By Mellow DeTray
Here’s our recap of the Des Moines City Council meeting held on Thursday night, Jan. 11, 2024:
One commenter said she thought a remark at a previous meeting by Councilmember JC Harris was condescending, when he said citizens wouldn’t comprehend city finances enough to be of service on the new finance committee. She said many locals are educated and experienced, and asked council to include members of the public on the committee from its inception.
Another speaker asked council to deny the permit for demolition of the historic Masonic Lodge. She said there has been coverage in the Seattle Times on this significant building, and that the county, state, and even federal government are all interested in its preservation.
In response, Mayor Traci Buxton noted that council cannot consider comments made about the Masonic Lodge during council meetings, but that there is a designated forum for such comments. There is a virtual meeting that the public may attend on Jan. 31 at 6 p.m. (read our previous coverage here). You must register in advance to receive the link for this meeting. Registration information is available on this page. To submit comments regarding the demolition permit application via an online form, use this link.
Police Chief Tim Gately said Des Moines Police are working in partnership with other agencies in the region to combat street racing and human trafficking. He also explained that things like smash-and-grabs, auto theft, and break-ins, including theft at construction sites, are a regional problem. He encouraged everyone to lock up, and get to know neighbors as well as nearby business owners.
Chief Gately said that the department has recently revitalized the south substation at S. 272nd Street and Pacific Highway South. Many officers report there daily, including the special operations unit, code enforcement officers, and homeless outreach. He feels that having a more active presence at this location will benefit the neighborhood.
Gately also said that the DMPD is onboarding their first crime analyst. She has ten years of experience, and should help to more effectively utilize police resources in areas of need.
Chief Gately hopes to hire 12 new officers in 2024, to fill the three current vacancies plus expected retirements of current officers. He said it takes 12-18 months to fully train up a new hire. The team has a full time officer dedicated to recruitment. Anyone interested can find out more here.
Council heard a presentation on the city’s 2024 legislative priorities. Among the asks are an additional $750,000 for the Marina Steps project, and $1 million to build charging stations for electronic boats and an eventual electric passenger ferry.
Other priorities include minimizing and mitigating the health and environmental impacts of Seatac Airport, funding and support for historic preservation in Des Moines, and improving public safety through increased capacity at officer training academies and more leeway to utilize sales tax for officer wages.
Councilmember Harris argued that Des Moines should wait on investing in any boat charging technology, since it is likely to be quickly outdated as the tech improves. However, Deputy Mayor Harry Steinmetz countered that the technology has already been proven all over Europe, where its use is widespread. He added that it would be a huge draw for Des Moines to be seen as innovative and to provide something for electric boat owners that they can’t get elsewhere. He said this is a great time to get ahead on this technology.
Finance Committee Created
The creation of a standing monthly finance committee was unanimously approved. The meetings, located at city hall, will be recorded like other committee meetings. The purpose of the new committee is to monitor the financial health of the city, to control expenditures, and to find ways of growing revenue. The plan is to get the committee going, and then decide on the issue of public involvement once the committee is happening.
Watch full video of this council meeting here.
Mellow DeTray is a Seattle native who has spent the last 16 years raising her family in Burien. She has volunteered at many local establishments over the years, including the Burien Library, Burien Actors Theatre, and Hot Feet Fitness. After working for 10 years at Burien Community Center, she moved on to teaching fitness classes and to work the front desk of a Burien yoga studio. For many years Mellow kept a moderately popular cooking & lifestyle blog, and she had a brief stint in political journalism during a local election. Clear and informative writing has always been a side hobby of Mellow’s and she looks forward to bringing you unbiased coverage of City Council meetings.