My name is JC Harris and I’m running for City Council because Des Moines needs change. Now. I say ‘now’ because our current council is moving far too slowly. They exaggerate the health of our city, touting our turn-around from near-receivership in 2016 as being an indicator of future success. But that is a very low bar. We need to make up fast for two decades of lost time where only one road has been repaired, public safety has lagged, amenities for families and seniors have been reduced, and the crazy growth of Sea-Tac Airport goes unabated. Worst of all, our business climate has continued to stagnate and our downtown remains terribly under-utilized—remarkable for a region where every other waterfront has a thriving business district! Now is a time of urgency and not victory laps.
I will use my decades as a business-owner, engineer, data analyst and marketer to provide a fresh perspective on the following issues:
- We need to focus our complete attention on small businesses throughout the entire city, especially the downtown! Our city’s financial recovery has largely been fueled by construction—which is unsustainable. There is only so much land to build on, right? As this comes to an end, we will have a huge long-term hole in our budget. All the new houses and commercial buildings have created a false sense of prosperity. This is because cities now get only a sliver of property taxes! Cities like ours need small business and sales tax in order to succeed and we have the poorest business climate of any surrounding cities. Our downtown has not been significantly improved in decades and the rest of the small business community tells me that they feel ignored.
- We now fund over 40% of our City with taxes and fees that you never get to vote on! We have the highest utility taxes in the State, car tabs, red-light cameras, paid parking at the Marina and very high permit fees. This creates a vicious circle which is unfair to residents and pushes away visitors and potential business owners.
- Increasingly, many of you do not feel as safe as they once did. When the City claims the police are ‘fully staffed’ that just means that we are not short-staffed. That is a far cry from having the police force we actually need. We need much improved partnerships with surrounding communities to address the root causes of property crime and homelessness, now.
- The City Of Des Moines needs to be far more transparent and easy to work with. We need to do a much better job of communicating with residents, speed permitting, and make the workings of Des Moines much more accountable. Recent unnecessary and expensive conflicts with long-established private partners show just how much work there is to be done.
- I want to focus the city’s attention more on programs that benefit families and seniors–especially those in the south half of the city, areas with almost no parks or senior services. Two thirds of school kids are now on free lunch. And over half of our seniors have no access to convenient transit service. Even when the city has allocated funds for these programs, they have been almost always been directed towards the north end of town.
- As a lifetime sailor and fisher I will be the first council member working hard for the Marina community. The City has taken money from our Marina Fund for decades. They removed the boat launch used by thousands every year. Poverty Bay has serious environmental issues that need help now. We cannot call ourselves ‘The Waterland City’ if we keep reducing services for water recreation in favor of cosmetics.
- We can reduce the air traffic, mitigate the noise and pollution and obtain compensation for homeowners. Our city has an absolutely terrible track record on this and the reason is that we have never had any proper in-house expertise. They claim to be advocating for residents, but the reality is that they have actively fought against measures to help residents obtain noise insulation from the Port Of Seattle (our former mayor has now become the Port’s lobbyist!) I, on the other hand, have worked tirelessly on this issue for several years (please see https://seatacnoise.info/legislation/ for details). I have fought back against our council’s bad faith activities. If elected I will become the first council member to bring real expertise and commitment to this crucially important issue.
During my campaign I have knocked on over 5,000 doors. I’ve had thousands of real conversations with voters on every street. Regardless of your neighborhood, I think I know your concerns at least as well as any current member of Des Moines government. I accepted no political endorsements and I have taken no donations from corporations or PACs because I am committed to being a truly independent voice for you.
I am now retired. If elected this will be my full-time job. If you have a concern or you don’t feel like you are getting the service from our City that you deserve, you can reach me any time at (206) 878-0578 or [email protected] and I will do my best to help.
I humbly ask for your vote for Des Moines City Council so that I help make Des Moines the kind of waterfront city is was always meant to be.