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

The delta variant is no joke! Fortunately, there are now free vaccine appointments available every day, including Walk-Ins at Walgreen’s, Rite-Aid, SeaMar and Healthpoint.

  1. Saturday October 9 Salmon Counting at McSorley Creek . Contact John Muramatsu
  2. The Utility Moratorium ends September 30. Help is available, but act now!
  3. Please comment on State legislative districts for the next ten years!
  4. Watch the Candidate Forum from Seattle Southside Chamber!
  5. Sign up now for the King County Emergency Alert Program
  6. Please join the Trusted Partner Network – King County
  7. We’re about to update our Parks, Recreation and Senior Services Master Plan. Comment on any aspect of the system by email: parksmasterplan@desmoineswa.gov
  8. We’re embarking on the redevelopment of the Des Moines Marina. Please read the Draft Master Plan and then my Marina Redevelopment Talking Points. This is the largest capital project in our city’s history and we need your input! Send your questions and concerns to marinamasterplan@desmoinewa.gov.
  9. Renters!  King County Eviction Prevention and Rental Assistance Program
  10. I know you want to help save the Masonic Home. So sign up for the new site hosted by Washington Historic Trust!
  11. City Of Des Moines Minor Home Repair Program This is one of those great programs the City has had in place since forever, but we only advertise every quarter in the City Currents Magazine. Basically, low to moderate income households can get grants to do all sorts of necessary repairs. Just email Minor Home Repair Coordinator Tina Hickey (206) 870-6535.
  12. Every home should have a Carbon Monoxide Detector–especially during the colder months! Full stop. If you need one but money is tight, South King County Fire And Rescue will get you one. Just call their Community Affairs Office at 253-946-7347.
  13. And last, but not least: If you have a Port Package that is having issues, please email SeatacNoise.Info with your address!

This Week

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.

 

 

 

 

Comments

  1. Looks like there will be new people running for council. I’m going to support them and hopefully you’ll have a new majority. This is unacceptable. Thank you for your transparency JC. Don’t get me started on my experience with PF. What could have happened didn’t happen because it was derailed by an inept council at the time.

  2. thanks for hanging in there anf asking questions that need yo be asked. the next election CAN make a big difference What is the date of the next City election? Kaylene

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