LETTER: Resident doesn’t think Council allocating enough money for police

[EDITOR’S NOTE: The following is a Letter to the Editor, written by a Reader. It does not necessarily reflect the opinion of The Waterland Blog nor its staff:]

Dear Des Moines Citizens,

It is an auspicious occasion for Des Moines, because the City Council is deliberating on our 2015 budget; allocating precious-few resources to the many needs of our community. This is arguably the most important duty of a City Council, because it requires them to prioritize a list of wants, against a litany of needs; providing us both essential and non-essential government services. A budget is the manifestation of an organization’s priorities. Where the Council puts our tax money, shows what their priorities are. Unfortunately, the budgetary priorities of the Des Moines City Council are manifestly incongruent with their current stated priorities in their Mission/Vision statement, which is the Council’s guiding document and creed, as seen on the City’s website here: http://wa-desmoines.civicplus.com/DocumentCenter/View/89

As of this writing, the City Council’s Mission states they “protect, preserve, promote, and improve the community by providing leadership and services reflecting the pride and values of Des Moines citizens,” and their number one Goal in support of that Mission is to “Protect People and Property.” But I ask my fellow citizens now, do you believe the Council has been faithfully executing those solemn principles? I would emphatically say no, and here is why.

For the past few years, the Council has allocated those very limited monetary resources into NON-essential “services” like remodeling the historical buildings in the Beach Park, in lieu of first providing essential services like the “industry standard” quantity of police officers here. This clearly demonstrates Council’s real priority. “Essential” governmental services are those things which are absolutely indispensable to a functioning city or society. The value-added to the city by just one extra police officer, (let alone the industry standard quantity) deterring crime and arresting those who victimize our citizens, far outweighs any benefits of having freshly-remodeled buildings in the Beach Park, which will provide dubious returns to the city. Put in economic parlance, Des Moines City Council has not supplied (funded) enough police officers, to fulfil the demand (rising crime) for police services. Which essential city “services” would you prefer from your leaders? Cops or structures? Security or vanity?

The Council’s minimal discussion about crime in Des Moines has been dismissive and downright contemptuous of the published FBI statistics which are driving the overall conversation. The most important aspect of which is the shocking rise in total violent and property crime in Des Moines between 2002 and 2012 (+18% and +27% respectively), as well as last week’s release from the FBI, showing yet another 5% increase in the Violent Crime rate here in DM between 2012 and 2013. To put a cherry on top of it all, we had both a shooting AND a murder here last week. For the past decade, the Council has been chronically understaffing the DM Police Department, by at least 10 police officers per state average for a city of our population, presumably to fund their non-essential vanity projects in the Beach Park instead. This is simply outrageous.

After being directly confronted with the incongruences of the City Council’s budgeting and their written creed at the Thursday Nov 13th Council meeting, they reacted. Just two days later on Saturday Nov 15th during their yearly Budget Retreat, they quickly moved to change their creed; to not be seen as hypocritical in their duties to live up to their own public-facing standards. Think about this for a second. Rather than affirmatively DEALING with the City’s problems and actually DOING something, they moved the goalposts. I see this as a serious integrity problem with the City Council. This is not my idea of the “leadership” they purport to provide in their mission statement.

Completely sidestepping the crime problem in Des Moines, the Council also voted at the Budget Retreat to change their top long-term strategic objective from “Increase Public Safety” to “Provide support for programs to improve public safety.” No discussion of exactly what “support” they would provide however (moral support?). Council thought that by overtly stating in their creed they should “Increase Public Safety,” they were admitting Des Moines actually HAD a public safety problem; dismissing all of the unassailable FBI crime data that proves otherwise. For a Council apparently sensitive to bad PR, they just changed their creed and didn’t think how phony and disingenuous doing so would make them look in the end. To verify these allegations, listen to the audio recording of the budget retreat here: http://www.desmoineswa.gov/index.aspx?NID=296

To the Des Moines Police Department’s credit, they are trying to become an “Accredited Agency,” which is essentially just a means for the city to reduce risk and liability. With the absence of provided resources, it’s the best they can do right now. But accreditation does NOT reduce crime; there is absolutely no empirical evidence showing otherwise. None. For the City Council to expect PD accreditation to solve the city’s profound crime problems is pure folly. Like painting over the rust on an old car, it does add temporary value, but the problem still remains.

I have no doubt that Mayor Kaplan or one of his accomplices will attempt to equivocate and refute these allegations below, despite having the ample bully-pulpit of his position on the dais. But it is important for the citizens of Des Moines to hear about the very real discrepancies between what they are telling you in their campaign promises and their explicitly-stated Vision and Mission statement (online), and what they are actually doing with their fiduciary power to “provide services.” Considering the obvious inconsistencies, you too will understand how grossly negligent the City Council has been in executing their moral duties to keep us safe, indeed, “protecting people and property,” just like they promised.

Providing the proper quantity of police officers is the most essential of services any government provides its citizens. If the Council can’t get this most basic of things right, by providing adequate safety and security to their citizens, through their most important crime-fighting mechanism (the police), how can we EVER expect for them to get anything else right? Now is the time to demand the Council demonstrate the wisdom and common sense we elected them for.

The Des Moines City Council has their final budget vote next Thursday night (7pm) at the City Hall. Go tell them what you think, and hold them accountable for their promises. Can’t make it? Call or write each of them and tell them to allocate funds in accordance with their (old) Vision and Mission statement. Proper police, BEFORE parks.

Here is their contact info: http://www.desmoineswa.gov/index.aspx?NID=115

James Payne,
Des Moines resident and concerned citizen

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14 Responses to “LETTER: Resident doesn’t think Council allocating enough money for police”
  1. Kristy says:

    I’m all for public safety, with that being said… Parks and Rec pay for themselves and the police department and city need to work on creative ways of funding like grants. It would in no way benefit our city to take money from parks and in my opinion would do irreparable damage, as well as take so much away from our youth, senior citizens and families as a whole.

  2. Dave Kaplan says:

    Surprise surprise! Looks like Mr. Payne is running for Council again, singing the same old tune. Too bad he hasn’t learned to read music yet.

    Over a year later, and explained to him I don’t know how many ways, but he thinks you can spend capital money (the grants, secured long ago, that are being used to fix up a few of the Beach Park buildings) for operating expenditures (such as salaries for police officers.) You CANNOT DO THAT UNDER STATE LAW. Guess Mr. Payne didn’t listen when this was explained to him, by any number of people, the first three or four dozen times he and Mr. Wasson floated this red herring back in 2013. I suggest he contact the State Auditor’s office, or the City Attorney for a more thorough explanation.

    The Council has committed to hiring four additional officers beginning in 2015, and made that priority clear to staff a number of months ago when they were coming up with a draft of the budget. Of course Mr. Payne has no recommendation how to pay for more officers than the four we’re adding, other than his discredited suggestion to illegally use capital monies for operating expenditures. I’m still waiting to hear on which departments or programs he would eliminate to fund the additional officers he claims we need.

    Instead of Mr. Payne’s constant rant at the Council meetings, I prefer to trust the judgment of Chief Delgado and Commanders Bohl and Sellars, and the approach they are taking to address policing concerns. That involves a combination of community empowerment, block watches, finding constructive alternatives for wayward youth, technological improvements, and some increased staffing. The Council is supportive of this comprehensive approach.

    Nothing is as simple as it would appear, though Mr. Payne would have you believe differently. In the end it comes down to this: you can’t spend capital monies on policing; you can’t add more police without cutting entire departments … services that our community has told us repeatedly that we want/need; and you can’t simply add more police without having a way to pay for them that is SUSTAINABLE. That is responsible governing, and I’ll place my trust in our Police Department’s leadership over that of Mr. Payne.

    • AB in DM says:

      Classic political move Mayor Kaplan. Abdicate all responsibility for crime reduction to the Police, then provide them no material support. Nice play man.

    • Don Wasson [email protected] says:

      Kaplan is very clear about his dislike for Mr. Payne. But it’s difficult to find any positive ideas about educating his council as to what the term public safety means! I guess that’s because he does not understand the term himself. One thing he makes very clear is that
      the citizens of Des Moines need to apply at the police department for a licence to carry a conceald pistol, don’t let yourself become another of the thousands of victims who have
      become victims of the criminals in Des Moines during the last few years!

    • Joey Martinez says:

      Its easier to believe a crazy outlandish story than it is the simple truth. I aplaud you for continuing to shine the light on the simple truth Mayor Kaplan and correct the outlandish BS.

      Joey Martinez

  3. Citizen says:

    LOL. Kaplan is obfuscating to save his butt AGAIN. The State grants
    received for Beach-park rebuilding were contingent on matching funds from
    the city. The money the city used to get those grants (that the Council
    allocated into the capital budget plan first) could have paid for more
    cops. So yeah, it would be illegal to use those funds for operating
    expenses AFTER being allocated into the Capital fund, BUT THE CITY COUNCIL

    This would not be a problem had the City Council followed their own creed
    as Mr. Payne said, and allocated monies properly from the beginning. It’s
    pretty clear in the letter how Mr. Payne would pay for more cops; properly
    allot tax monies to begin with. Duh! (face palm). The high crime and
    underdevelopment in Des Moines falls squarely on City Council’s unwise

    Mr. Payne nailed it when he said Mayor Kaplan would retort and equivocate.
    Keep it up Mr. Payne, we agree and support you in your efforts to make
    our city better!

  4. Don Wasson [email protected] says:

    It would be very interesting to hear from some of the thousands of victims of the crime in
    Des Moines in the last five years. They are the authorities that nobody has heard from .
    That is just the way his honor Mayor Kaplan would like to see it stay. “out of site ,out of mind. We could do a lot better in Des Moine ,But who the #*%#* cares? It sure is not our
    City Council! or the Mayor.

  5. AmeriCAN says:

    Mayor Kaplan was not paying attention in the last election. Change is coming sir!

    The Mayor should be more focused on what he can do for Des Moines than what he

    can’t do…no worries though politicians like him force me to keep my expectations

    low…Kaplan is an AmeriCAN’T and that is just sad.

    Keep turning up the heat Mr. Payne! You should consider running for Mayor especially

    if Kaplan continues to set the bar so low you can hit your head on it.

  6. Dan Sherman says:

    Thank you, Mr. Payne, for letting everyone know there was a council meeting (Budget Retreat) this past Saturday. An old Futures Agenda had listed the retreat but since no recent mention was made, it appeared to have been cancelled like so many council meetings during the holiday season. It was not noticed on the Agenda at the last council meeting, which was on Nov. 13, 2014, where the next meeting was listed as Dec. 4, 2014. The audio for the Nov. 13 meeting was unlistenable so if the Budget Retreat was discussed at that time, no one would be the wiser. There was no agenda or packet for the Saturday, Nov. 15, 2014 meeting published on the city website that I was able to find.

    The public would be better served with adequate notice of public meetings/actions.

    As to the content of the Budget Retreat, you note that there is an audio recording. I’ve not yet given it a listen, but hope that it is more intelligible than the Nov. 13 recording.

  7. MissH says:

    Des Moines resident for many years without incident or concern, I was recently a victim of 1 attempted and 1 successful B&E. Frighteningly, the successful one happened while my teen was home alone and I was en route from work.

    Sadly, my comfort level in this neighborhood has been tainted and although I understand city managers and law enforcement do what they can, I do agree that there is always more to be done and missed opportunities. Especially when citizens, like Mr Payne, take time and energy to assist, gather community, and focus city managers to where the crime is happening. It become frustrating when politics or personal impressions trump the needs of the greater community.

    We should be working together, not as factions.

  8. Lewis says:

    I just double checked, and it looks like “Citizen” was right. Mayor Kaplan is not being forthcoming about where the Capital Budget gets its flow [insert frowny-face here]. Council votes on this amount yearly, so they ARE responsible for its size and shape. Same with the Operating [police] Budget, which clearly isn’t getting enough attention.

    I’ve been following this city crime stuff for a while now. I particularly wanted to see if these statistics being thrown out were true. Sure enough, they are true, right on the FBI’s webpage. Filed under uniform crime reports. Do the math, it all works out.

    Check this out: While shopping down at the Farmer’s Market, I heard the City Council was recently provided with a damning cost/benefit analysis study, directly related to their appalling budgeting behavior; so I looked it up too. Entitled “False Savings: How cutting police budgets and laying off cops in high-crime cities lacks economic, social and common sense,” the study comes to the following main conclusions:

    A. That reductions in police staffing, due to the economic downturn since 2008 and the resultant loss in property values and taxes, impose costs almost 13 times greater than the savings garnered by the cuts.

    B. That just “next year,” in five prominent New Jersey cities (the state that was studied), 34 more murders, 9 more forcible rapes, 527 more robberies, 290 more aggravated assaults, 549 more burglaries, 260 more larcenies and 479 more vehicle thefts will occur due to lessened police staffing.

    C. That crime will cost these five cities $365.5 million dollars while only saving the municipalities $28.2 million. A $337.3 million difference between costs vs. savings.

    D. A majority of the losses will be borne by the victims of the extra crime, the citizens and visitors, not by the cities themselves.

    E. That the ratio of officers laid-off, to the projected rise in each major crime category, determines how large the economic losses will be in quantifiable dollars.

    Although the focus of the study took place in New Jersey, the exact same analysis can be applied to the City of Des Moines, which will no doubt show the same sorts of horrible outcomes, albeit at a just smaller scale.

    So not only did the Council jeopardize our collective safety by laying off nearly a quarter of the police force, basically dumping the financial burden onto their people (a tax increase!), but they also probably caused HUGE economic losses to the overall city as a result of their judgment. Visual proof of that is downtown Des Moines and the business exodus I think.

    But you know what? Regardless of the study’s scale, the results for Des Moines are pretty clear: Less Cops = More Crime and even worse economic outcomes for the city and citizens alike. (Common Sense that didn’t need a study to prove)

    If the City Council pays attention to the crime statistics & this study, then reverses their old police budgeting decisions by logically rehiring the “industry-appropriate” quantity of police officers, the only losers will be the criminals themselves, who are already losers; EVERYONE ELSE IN THE CITY WINS. But the Council is apparently ignoring those crucial facts, and insisting on underfunding the DMPD again next year, curiously placing all crime abatement into its CITIZEN’S hands (look at the Mayor’s ’empowered citizens’ comment above). That’s SCARY! Maybe Chief Delgado should conduct a class on citizen’s arrests or something so we know what to do.

    If James Payne is right [and I don’t see any reason to believe he isn’t], to me this whole stinking deal raises SERIOUS questions about the Council’s judgment and care for the whole city and it’s people. And then Mayor Kaplan has the audacity to impugn Mr. Payne for his efforts? Good grief! Can anyone say “recall election?”

    • Dave Kaplan says:

      Sorry Lewis, but the funds going into the Capital Budget are not General Fund monies; it’s Real Estate Excise Tax, and those can only be used for capital expenditures or maintenance & operations of capital facilities. That’s a fact. The City has not put General Fund monies into the Capital Budget for probably close to 10 years. That’s a fact, not conjecture. Why is this true? Because we don’t have and haven’t had “extra” General Fund monies to pay for current operations, let alone put into Capital expenditures.

      You can’t pay people from monies that can only be spent on capital expenditures. Period. Repeating Mr. Payne’s contention won’t make it true, and hiring employees … only to lay them off a year or two later because the money to pay for them isn’t there … makes no sense. We’re following the advice of our Police Chief, and doing what our revenues will allow. Without cutting entire Departments, there’s little left to cut. We’ve been cutting for the better part of 6 or 7 years. Our total City employment is down from about 150 to about 120 … that’s a 20% cut.

      Building an economic base to sustain City services takes time; it doesn’t happen over night. But we’re on the right path, and we’ll get where we need to be.

      • Lewis says:

        That’s right Mayor Kaplan, only some ethereal, unseen force, a “Money Genie” or unelected low-level bureaucrat allocates money into these esoteric pots of city money. Budgeting sleight-of-hand. This way, elected officials bear no responsibility for crime and events in your town. How convenient. (Sniff-sniff) what’s that smell? Fishy…

        Oh, and as for the good Chief Delgado, let’s not forget he is an APPOINTEE, not an elected official like yourself. City Council appointed him, so it’s really no surprise he’s telling you exactly what you, and his boss the City Manager want to hear. Keep this in mind as you consider his counsel.

        Time to make a tough political decision Mayor Kaplan. That is what you and the Council was elected for. I recommend you follow your published values, just like Mr. Payne said.

  9. Des Moines Resident for 13 years says:

    Mr. Payne… As a resident of Des Moines for over 13 years (how long have you lived in Des Moines/on the border of SeaTac), I’m irritated at your constant misrepresentation of the truth to position yourself for a Council position… which I will do my best to make sure YOU don’t get. Why don’t you spend your time trying to be a positive force in the community rather than spend your time complaining about the manner in which the current Council and Mayor allocate the minimal funds they have to work with. The fact of the matter is that THEY HAVE put more resources into law enforcement. The current council and especially the Mayor have done a great job at trying to change the course of Des Moines to be more focused on attracting new business to Des Moines and balancing the needs of the community while addressing the crime issue that one neighborhood are generates. Do us all a favor stop conveying your negativity towards the council. That only tells the rest of us that you’re just a short-timer who would not work well in the least as a community leader… what have you even done to make Des Moines a better place? Do you attend the Watch Dogs program at our local schools? Do you coach a local rec team? Do you assist the council by volunteering to work at a local event that supports the community? Have you tried to organize anything in the city that benefits the residents from your SeaTac home? Stop your complaining and prove to the community that you’re a leader and not a whiner… ~Rob Anderson

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