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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