On July 6, 2017, we emailed out a list of 10 Questions to all candidates running for Des Moines City Council in the Primary election, which has an Aug. 1 voting deadline. We will be posting additional responses from candidates who answered our inquiry, grouped by position numbers. Of the three candidates running for Position #1, all responded, and here are their answers – published exactly as they sent them – and listed in alphabetical order using their photos from the King County Elections website:
CURTIS HARMON1. How long have you lived in Des Moines and why did you decide to live here? I have lived in the Des Moines Area for the last 10 years. 2. What are your primary reasons for seeking election to the Des Moines City Council? My life was long ago dedicated to serving my fellow man and all my neighbors. Yet we all have different seasons in our lives where, over time, we focus on different types of service. During our season as parents we serve our children. In our working careers we serve customers and our employers. We also have an individual responsibility to serve the sick and poor among us. Currently I see a city that is struggling financially and I feel a strong obligation to serve my community by restoring it to a sound economic footing. Now is the time and season in my life to serve the good people of Des Moines as a City Council member. 3. What do you expect to gain personally from serving in a Council position? My reward will be as a member of a community that can finally afford to pay for adequate police and other vital services. I want to help Des Moines to come back from the brink of financial ruin. I expect nothing more for myself and for my family and neighbors than to be a part of such a community. 4. How should Des Moines react to the Port of Seattle’s proposed large and rapid expansion to Sea-Tac Airport and the increased noise and air pollution some say it will produce over the city? Our proximity to the Sea-Tac Airport is like a two-edged sword. From one edge it benefits Des Moines with great potential for economic development, which can aid us in meeting our financial obligations and attaining our goals. From the other edge it represents a threat to our quality of life. If we damage the Port’s ability to operate profitably, then we damage our own potential to achieve our economic goals. But we can’t allow the huge benefits the airport brings to our entire region to disproportionately impact its nearest communities. We should partner with our neighboring cities to make sure the airport is prosperous, while also ensuring it doesn’t abuse any of us. Working together our chances for success and achieving a balance are much greater. 5. Do you consider the Marina seawall repair or replacement as a major financial problem facing the city and if not, what is the city’s biggest financial problem? The seawall is certainly a major challenge, but one which should be manageable if we have a good economic development plan. Here’s four key points to understand. 1. Sea-Tac is the fastest growing airport in the United States. 2. Cruise Ships are the fastest growing sector of the tourism industry. 3. Every time a cruise ship docks it adds $2.6 million to the local economy. 4.Des Moines is the closest waterfront to the Sea-Tac Airport. The solution couldn’t be more obvious — we need cruise ships in Des Moines. With a solid plan for this type of development we can attract developers who will hopefully share in the cost of the seawall. Without it, we might even design and build a seawall that isn’t suitable for future use by cruise ships. The city’s biggest financial problem is a profound lack of vision for utilizing the unique advantages we have in Des Moines. 6. Do you believe paid Marina parking is the best way to finance the huge cost of the repair or replacement of the rapidly deteriorating seawall? No, in fact, it’s one of the worst methods. Paid marina parking at this time is again working on the wrong side of the economic equation. Until a compelling vision of the Des Moines waterfront is defined we can’t attract new development and the revenue needed to address the seawall. Using paid parking now merely discourages use of the waterfront and drives away new development. It is essentially another tax — the same bandaid Des Moines has applied repeatedly over the last two decades and failed. This is the same logic that has led to the financial trauma Des Moines is currently suffering. Additional taxes can never compensate for a lack of fiscal discipline. Nor for a lack of vision. 7. What are your views on further development for downtown Des Moines, the Marina, and the city’s partnership with the Port of Seattle at the Des Moines Creek Business Park? Please see my answer to #5 above. A new and improved waterfront to accommodate both cruise ships and an updated marina will undoubtedly spur new development in downtown Des Moines. Our city could potentially become an excursion destination itself, with hundreds of shops, restaurants, and other services for cruise ship travelers. But it could also provide services as a home port location. Regarding our partnership with the Port of Seattle at the Des Moines Creek Business Park, we should continue working with them for high quality development. Also, since they own the property beneath that entire business park, please see my answer to #8 below about police, property tax, and the Port. 8. Do you believe the Des Moines Police Department is doing a good job controlling crime in the city and, if not, what proposals for change would you recommend the Council adopt? Yes, certainly, the police are doing a great job, given the resources they have. But we need more budget for police and more police officers, because crime is far too high. Statistics show that crime in airport communities is four times higher than other areas. Our budget for police is paid in-part by property taxes, yet the Port of Seattle pays no property tax. So we need some type of compensation or mitigation from the Airport itself to assist with our police services. Without it, we are forcing our own citizens to bear the cost of providing security for properties owned by the airport. I’m also certified by Crime Stoppers and I recognize how their tools can help us significantly reduce crime in the city. I want us to utilize these tools more in the near future. 9. How would you propose Des Moines control increased card room gambling and marijuana sales along Pacific Highway South? I would like to understand this issue of card room gambling more thoroughly, but it could probably be controlled through our zoning. We don’t need gambling in our city. It attracts crime. And as long as marijuana is still illegal in federal law, we place ourselves at risk by allowing it within Des Moines. Legalizing recreational marijuana in Washington state law doesn’t erase federal prohibitions. Placing ourselves in the middle of a conflict between state and federal law doesn’t benefit Des Moines. We have enough to worry about. Let other people carry the ball on this topic until there is no longer a conflict. 10. What is your view of the way the city now budgets and spends its money and where would you cut or increase spending? There are many examples of other cities who have reduced their budgets by 10, 20, or even 30% without sacrificing services. The key is using our resources efficiently. Sandy Springs Georgia is a great example of a city operating efficiently. With about 100,000 residents they have only six or seven employees. Most of their services are provided by contractors in a competitive market. I’m not suggesting we should go to that extreme, but we could do much better gaining efficiency without cutting services.
MATT PINA1. How long have you lived in Des Moines and why did you decide to live here? I have lived in Des Moines over 50 years. I grew up here, met my wife here, bought a home and raised my family here. The good people, the strong and diverse community, and beautiful surroundings are why we continue to be proud to call Des Moines our home. 2. What are your primary reasons for seeking election to the Des Moines City Council? After serving for 8 years on the Highline School Board, partnering with community groups, citizens and representatives throughout the area, helping to turn around the financial, structural and educational challenges of the school district, I saw a similar need within Des Moines. With the voters’ support I was elected in 2009. It didn’t take long to understand the multitude of challenges that have kept Des Moines from realizing its potential for the past several decades. As a leader and member of the city councils of the past 8 years, we have had to overcome a number of obstacles to move the city forward. While there is more to do, we have accomplished a great deal in the past 8 years. However, the biggest challenge came in January 2016 when I was selected as mayor along with Vic Pennington as Deputy Mayor. That night we were told that Des Moines was 18 months from bankruptcy and the City Manager would be retiring in 8 months. This picture was not acceptable. Under my leadership with the partnership and joint commitment of the council, community and City administrative team we have changed the future of Des Moines. No stone was left unturned and all legal opportunities were reviewed. Our focus was to capture resources with as little impact to the City’s residents as possible. These have been difficult decisions, but had we not acted Des Moines would have gone bankrupt. It took some very difficult decisions, but the tides are changing positively. This is part of what we have accomplished in the past 18 months:
- Passed a stainable budget (1st time in over a decade) – no longer looking at bankruptcy.
- Ensured the structural revenue that supports City operations, Senior, Youth and Parks programs, and community support programs like the food bank etc.
- Hired a new city manager and restructured the city to a collective leadership model
- Added 6 new faces to our law enforcement team (5 positions and unfroze an opening)
- Joined the regional task force against violent crime
- Began a crime analytics program to aid in focused patrols
- Developed a new comprehensive Policing model with enhanced policies that utilizes available resources to effectively address and the environment in which it thrives
- Established a nuisance abatement program to clean up derelict properties that encourage crime and send the wrong message about our community
- Restarted the road paving program that has not been active in over a decade
- Worked with the Marina staff and tenants to address Marina finances, failing infrastructure and long term design issues (slips, floor layout etc.)
- Created a Citizens Aviation Advisory to address the challenges of living next to one of the fastest growing airports in the country, focusing on remediation before mitigation.
- Created a Citizens Advisory Committee to increase City/Community communications
- It provides the finances to repair (or bond for repair) the failing seawall.
- It helps to recover Marina costs that come from users outside the City. (Approximately 75-80% of marina visitors live outside of Des Moines.)
- It assists law enforcement in preventing illegal and nuisance activities in the Marina. Gates secure the Marina at night enforcing closure times. In the short time that paid parking program has been active, The Des Moines Police Department has already seen dramatic reductions in afterhours calls for service. This makes more resources available to deploy into other areas and neighborhoods in the city, increasing the agency’s ability to provide a wider presence and more effectively fight crime in our community.
- The north Marina area provides a critical link for regional emergency management services. Should there be an event in our region, it can support critical air (helicopter), land and sea access, providing necessary support to the surrounding communities.
- Focused on the development of the business park. So far this has brought in over $600,000 in Real Estate Excise tax, in addition to other ongoing structural revenue.
- Reorganized the City to maximize both budgetary and resource efficiency.
- To address an understaffed police force, we installed red light cameras in high incident intersections and made sure the citizens were aware of these devices a month before they were activated. This has changed behavior positively, allowing our law enforcement team to remain out on patrol due to fewer accidents in these locations. They have also generated the necessary revenues to bring our law enforcement team up to appropriate staffing and provided dollars to support additional crime prevention and city management tools.
- We have created franchise agreements with our utility districts that contractually ensure joint cooperation on community projects. These agreements define how the utilities will working together to maximizing the benefit and use of the public’s funds. The city does receive a typical franchise fee of 6% for use and access to our rights of way. It is important to note that these agreements were negotiated, not imposed, and agreed to by all entities.
- Approved paid parking in the marina to help it generate the necessary revenues to address the long-term maintenance and infrastructure issues that come with being over 45 years old. Since tax payer dollars do not support the Marina, the solution had to be a revenue generator for the enterprise fund.
- We now meet the appropriate reserve levels as required by the Washington State Auditor’s Office and for the first time in over a decade we have passed a budget with no one time moneys use to fill budget short falls.
ANTHONY MARTINELLI1. How long have you lived in Des Moines and why did you decide to live here? I’ve lived in Des Moines since I was 11. I moved here with my parents from Florida. Even when going to college and working in Olympia I chose to remain living in Des Moines and commute, rather than move, as I have a deep appreciation for the city. 2. What are your primary reasons for seeking election to the Des Moines City Council? To bring forth progressive ideas and values to our beautiful city. 3. What do you expect to gain personally from serving in a Council position? An opportunity to serve and improve the city I’ve spent the majority of my life. 4. How should Des Moines react to the Port of Seattle’s proposed large and rapid expansion to Sea-Tac Airport and the increased noise and air pollution some say it will produce over the city? The city should do everything in its power to study the environmental and personal health impacts of overhead flights; prior to the results the city should advocate for stopping flight increases. 5. Do you consider the Marina seawall repair or replacement as a major financial problem facing the city and if not, what is the city’s biggest financial problem? I believe it’s a major financial issue that needs to be properly addressed, but it’s far from our only financial issue. I believe a lack of proper funding for our police force, and social services, is also a big issue. 6. Do you believe paid Marina parking is the best way to finance the huge cost of the repair or replacement of the rapidly deteriorating seawall? I believe strongly that Marina parking should be free for Des Moines residents. I do, however, think it’s a good idea to use parking revenue from out-of-city visitors to help repair the seawall. 7. What are your views on further development for downtown Des Moines, the Marina, and the city’s partnership with the Port of Seattle at the Des Moines Creek Business Park? I believe the city should work to establish a centralized community center in the downtown area to help bring people together and give residents more things to do. In the same vein I support further renovations and expansions of city parks. 8. Do you believe the Des Moines Police Department is doing a good job controlling crime in the city and, if not, what proposals for change would you recommend the Council adopt? I believe our police department is doing a great. However, do I believe they could benefit from an increase in the number of officers on duty at any given time (which is why I support increased funding for the department). 9. How would you propose Des Moines control increased card room gambling and marijuana sales along Pacific Highway South? Placing a 5% city-wide tax on cannabis sales would result in nearly $500,000 in annual taxes for Des Moines based on sales data for the city’s only cannabis outlet. I support such a tax, and support allowing at least 1 to 3 more cannabis outlets throughout the city, stopping cannabis sales from being exclusively to Pac Hwy. As for card room gambling, if licensed and above-ground, I don’t oppose them, and believe they could bring revenue to the city if properly taxed. I believe increased police patrols along Pac Highway would go a long way in reducing crime. 10. What is your view of the way the city now budgets and spends its money and where would you cut or increase spending? I believe the city should make an effort to reduce the cost of utility taxes, which for many people have gone up substantially in recent years and has placed a large burden on low-income families. I would like to see the city put more funding into their police department, which could be paid for by the above-mentioned city-wide cannabis tax. I also believe the city should spend more on infrastructure in order to increase jobs and grow the city.]]>