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.

5 thoughts on “Weekly Update: 03/07/2021”

  1. What I want to know is when the city will stop all this VIRTUAL…aka hidden agendas…and get back to constitutionally mandated OPEN MEETINGS. Enough slready!

  2. Yes it is time to have open meetings .I am amazed at all the things you care about and all the things you know and share with the community. I only wish the council and the community cared about it and you .. I always want to know more and more after I read your extremely complete up dates. They are amazing. I am afraid your skills are waisted here. So much to share!! Kaylene

  3. Maybe the Waterland blog could do a recap of council meetings as a public service just a thought.

    1. It’s a great idea. I’ve been trying to get more Des Moines coverage for a long time. I’d ask concerned residents to contact the publisher directly: Scott Schaeffer scottscha@gmail.com (206) 248-2565.

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