By Jack Mayne
The Des Moines City Council at its regular Feb. 13 meeting – with Councilmember Jeremy Nutting absent – selected former Councilmember Luisa Bangs to fill the vacant position of recently resigned Deputy Mayor Vic Pennington. Bangs was immediately sworn in and took her place at the Council dais.
Bangs won on a vote of 3 to 2, with Harris and Martinelli voting for resident Harry Steinmetz. Mayor Matt Pina nominated Bangs, Councilmember Anthony Martinelli nominated resident Harry Steinmetz and JC Harris nominated resident Semere Melake.
Buxton’s ‘fierce struggle”
Councilmemer Traci Buxton said “clear vision, experience, business acumen, collaborative teamwork and focus are essential in helping to move forward this $100 million corporation, with several lines of business and 175 employees.” She noted a lot of politics has appeared on the issues in social media.
“I want to make it very clear, from my perspective, this has been a fierce struggle for me, difficult when I go to sleep and difficult when I wake up in the morning.” Buxton said that several of “these people were key candidates for me” and added that she did not make her decision of who to back until “earlier this week.” She said she was “looking forward to this decision tonight.”
Bangs ‘right person now’
Councilmember Matt Mahoney thanked the candidates who “have great things to offer the community.” He said he narrowed his choices to resident Harry Steinmetz and Luisa Bangs, but was impressed with the other candidates “and would like to get you plugged into the community, and also at City Council meetings….” He said he was counseled to “pick the right person for right now. Harry it pains me that it’s not going to be you today. I’m hoping you run in 2021.”
Mahoney said he chose Bangs because “she’s up to speed and has been a catalyst for Marina and downtown development plans.”
“Luisa represents 42 percent of the population of our people of color. That was important to me and (she represents) 52 percent of our women” and he noted that former Councilmember Vic Pennington endorsed Bangs for the appointment.
Mahoney said the Council “has struggled to be cohesive,” and he thinks “Luisa brings stability at this point.”
Councilmember JC Harris said “this is a political appointment.” He said running a city the size of Des Moines “is extremely complex.” Harris, who defeated Bangs in the last city election, said he did not support the selection of Bangs as it “simply was undemocratic.” Suggesting her on the Council would help bring cohesiveness “could not be further from the truth.”
Later in the meeting, Harris said the question is whether people are “happy with the past the city has been on or would you like to see us handle certain key items in a different way?”
Steinmetz called consistent
Councilmember Anthony Martinelli said he supported Steinmetz “because he has been incredibly active, consistent member of our community for many years.” Steinmetz’s experience is “quite incredible.” Martinelli said a majority of people he consulted with wanted Steinmetz.
Mayor Matt Pina said he was the one who nominated Bangs and has spoken with people from North Hill to Woodmont.
“They consistently say they are looking for the quality representation and they are praying for us,” said Pina. Bangs is “fierce at negotiations, she understands budgeting, she has tremendous management experience and tremendous political prowess when she deals with elected that are outside of the city.
Pina said he would meet with people who want to work with and help the city.