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.

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