the Puget Sound eco-system. We are stewards of our stretch of the Sound, after all. My thanks to him for reaching out and giving of his time and expertise.

This Week

Monday: Arts Commission

Wednesday: SR3 Webinar

Thursday: 30th Leg. Meeting

FAA Neighborhood Environmental Survey (NES)

The NES is just a high-falutin’ way of saying that the FAA is, for the first time in forty years, re-evaluating the standards for acceptable noise levels around airports. By providing Public Comment, you’ll be telling the FAA something pretty obvious, that the current acceptable standards are simply too damned loud! If they rule to adopt lower levels, it will affect everything from allowable flight paths to which homes are eligible for sound insulation. It only takes 2 minutes to cut n’ paste the suggested text. The deadline is March 15 so do this today.

City Council Meeting Recap

(Agenda) Bonnie’s recap.

I’m gonna start out with another nit to pick. If you look at the Agenda for any meeting it will often look totally bare bones. But then we get to the meeting and the City Manager will have done an audible at the line of scrimmage and added significant stuff to the proceedings–ostensibly because it’s ‘last minute’. I call  foul. In the words of my Uncle *”Unless someone’s bleeding out we ain’t changin’ nothin’ on this trip.”

At this meeting, the City Manager added three fairly significant items to his Administration Report and none of them were emergencies. As such, they should be added to the Agenda so that CMs can prepare questions.

Finances

The main event in the Administration report was a presentation by Finance Director Beth Anne Wroe. And the highlight is that we are hitting almost all our targets, which is great. Predictability is good. I’m less sanguine about some of those areas. I asked about sales tax, which is 96% of budget–which sounds fantastic amid COVID, right? But why is it so good? Aren’t so many businesses closed and people out of work? So I asked for a breakdown of tax receipts by sector which I hope to get next week.

There is already talk of another round of business grants. Look, everyone loves ‘free’ money. But as you recall, I had strong objections to last year’s GRO program because we dished out $500,000 to help only twenty six businesses. Before spending any of your money on  another round of business grants I want to understand which businesses are doing well vs. those that are struggling.

I want to point out one other thing: As always, people are fed up with their Property Taxes. But that’s got nothing to do with the City. We voted not to raise Property Taxes this year by the allowed one percent. So if there’s an increase it’s to do with your homes valuation and that’s King County. If you feel your assessment is incorrect, contact them and appeal.

New Feature

And speaking of audibles at the line of scrimmage…

The Mayor made some opening remarks where he basically told the Council that he was adding a new section to our meetings for ‘New Business’. Again, this was not on the agenda. He just put it out there in his extemporaneous remarks and for that reason alone I call foul.

But here’s the funny part: I appreciate the idea. It basically undoes the admonition placed on me in a previous meeting where I was prevented from making motions from the dais–something that is perfectly normal in all other cities. And  it’s also not really a ‘new’ thing, in that we have always had the opportunity to propose ideas to one another in private. All this does is make that proposal process public. I guess it’s good in terms of having a ‘bully pulpit’.

But I want to loop back to the method in which it is was proposed. Again, remember a couple of weeks ago where I attempted to make a motion during my comment period? We were told that there was no place in the Agenda for Councilmembers to bring up ‘new business’. Well that is exactly what the Mayor did. And what’s worse was that there wasn’t even a vote taken. He just said, “this is what we’re doing.” And everyone applauded, not acknowledging the fact that the Mayor has no special privilege over any other Councilmember during a meeting.

This has been a decades-long problem in Des Moines. Every Mayor has complained that their predecessor had too much power and vowed to reduce their privilege. But as the years go by it just happens. And one reason it does is because, frankly, lack of knowledge. We have no newspaper to keep the Council honest and frankly most CMs have little or no prior experience with parliamentary procedure. And, let’s face it, when most people think of ‘Mayor’ they think “he’s the boss”. The psychology of Council/Manager government, where the Mayor is mostly a figure-head is counter-intuitive. You really have to explain to most people how Council/Manager government works. We all fall into that trap. So if the Mayor or City Manager say so, most of the time, people (including CMs) tend to go along unless someone is willing to push back.

Good Accounting Tells A Story

At my first college accounting class (back in 1514, I think it was) the professor made one of those statements that sticks with a person when you’re an impressionable kid.

Good accounting tells a story.

The idea was that when you read a financial statement you were getting not just numbers, but a complete explanation of where the company was, where it is and where it’s going. Bad accounting gives you numbers, good accounting tells you what’s going on. It’s supposed to promote understanding.

I think most people think of financial statements like tax returns–a bunch of forms that you have to prepare to get a loan or comply with the law. Most of us don’t really think about our taxes or our personal financials as diagnostic tools for telling us how we’re doing.

And I think most people think of public meetings that way too… just something we have to do to comply with the law. Almost like a church service where everyone follows all the elaborate rituals, but very few people really think anything important is actually happening. It’s mostly just compliance and formalities. Staff make presentations. Hands are raised as votes are taken. Everyone is thanked. And then we solemnly process out of the hall. The only thing missing is a pipe organ. 😀

Well, for whatever it says about me, I do attend Mass weekly and I do believe in the process of City Council meetings as tools of oversight and diagnosis and I do believe that it is our job to understand and to explain.

Public Money

Every decision we make, every dollar we spend isn’t just your dollar, it also belongs to every person who will ever live and pay taxes in Des Moines. So whatever we do now, we owe everyone, both today and fifty years from now, an understandable explanation of what we did. Really.

For example, when we voted to spend $344,000 to mitigate the bulkhead repairs, we owed it to the public to explain why we did that–not just the people today, but twenty years from now. Read that again: we owe people twenty years from now an understandable explanation as to why we spent $344,000. We did an absolutely terrible job of explaining the need for this expenditure and it matters for reasons you’ll see in a few weeks.

I often feel like an alien when talking to my colleagues because they don’t seem to understand that this matters. It’s not just a ceremony. It’s also not about trust. Some of my colleagues will scold me that my digging in is some form of mistrust for the Administration. Which is ridiculous.

Again, I dunno how else to say it: It’s not a question of whether or not the City Manager or the Council trusts the harbormaster or the engineer or the consultant. That’s got nothing to do with it. It’s the fact that we owe an explanation to the public, both today and twenty years from now about how we spent their $344,000.

Weekly Update: 02/28/2021

Posted on Categories Transparency, Weekly Updates2 Comments on Weekly Update: 02/28/2021

Last time I said that there was simply too much stuff going on to fit into one post. And then I got waylaid with ‘life’ and I abandon the whole ‘bonus’ thing. And then I got double-waylaid by life and my next fallback was, “I’m takin’ the week off. Screw this ‘weekly update crap!” 😀 But all that does is fill my Inbox with people who think they’re ‘Unsubscribed’. (Which doesn’t happen.) The problem is that a lot of the time the issues I want to write about require a certain amount of research to do justice–which is why nobody writes about them. 😀 Anyhoo… if you don’t get this thing on Sunday… or Monday… or even Tuesday, I HAVEN’T QUIT. Or died. Or whatever. It probably just means that the wind died or I ran outta gas and didn’t make it back. 🙂

Public Service Announcements

  1. SBA Webinars on new PPP Programs start March 3rd!
  2. Virtual Open House on SR 509 I-5 to 24th Ave
  3. 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.
  4. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  5. 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. 🙂
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. 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.”
  9. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  10. 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) Meet the two K-9s.

Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

Sign up for Public Comment here. Watch on Channel 21 (Comcast) or on the City’s Youtube Channel.

All Over The Map

8th Avenue Rebuild

My report that 8th Avenue between 223rd and 227 is getting redone got several letters. Which surprised me because I figured everyone knew about it. I honestly don’t have any more details right now except to say that the City and Water District 54 are partnering on this and that it’s going to happen this summer.

Transportation Committee Meeting (Agenda)

Work on the both the light rail and SR 509 are really starting to move. You can see SR 509 happening over on 200th and 24th.

You can also see work happening at the 216th bridge over I-5. That is the beginning of a tunnel portion that will go under 216th near Military and will be done over a‘long weekend’ around July 4th.

You can also see lots of columns being placed east of Pac Highway. Those columns are sixty feet deep (or more) because we live in kind of a swampy part of Puget Sound. If you go back 150 years a whole lot of what is now Des Moines was under water or part of a wetlands.

Environment Committee Meeting (Agenda)

We discussed two big deals and I wish the public could get more engaged on these Committee meetings. First, we had a presentation on WRIA, which has to do with salmon recovery efforts in the area. Massey Creek, which has been re-routed several times no longer has proper fish passage. The State will pay for opening up that creek so that it can drain properly out to Puget Sound a bit south of the Des Moines Yacht Club. If the City could purchase a bit more property in that area, we could conceivably create a whole new park or other opportunities for the area.

Another big deal is what is called ‘de-armoring’–removing the barriers on the shoreline. The State is insisting that as many beaches be de-armored for the sake of the environment. Burien has been struggling with this issue at Eagle Landing. And I learned last week that this will also include Saltwater State Park. When that occurs, the water will freely overflow the shore and we will likely lose a large amount of the parking lot or walking path. I don’t want to

Redondo Fishing Pier/Bathrooms

http://desmoineswa.gov/211/Current-Projects

Along with redoing the Pier we’re also doing bathrooms. Great idea but I want us to hold off on that for at least a year. Why? Because I want us to decide on a design theme for the Marina. You know, the overall ‘look’. Why? I think it is very important that we develop a consistent brand for Des Moines. All our parks should have the same look and feel. That’s what all great brands do. We kinda/sorta started a theme with the rebuild of 216th. We have the sailboats, the blue columns and so on. Any good artist/architect could expand on that and develop a look that we could then incorporate everywhere in Des Moines: The Marina, Marine View Drive, Redondo. We want visitors to know that they’re in Des Moines whether they’re at Redondo or North Hill and you do that by establishing a consistent branding. I want my colleagues, all our various civic groups and the general public to have time and multiple opportunities to consider what that theming should be and then start building from there.

Marina Bulkhead Repair

CM Martinelli voted against moving ahead with this repair as part of a very convoluted series of three motions. He kinda made a good point, but not for the reasons I would have.

The repair was held up for over two years waiting for a permit from Federal Agencies. What was frustrating is that the Council never received an explanation as to why this was held up. And that bugs me.

Ultimately, I want us to move forward immedaiately because with climate change there is now a serious risk that a large storm (see: King Tide) could put the entire marina floor at risk.

The City has maintained that the permits (there’s more than one) have been held up by ‘politics’. Adam Smith was asked to try to intervene at a few points (which is, at the Federal level, like asking a CM to intervene at a City level—not a lot he can do.)

But the feds do have some logic behind why they held up the permits. I have asked repeatedly for the substance of the objection. But all I’ve been told is that it’s ‘complicated’. I have not been able to see a ‘complicated’ document which explains the various objections. And whether or not I’m too dumb to understand the issues in play, I’d still like to have a crack at it. You know–put some of that there collidge edjercashun to work. 😀

The argument from some of my colleagues (the City has not said this directly). is that it’s costing the City ‘millions’ in delay. I can’t say whether it did or did not. Frankly, I doubt we would’ve done much last year with COVID anyhoo.

But regardless, we needed to move forward because of the frailty of the current structure. But I’m left with the nagging feeling that I’m contributing to some form of environmental damage to our shoreline and that is not a great feeling.

I do get letters

Doing this Weekly Update brings up some real problems. Obviously it takes a certain amount of time to write these. The number one comment I get is ‘TLDR’ (too long, did not read). I don’t know how to strike the right balance, but I’ll keep trying. Please let me know what you think: shorter/longer?

Oddly, another problem is ‘not enough context’. Basically, people who do not watch the meetings will want me to explain every damned thing that happened so that they can ‘get’ the commentary. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for that, folks. You have to watch the meetings. The recaps that the City Clerk does are great, but they don’t explain the why any more than the agendas or minutes do.

Finally, I always get a few “You’re making the City look bad” comments. And I’ll just reiterate what I say about that: I hear you. But I’m not doing anything–except pointing out some real problems that matter. This is not like an episode of The Office where I’m complaining about the order of pencils on my desk. When the meetings don’t run well, one side is taking advantage of that either to move their policies forward or to prevent me from furthering my ideas. Yes, politics is a game, but if you can’t believe that the game is being run fairly, there’s almost no point.

Occasionally I’ll hear a variation on this from my colleagues, “Developers will be turned off by our City if we aren’t unified as a Council.” That is factually inaccurate. A developer chooses to do a project in Des Moines if the numbers are right. They could mostly care less about our City Council. Really. Because with Council/Manager government they don’t deal with the Council. They deal with the Administration. The Council could be having daily food fights like in a Marx Brothers movie and no developer will care so long as they are being dealt with fairly by the Administration.

One last note. At some point, I’m gonna start posting old issues of The Des Moines News. And if you haven’t been here long enough to remember (or if you’ve just forgotten) we have always had friction on our City Council. The only reason it didn’t seem like it for the past few years is because we don’t have a newspaper. Trust me. If you think this is messy, just wait til you seem some articles from 2002! 😀 (The above is an article documenting a typically rancorous meeting during the Third Runway fight.) We survived then and we’ll survive now. And maybe when we come out the other end we’ll have some calm that is earned by virtue of a better running system.

Weekly Update: 02/21/2021

Posted on Categories Transparency, Weekly Updates4 Comments on Weekly Update: 02/21/2021

Public Service Announcements

  1. If you are a local business, make the Southside Promise from the South Side Seattle Chamber Of Commerce! There are grants of up to $1,000 to help you now.
  2. The new round of Federal PPP loan program just opened up. And it is much better than the first round last year. If you need more information, here is a presentation from the Small Business Administration with lots of links to more information.
  3. There are new State Unemployment Benefits. But you gotta read and follow the instructions!
  4. Last month’s article in the Seattle Times regarding the Masonic Home has gotten a lot of people talking. As you know, working to save the place has been on my agenda for years. Please contact me or Barbara McMichael of SoCoCulture.org at info@sococulture.org to get involved! She is compiling a mailing list and is coordinating efforts to save the place. 🙂
  5. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  6. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  7. Rental Assistance for Low Income King County Bar Association – The Housing Justice Project is requesting community based providers assistance to identify households who owe 10K or more in back-rent. “We can zero out $10K or more of rent for folks who are at 50% AMI or below these income limits. If you know anyone, can you have them email fwblackcollective@gmail.com for navigation with case managers or give them this link which has all the paperwork to complete and email to edmundw@kcba.org to get their rent payed out.   Forms to Eliminate Back Rent: https://drive.google.com/folderview?id=1fUdYAwMFH_V_B1vTD_urmir_ltI8Wfnw.   Completed forms can be emailed to edmundw@kcba.org.”
  8. If you wish to sign up for future City Clean Ups Michelle Johansson Fawcett: cleanuri.com/pj4RQ5
  9. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

I’m spending most of the week at a ‘Virtual Conference’ held by UC Davis on aircraft noise and emissions. This is the pre-eminent get together of people across the nation who are working on airport issues. I know that CMs from other cities will be there.

Tuesday: Port Of Seattle Noise Contractors forum. The Port is attempting to loosen requirements for contractors who are eligible to install sound insulation systems. This is key to getting all the remaining homes completed–and existing packages updated.

Wednesday: Sea-Tac Airport Roundtable (StART) This will be my first chance to see our new community representative Peter Philips.

Thursday: 30th District Legislative Call (A chance to hear from our State Reps. Jesse Johnson, Jamila Taylor and Sen. Claire Wilson in the south end of town.)

Thursday: Economic Development Committee (Agenda)

Thursday: Municipal Facilities Committee (Agenda)

Friday: South King County Housing and Homelessness Partnership.

Last Week

  1. Tuesday: Setting up the Coho Pen at the Marina to help with the next batch of hatchery fish.
    Picture from City Of Des Moines
  2. I attended the Water District #54 Board Meeting. The Water District just got financing to start work on replacing the pipe on 8th Ave between 223rd and 227th. The City is partnering to simultaneously rebuild the road. It’s about time! 🙂
  3. Wednesday: Reach Out Des Moines!
  4. Thursday: 3:00PM Transportation Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  5. Thursday: 4:00PM Environment Committee Meeting (Agenda)
  6. Thursday: City Council Meeting (Agenda)

Both the Environment Committee and Transportation Committee meetings were so action-packed that I will be doing a recap of those in another post. Check out the Agenda Packets for a preview.

My City Council Meeting Highlights

Bonnie’s recap

  1. Coming just a week on the heels of the City helping the Port purchase the 14 acres of wooded area next to the Des Moines Creek Business Park for the purpose of adding more warehouses. We made another Port-related decision. The City Manager appointed Peter Philips to be our newest representative on the Sea-Tac Airport Roundtable (StART).Not a resident of DM. His qualifications do not indicate any background in aviation, environment, health or community work. However, he has been a big proponent of maritime business (and a paid consultant on a private passenger ferry service to link up with the Port.) Mr. Philips’ company also publishes our quarterly newsletter City Currents. Which is nice.
  2. On the Consent agenda was $25,000 to fill up the tank on the minor home repairs program. Hopefully now, pending requests will be fulfilled.

Hazard Pay

CM Martinelli prevailed upon our City Manager to bring up the matter of ‘Hazard Pay’ for Essential Workers. And if you’re wondering why that item was able to get on the agenda and my idea from the previous week was not? See below.

Anyhoo, the idea has been remanded to the Economic Development Committee for discussion. It’s such a thorny issue I’ll just leave it there until it actually comes before the Council.

Response to last week’s unpleasantness

During their comments, my colleagues took turns berating me. I could go into detail, but why bother, right? 😀 I just wanna push back on a phrase Mayor Pina used, “We can disagree without being disagreeable.” I disagree. (See what I did there? 😀 ) Below is an example of why we can’t.

The broken process…

The following is a description of events last year when I attempted to propose an idea to bring Internet service to school children doing without in Des Moines. I’m providing this single issue to give you an example of how frustrating and broken our current Council system is.

Despite what some of my colleagues might say, normally, I would not and do not share much, if anything, about private conversations with fellow CMs or the City Manager. I do not generally discuss ideas on social media. I believe that you elected us to represent you, and that means working ideas out among one another on your behalf.

I’m presenting this because it demonstrates clearly the very core of my disagreement with the way our city is currently being run and with the current majority.

The issue: Internet for school children without

On June 30th of last year I learned about a partnership that Burien was considering with Highline Schools and Comcast to provide internet access to low income and homeless students. Although Highline Schools has a program of mobile WiFi hotspots, there have been many complaints that they do not work well. I have tried them myself and they are indeed frustrating. I cannot see how any child can do effective distance learning without a stable internet connection with a baseline speed.

As some of you may know, Comcast has a $10 a month broadband plan for low income residents. However there are a number of ‘strings’ to the program which puts it out out of reach for many families. I thought the idea was worth researching so I got background information from Highline Schools and Burien. I wanted to know not only the details of the proposal, but also how many students are impacted in Des Moines.

The basic idea was that Burien would use a portion of its CARES money to pay Comcast the $10 monthly fee for one year for a certain number of families that have poor or no internet. In theory, this seems like a good thing to explore, again given the fact that without good internet, students cannot get a good education in 2021.

After speaking with Highline Schools and researching the demographics, I determined that there were as many as ‡800 children in Des Moines who might qualify for a similar program.

Wanting to get this legislation considered, I left message for the three members of the Economic Development Committee and the Mayor to get it into that group’s discussion. (If you watched this week’s meeting, legislative ideas are supposed to be brought to a Committee, researched and if approved then brought to the full Council as a Resolution or Ordinance.)

I did not hear back from Councilmember Bangs.

I did get a call back from Chairman Nutting and he seemed willing to at least consider the idea. This made sense to me at the time since he and his wife are very active on education issues.

I also got a call back from Deputy Mayor Mahoney and he too sounded cautiously optimistic, but he said one thing that, at the time, I thought was a bit odd so I wrote it down. “I’ll run it by Michael and we’ll see what we can do.”

And finally, I got a call from Mayor Pina. Even on the phone I could tell that he was angry. He told me, in no uncertain terms, that I had no business talking to Highline Schools about anything and that doing so could somehow jeopardize the City’s relationship with the School District. Any contact between the City and any external organization should be via the administration. And I should not have tried to bring it directly to the Committee. I pointed out that my job is supposed to be legislation, so how was I supposed to do that under those circumstances? And his reply was, “Well, you could bring it to Michael.”

[EDIT: 0222211602] Now here’s a funny detail I forgot to put into the original post. The Mayor is not on the Municipal Facilities Committee. So truthfully he should have absolutely no say in whether or not an item gets discussed in that committee. Nevertheless, after my conversation with him, I never heard back on the issue again.

Outcome

At the 20 August City Council Meeting, Mayor Pina proposed that the Council contribute towards paying Comcast for twenty homes to take advantage of the Comcast program, using the Council’s *Hearts And Minds Fund. Twenty.

So what the Mayor and Deputy Mayor made clear to me is that, in Des Moines, the City Manager is the gatekeeper of everything that is to be considered by the City Council. This is completely backwards and it is not how Council/Manager government is supposed to work.

Appropriate?

Contrary to what the Mayor said, what I did was not only appropriate it was actually the way things are supposed to work. The actions I took are similar to that used in every other City with Council/Manager form of government. Some Cities–like Burien have slightly different structures but the overall idea is the same: Councilmembers propose ideas, obtain research, then ask a Committee of some kind to take up the idea. This process occurs with the active support of staff. Staff including the City Manager do not act as gatekeepers or impede any Councilmember from putting forward their ideas. Quite the opposite. It is up to Councilmembers to decide which ideas live or die, not the City Manager.

Process

†Now contrast that with the way CM Martinelli got his Hazard Pay moved forward. Like myself, CM Martinelli has been frustrated in getting any idea put on an agenda. And apparently he’s had an ongoing back and forth with the City Attorney over the legality of all this. The upshot of all that ‘behind the scenes’ stuff is that the City Manager stepped in and put the item directly on the Agenda, bypassing the Committee process. The Council then agreed informally to send the idea back to the Economic Development Committee for research.

Alert readers will note that this is almost exactly the reverse of the process I attempted. The Hazard Pay issue was the wrong way to propose legislation, although it was the only way, if you take my meaning. I got yelled at for doing it the right way, and the appearance is that Mr. Martinelli was somehow being ‘rewarded’ for doing it the wrong way. That is not what CM Martinelli was doing. But this is one road to corruption.

Let me make clear that I am not scolding CM Martinelli. As I said, that was the only way to get the idea on the Agenda so he agreed.  You’re elected to get things done and that is a powerful motivator. So even if you dislike the process there is a tremendous incentive to just roll with it.

So if you favor an idea like Hazard Pay, you may be thinking right now, “Forget you, JC. Martinelli got the idea moved forward and that’s all the matters.” So long as a good idea gets into the mix, who cares about ‘process’? I do. And you should too.

What it all means

The City Manager uses the control over the Agenda and access to staff as carrots and sticks. If you play ball, we’ll help you get your idea going. If not? You’re out in the wilderness. I don’t care if the idea is one with which I agree or not. Councilmembers should not have to have the permission of the City Manager in order to get their ideas researched or heard. Those decisions should be made by the Councilmembers.

This is a culture that must end.

Because remember: this authority is not in any law. It is given to the City Manager by a vote of the Council. He only has this power because the majority gives it to him. I cannot recall the last time that a Councilmember put forward an idea to a Committee for consideration. I know it has not happened on any Committee meeting I have attended since I have been in office.

The practicalities

Honestly, I have no idea if the Hazard Pay thing is a good idea or not because it is a tremendously complicated idea. But I do know that, if it comes back to the full Council, I will have trouble voting for it simply because, regardless of any merits, the process by which it was born was bad. As I keep saying, the ends cannot justify the means.

And, at the risk of sounding self-serving, there are still hundreds of children in Des Moines who cannot properly do their home-schooling, in part at least because I made the ‘mistake’ of proposing legislation in the proper manner.

You elect Councilmembers to represent you. We cannot do this if the majority allows the City Manager total authority over the workings of the Council itself. This system must end.

*The Hearts And Minds Fund is an account that each Councilmember pays into out of our own salaries. It’s usually used for things like funeral wreaths or other ceremonial expenses.

†Here is the original text of this paragraph. I edited it at CM Martinelli’s request because it may have created the impression that it was he who prevailed upon the City Manager to put the item on the Agenda. In fact, he told me that he would have preferred for the idea to be raised in the proper fashion.
“Now contrast that with the way CM Martinelli got his Hazard Pay moved forward. CM Martinelli went directly to the City Manager, bypassing the Comittee process entirely. The Council then agreed informally to send the idea to the Economic Development Committee for research.”

‡Highline Schools would only give me an approximate number because the specific list of names is protected by Federal Dept. Of Education privacy laws.