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

When I ran for City Council, I ran for policies, not against a person. I could have run against any of the three incumbents and had similar results. Because the public is ready for change. Last Thursday’s reappointment was also not about the person, it was about policy. The current majority did not want change and this was a unique opportunity for them to hit the undo key on the last election. Simple as that.

I have heard over and over how the process of the appointment was flawed. I have heard over and over how the process of the City Manager’s raise was bad. I have heard over and over how the Mayor’s comments from the dais have been damaging.

If you agree with the above statements, you cannot support Ms. Bangs reappointment. Because those are also her policies. She said so, both during her campaign and during the appointment process. She is the current majority–and that is why they wanted her back. To hit the undo key. They too were not voting for a person, they were voting for policy.

The Choice

If you voted for Ms. Bangs in November, or supported her reappointment last Thursday, you are saying that you support the direction of current management and that you see none of the problems I just mentioned.

If you voted for me (I hope) you were saying, that you want better process, more transparency and more accountability than you’ve seen in the past six weeks (or the past four years.) You were saying that you want different policy.

So what I’m saying is simple:  You cannot support both of us ( ‘the best of both worlds’) because our policies are incompatible. You can’t both change and remain the same.

The Story: There Can Be Only One

To explain their decision, the current majority said that that they are now doing everything better than it’s ever been done before (literally, that is exactly what they said from the dais.) They told a story of the City being like a patient recovering from a long-term illness and that without exactly this ‘team’ in place, the City would relapse and perhaps never recover. (that is also a quote). Therefore, it would be irresponsible to risk any ‘instability’ by trying anyone new.

And the politician who just lost an election and then began lobbying for re-appointment even before leaving office must also feel that she is indispensable.

To feel so special must be a wonderful thing. But I find this point of view not just wrong, but unbelievably arrogant. Obviously, Ms. Bangs is ‘qualified’ for the position. That’s not the point. Does her on-the-job experience outweigh all other considerations? No organization depends on any single person for success. And despite the financial turn-around in 2016, the majority of people in Des Moines do not see things nearly as rosy as this majority obviously does.

The Choices

There were several excellent candidates for the appointment, which after all, is meant to be temporary; a worthy placeholder until the next election–that’s what the statute says.

I nominated Mr. Maleke because he has skills (he was the only applicant who had actually works in City government and knows the ins and outs), he represents diversity, and because he represents the south end of town which so many of the public said they wanted. He ticked all the boxes that the public and my peers said mattered to them.

What he did not represent was huge ambition to use the appointment as a springboard towards election in 2021. I found this very refreshing because I want the public to start with a clean slate in 2021. Over the decades, we’ve had waaaaaaaaaaaay too many un-competitive elections as it is.

However, I am confident that all the applicants I met with would make excellent candidates in 2021 and I urge you all to start campaigning today. I would be thrilled to share the dais with any of you!

Bad Communication

Once again the Council and Ms. Bangs have been incredibly tone-deaf towards the public.  Despite all the very high quality options, they both insisted on the only choice guaranteed to divide the community.  This just demonstrates a long-standing problem with Des Moines government: bad communication. For decades ignores the public’s feelings on big decisions. We come across like condescending parents, either not explaining decisions or being scolds: “You’ll thank us later!” By rejoining the majority, our newest council member has only continued that bad policy.

As I keep saying, it’s not about the person, it’s about the policy. With our current Council, if you want different policy, you must support new people. And I urge you to begin doing so starting today. 2021 is not that far off.

– JC Harris

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