By Mellow DeTray
Here’s a recap of Thursday night’s (Nov. 17, 2022) Des Moines City Council Meeting:
Human Services Funding
Nichole Nordholm, Director of Parks, Recreation, and Senior Services, presented to Council on the recommendations for where to spend funds allocated for human services. For several years, the city has had the goal of spending 1% of the budget on human services; this amounts to $250,000. This year, for the first time, this goal is being met. The money will fund nonprofit agencies which support the city’s priorities of affordable food and housing, safe neighborhoods, physical and mental health of the community, jobs, and education. Specific agencies funded include the Des Moines Area Food Bank, Lighthouse, the 211 info line, Hospitality House, and Meals on Wheels. Backpack Brigade is another program which provides 2700 students in need with breakfast, lunch, and dinner on weekends. There were 25 total grants chosen, including 9 that are new this year.
The community will be invited in early 2023 to come hear plans and options, as well as share any concerns, regarding a possible building of a boutique hotel at the north end of the Des Moines Marina. Council wanted to make sure people know that the new restroom just completed at the Marina would not be torn down for this development, despite recent rumors.
Public comments at the meeting were nearly all regarding this possible development, and all those who spoke on it were against a waterfront hotel. One community member suggested there were lots of other places in the city where a hotel would be welcome. People argued that the waterfront park is already heavily used by residents, and should be preserved. One asked that the Public Planning Committee and the Marina Committee be reinstated.
City Budget Overview
The proposed property tax levy, which will increase the money the city receives from property taxes by 1 percent, passed unanimously. Property taxes fund many things, including schools, the fire district, county flood zone, and emergency medical services; around 8% goes to fund the city budget. The Council chose not to institute this allowed 1% increase during the previous two years, due to the state of emergency from the pandemic. Taxes are the biggest source of revenue for the City, with property tax being the most stable. Retail sales tax revenue is increasing slowly, as local sales recover. The Preliminary Annual Budget as well as Budget Amendments both passed.
Council passed the agreement to use the Flock Safety cameras to work in collaboration with neighboring cities in fighting crime through a license plate reading camera system. These cameras are not used to enforce traffic laws, only to find vehicles wanted in crimes. This system is in use in cities throughout the country, as well as in Yakima where the system helped locate two homicide suspects. The agreement passed unanimously.
2023 City Council Legislative Priorities
Anthony Hemstad, the Des Moines Legislative Advocate, will be working on forwarding the City’s priorities for state funds. These include a capital budget request to rebuild the Redondo fishing pier, as well as a request for state funding for marina steps, which would connect downtown Des Moines to the marina floor. Council also unanimously voted to add the banning of the sale or installation of aftermarket mufflers to the state lobby priorities.
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 ten years at the 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.