Featured

Why I’m Running

Posted on Categories Campaigning

I love Des Moines. I think it’s an absolute jewel. I started sailing and going to church here over twenty years ago when I first moved to Puget Sound. And when I bought my own house in 2005, I wanted it to be in Des Moines near St. Philomena and the Marina and the Downtown.

Then the Great Recession hit. I saw how the neighborhoods and families and businesses were hit very, very hard. A lot of people moved away and a lot of businesses simply boarded up. But a lot of new people moved in and have added a great energy to the city.

Then several years ago the regional economy began to recover. And the airport was ‘expanded’ (boy was it ever!)

But have you noticed? Des Moines, despite all its obvious assets doesn’t seem to be sharing in the recovery nearly as much as the rest of the region. Our Downtown still looks much the same as it did five years ago with many businesses still shuttered. Many homes are untended because there is no Code Enforcement to speak of, our Marina arguably our most important asset is in need of essential repairs.

Then there is the airport. The Third Runway is turning out to be not just an annoyance, but an absolute disaster, not just in terms of noise but in terms of damage to our health–and that of our children. Worst of all, unlike other cities, we get no compensation or relief for the ever increasing levels of traffic and pollution. We can do better, not just for ourselves but for the next generation. We cannot let them down.

For the past thirteen years I’ve been a gadfly at so many City Council meetings I’ve lost count. And there comes a time when one has to decide to either put up or shut up. So I’ve decided it’s time for me to try to do something about these problems.

It is my belief that what ails Des Moines is two things: trying to be something it is not and a lack of long term planning. The first problem is that our city is, at it’s heart, a town for families. Somewhere along the way I think the government lost sight of that. There have been an almost constant series of grand schemes that have almost completely occupied the attention of the council while largely ignoring the needs of families and neighborhoods.

The second problem is that for far too long your government has been dealing with budgets only from one term to the next. We have to start taking the long view. Des Moines is now a city of more than 31,000 people. We need to start planning five, ten, twenty years out when it comes to our Downtown, our Marina, our neighborhoods, the Airport, and most of all, our children’s futures.

I believe I’m up to that challenge. I’m making an effort to put down my ideas here so you will know how I feel about the issues I think matter most. And over the next few months you’ll be seeing me pounding the pavement because I also really want to hear what you have to say. And if I happen to miss you when I come by, I strongly encourage you to contact me any time. My goal is to be the one person you can count on in Des Moines to really listen and then to take the long view.

Innovation And Air Traffic

Posted on Categories Airport

Whenever anyone mentions the idea of somehow constraining the air traffic over Des Moines you will invariably get something like the following reply:

If you get rid of the planes, you get rid of revenue. And then the airports close. And then the jobs go away!

This is the kind of argument we hear from politicians (including your city council), business, the Port, etc. You probably believe it, too.

But as a former Detroiter and an engineer who worked in logistics for quite some time, I can assure you these arguments are specious.

When people wind up this old Victrola, I always remind them of the automotive industry. If you’re old enough, you’ll recall that when the government first started creating pollution and mileage standards, automakers said the sky would fall. Last time I checked, the sky is still there and auto companies appear to be doing fine.

The missing piece that (ironically) no one mentions in these arguments is AMERICAN INNOVATION. Engineers responded to the new rules as with any challenge—they rolled up their sleeves and got it done (Thank God.) All the engineers absolutely looooooove a big career-size challenge.

If airports simply capped the number of flights as I propose, the airlines would respond in just the same way: they would INNOVATE. They would find a way. They would demand that Boeing and Airbus create the first truly climate-friendly planes in history. They would use their mastery of logistics to load-balance their flight schedules (move planes around more efficiently) to minimise the effects on communities AND at the lowest cost impact to their bottom line. Don’t think it’s possible? They already do it–they make a LOT more money now by wringing efficiencies out of each route. They just have to be told to do it in a way that takes communities into account.

Again, the airline industry would INNOVATE and solve the problem just like ALL great American companies have done. Just as car and truck companies have learned to do. And they would do it at a speed that no one thought possible–simply because no one had ever tried.

I worked in logistics for a good while and I know how adaptable the world of logistics is. They respond to problems ALL THE TIME–most of which you never hear about because they do it so seamlessly. In short, it can be done. The reason it isn’t done now is: BECAUSE THEY DON’T HAVE TO. What business does what it doesn’t have to? But ‘not required’ does NOT mean ‘not doable’.

See that’s the thing that always amazes me. What company spends money it doesn’t absolutely have to? Companies do R&D because they think it will further their business interests. Why on earth would any airline or Port improve their environmental impact UNLESS COMPELLED? Just to be ‘good corporate citizens?’ Puh-lease. If you have some of your retirement savings invested in Alaska or Boeing you want them to MAKE MONEY. But slap on a few ‘regulations’, give an airline or an airport some boundaries and JUST WATCH. They will get it done because there is still so much money to be made. So in this case? Environmental regulations are a win-win. It improves our situation and gives them a fantastic PR story to tell of challenges met and concern for our planet and blah, blah, blah.

Again, ‘not required’ does NOT mean ‘not doable’.

The only solution is to cap flights at Sea-Tac, by a simple vote of three commissioners and then watch the airline industry re-invent itself. We’d be doing the airlines a huge favour.

Are You Registered To Vote?

Posted on Categories Campaigning

The deadline is nearing to register to vote in the November 7th election (you are aware there’s an election, right? Right? :D).

https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/MyVoteOLVR

So… you (unregistered person) have until next Monday, October 9th to register which you can do from the comfort of your LazyBoy right here:

https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/MyVoteOLVR

People in Des Moines are constantly grousing about any number of problems with our fair city that never seem to get fixed. Wanna know why? If you’re under 50? Frankly, it’s probably your fault.

Des Moines has some of the lowest voter turnout in the county. The AVERAGE voter clocks in at close to 52 years old. We’ll likely get as few as 5k votes out of 16k eligible human beings. And one other detail: It’s basically the same people voting every time around. People who vote, tend to vote every time and people who do not vote, almost never vote. Which means that it’s the same the same 5,000 dried up old people like me who call the shots. 😀

The irony is that this system depends on you (the person who doesn’t vote) to change things up. Because new guys like me rarely win unless new people like you vote.

So please register. And then vote. For somebody.

https://weiapplets.sos.wa.gov/MyVoteOLVR/MyVoteOLVR

Code Enforcement

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy, Public Safety

I know this is a dull subject. But it concerns everything from crime, to property values to the quality of life you can expect as a resident. Des Moines used to have a dedicated Code Enforcement Officer who’s job was to check that all properties were up to code. So, theoretically, if a property was obviously not being take care of, she could ticket them. Unfortunately, Des Moines has some of the weakest code in the entire state as far as upkeep goes. You can literally leave junk on your lawn for months at a time without incurring any penalties. So the Code Enforcement Officer, and police and fire department were often unable to take action when they saw properties in a sorry state. The rule was (and is) that they have to wait until an actual crime is committed in order to deal with obviously bad apples. It is for this reason that I got fed up enough to run for office. The good news is that we can easily fix this problem.

Now why would Des Moines have such weak code enforcement? Two reasons: one is that apartment building and other commercial owners tend to hate code enforcement. They complain that it adds to their costs and is unnecessary because ‘the market will take care of it’. In other words, people won’t rent if they don’t take care of their properties. That’s simply ridiculous.

The other reason is more philosophical. The city council has traditionally had the attitude “a man’s home is his castle.” Obviously, I have a slightly different take on this. Yes, you have your right to do as you please. But you also have a responsibility, as a property owner, to your neighbours to keep your place looking decent and to not infringe on their rights. It’s called courtesy. You can’t leave junk on your front lawn or fail to mow for weeks at a time or let your house fall into total disrepair. It damages the community, is unsafe.

Several years ago the city ended the Code Enforcement Officer position. It also rescinded a number of ordinances that hold rental property owners to a special standard of property upkeep (again, based on complaints from commercial property lobbying). What that means is that when my neighbors and I would complain to the city, we had no way of locating the absentee landlords or hold them accountable for the damage their renters were doing to our street!

We should reinstate the Code Enforcement Officer position. We should also update the city code to make our city’s ordinances on property upkeep in-line with those of other cities. These simple, no-drama changes to our city would save a tremendous amount on policing resources, make the city far more pleasant to live in and make the city far more attractive to prospective home buyers.

Best Yard Sign Ever

Posted on Categories Campaigning

As I was doorbelling yesterday I ran across this yard sign. I wish the owners had been home as I really want to get one of these!

Win or lose, this is one of the side benefits of running for office. A lot of time doorbelling is not big fun, but I have to admit that I’ve learned more about Des Moines than I could’ve imagined when I got started. And every once in a while I come across something very cool like this that makes me glad I live here.

Crime

Posted on Categories Policy, Public Safety

If I know my Des Moines voters, you probably clicked here first. 😉

I don’t have all the answers right now. Nobody does. But I do think I’m asking all the right questions and I’m going to give you what I’ve learned. You may not like it. 😀

I’ve been where many of you are. A few years ago, two of my neighbor’s houses were sold and turned into rentals. And for the next five years my street endured a string of terrible tenants–criminals, couples with chronic family abuse, and meth addicts. Almost every week was an adventure in bad behavior. Usually, the cops could only shrug–not because they didn’t care but because there was little they could do. Worst of all, the landlords were completely unreachable. And as terrible as the problems were, they were either not ‘criminal’ or they were criminal, but only petty misdemeanors, so the person would be back on our street in just a few days.

Things finally resolved themselves with the one house being burned down by a tenant and the other when the tenant was evicted after doing $26,000 damage to the owner’s property. Two of my neighbors, who are great friends of mine, moved out. And my house still has a couple of bullet holes in one window as a reminder. So I get it. In fact the reason I am running now if because I was so appalled at how the city handled these problems. There are a lot of things that happen in our neighborhoods for which we currently don’t have good solutions.

My point is this: By far the largest chunk of crime that residents complain about is caused by people with drug addiction and/or mental health issues. And, let’s just get this out of the way now: we cannot arrest our way out of these problems. Or rather, we can, it’s just that we can’t simply “lock ’em up and throw away the key” or just drive them to the city limits and dump them somewheres else. Not possible. There’s this pesky thing called ‘the constitution’. And yes, I know that’s a tough pill to swallow.

New Facilities

First off, we need a whole new type of facility to take care of people with mental health or drug problems. When people are arrested for most misdemeanors (which again are the biggest chunk of crime in the area) they are booked into the SCORE facility. And that place becomes their detox or mental health care facility; which is ridiculous. On any given day between fifty to eighty percent of inmates at SCORE are either mentally ill or have a substance abuse problem. It is those problems that drive the criminal behavior. And jail is not a place to correct either of these problems. So the people are then released back into the community without the help they need and then they are likely to re-offend. So what we need is a different kind of institution which is designed to not only keep these people off the street, but also to give them the proper help they need so they stop re-offending.

The kind of institution I’m talking about requires State funding. So the city needs to start lobbying hard, both regionally and in Olympia for that to happen. Right now.

Code Enforcement

I know this is a dull subject. Des Moines used to have a dedicated Code Enforcement Officer who’s job was to check that all properties were up to code. So, theoretically, if a property was obviously not being take care of, she could ticket them. Unfortunately, Des Moines has some of the weakest code in the entire state as far as property upkeep goes. You can literally leave junk on your lawn for months at a time without incurring any penalties. I decided to run for office in order to fix this problem. If Des Moines had had these kinds of ordinances back when I was having my problems, the city would’ve cited the owner and the tenants would’ve been evicted. Problem solved.

Community Engagement

If you’re on Facebook, you’ll see several community groups which are sharing info on problems on their street and in their neighborhoods. And often, the city and the police are right there as well, taking information and trying to be responsive. This is something that the city should do a lot more to encourage.

What we often find out is that people on the same street are having similar problems, but they don’t realize that it’s a trend because, frankly, a lot of us aren’t as in touch with our neighbors as we should be. But almost all of us now are on the Internet, getting our news and information from computers and phones. The city can start engaging more directly with residents, encouraging them to post problems on social media and to the council and police. This creates a ‘virtuous circle’. The more we can get residents to engage with the city, the better the city can determine where problem hot spots are. And at the same time, residents can realize that they aren’t alone, that people on their street are there for them.

I’ve seen first hand how well this can help with exactly the kinds of problems I was experiencing. Someone reports a problem on social media and immediately other people chime in, “I have that problem too!”. And once that happens? Believe me, the police take note and problems get solved. What we need to do is get everyone in Des Moines involved.

More Bodies

OK, this is the part you want to hear. I do support increasing staff; not so much to increase ‘boots on the ground’, but simply to give officers a break. They currently run twelve hour shifts and often do overtime. No department can sustain effectiveness and morale under those conditions. This is actually one area where I am in agreement with the current government. We need to gradually increase the number of officers to where they can run full shifts and have at least a few extra officers to handle unexpected emergencies. That has to be done within the limits of a tight budget; it won’t happen overnight.

Zoning

Posted on Categories Neighborhoods, Policy

Zoning is one of those ‘little’ issues that rarely gets talked about in campaigns. But it is an issue that is very important in a city like Des Moines. Zoning needs to be handled with great sensitivity for existing homes and green space.

Here is just one example. A friend of mine owned this property for many years. Before retiring, he divided the property, keeping the small house on the right to sell and also selling the portion of the property on the left to a developer to build a new home. But before selling the small house, he was assured by the developer that any new house they built would be built in such a way as to be respectful of the existing small house.

But the developer has a standard model of house they want to build so they went ahead and put that up. So now the two houses are less than three feet from one another and the new house looms over the old. The developers were able to do this because city code has no limits for this type of situation.

So now the new owner of the small house is quite upset. And I couldn’t agree more. By being so close, the new house simply overwhelms the older house.

I’m definitely pro-development for Des Moines. We need more good homes for families. But this is the sort of zoning nightmare that happens in Des Moines far too often. Properties are developed according to some fixed plan, ignoring common sense.

There must have been some way the city could’ve worked with the developer to build the new house in such a way as to be more respectful of the owner of the existing smaller house.

I want to find ways to build the new homes and businesses we desperately need, but do so in a way that is in harmony with existing structures and open spaces.

Candidates Night At Seattle South Side Chamber Of Commerce

Posted on Categories Airport, Campaigning, Policy

The Seattle Southside Chamber Of Commerce is hosting a Candidate’s Night event on September 27 at the Red Lion hotel in Seatac. I hope to see many of you there as it will give you a rare chance to see and hear and meet all the candidates.

To further educate you on all our positions, last month, all the candidates for City Council (save Anthony Martinelli) and Port Commissioner submitted their answers to a list of questions from the chamber. The above link gives you all our answers. At first, a lot of their answers might seem fairly pat. But if you squint, you can definitely see the very real differences between us.

One item I want to point out: I am the only candidate for office in any capacity who mentioned the problems of the airport as being of major concern. I find this absolutely stunning. One might make the case that candidates were responding to a set of questions from a pro-business organization and that might have caused them to downplay environmental problems. But most candidates did not mention the airport at all, or only in the most positive terms. And this actually frightens me a little.

I’m running because I feel the city is headed in the wrong direction on several levels. The other candidates will tell you that fixing the city’s finances is the number of obligation of a council member. I fundamentally disagree. The number one obligation of a council member is to protect its residents and the city. Full stop.

The seems so obvious to me I almost can’t believe it needs saying. If I were forced to choose between balancing the city’s books and keeping you safe? The answer is a big ‘Duuuh’. The pollution and noise generated by the airport is so egregious that it is already giving Des Moines some of the highest rates of cancer and respiratory disease in the nation–not to mention the fact that our property values and per capita income are the lowest of any waterfront community in the region. The airport may be an ‘economic engine’ for some, but it is the residents of Des Moines who suffer to make it happen. And I want to change that.

This doesn’t mean that I don’t also value the fiscal health of our city. I certainly do. But to hear the other candidates speak, one would get the impression that the only way for Des Moines to prosper is by creating ever greater partnerships with the airport. Other candidates also prioritize the environmental impacts of the airport far below that of economic development. I simply disagree. Your health; your childrens’ health and the health of our land, water and sky will always matter most to me.

I believe it is a false choice to assume that we must depend on the airport for our economic prosperity. Des Moines has some of the most beautiful natural resources in the entire region. Our location with respect to the various transportation arteries is almost ideal. We can and must leverage these assets to build a diversified and sustainable economy that is independent of any single industry and certainly not one that is so damaging to our health and property.

Fast Ferry Service To Des Moines

Posted on Categories Economic Development, Policy

Fast Ferry Service
Fast Ferry Service
If elected I will do everything in my power to get a Fast Ferry Service in South Puget Sound, linking Seattle with Des Moines and Tacoma.

Here is a great story on the concept of a Fast Ferry courtesy of KUOW radio.

This is one of those solutions to traffic that is so face-palm obvious that it serves to demonstrate how much we’re all in thrall of the automobile. But the fact is that Puget Sound had a ‘Mosquito Fleet’ for years and years. We focus so much on some ‘ground’ solution we forget that we have another potential transportation system which is much greener, right at our Marina!

Most people don’t realize it, but originally Des Moines was a necessary stop-off for ships heading south. We are actually a deep water port that can handle very large ships with ease.

When people get on any boat they are amazed at how fast it is getting to Alki. We forget that Des Moines to Alki is actually a short distance in a straight line. It’s schlepping up 509/99 or winding around Ambaum that makes it seem like it’s a million miles away.

The kicker for me? A Fast Ferry would be sooooooooooooooo much cheaper than the Sound Transit Light Rail for which we have to wait until 2023. Even better, implementing a stop at Des Moines could be accomplished in much less time.

All we need is the political will to bring together the necessary stakeholders to make it happen.