During the Des Moines City Council Meeting held on Thursday night, Mar. 28, 2024, several topics and initiatives were discussed, highlighting the city’s commitment to efficiency, community engagement, and public safety.

The session commenced with public comments advocating for fiscal responsibility. Updates were then provided on the impending launch of the Des Moines Marina paid parking system and the official naming of the alleyway near the Des Moines Theater. Council approved an ordinance that will change how police respond to illegal fireworks. Discussions also briefly covered updates of the drone show during the city’s annual 4th of July celebration. The session saw pivotal decisions regarding financial matters, including the approval of a biennial budget ordinance and the proposal to let voters decide on a levy lid lift to sustain essential public services.

Public Comments

Commenters spoke in favor of switching to a biennial budget, since it allows for better long-term planning. They also asked for inefficiencies within the budget to be sought out and eliminated, before raising taxes, which it was said should only be used as a last resort.

Marina Paid Parking Update

Councilmember Matt Mahoney said the Des Moines marina paid parking system will be operational soon, charging users $2.50/hour. He said an annual parking pass will be available to residents for $40, and to non-residents for $100. The Redondo marina parking lot will accept the same annual pass, and should also be operational shortly. 

Naming The Alleyway

The alley behind the Des Moines Theater will be officially named soon. Currently, the alley has seating for two restaurants, as well as a retail florist. Minimal vehicular traffic will still utilize the alley, but council hopes to see it become a popular attraction for visitors and gathering spot for residents. The new Citizens Advisory Committee will be responsible for choosing three potential names for the alley, which will be brought to Council for a vote.

Fireworks Possession Ordinance

In response to complaints every July about the noise, fire hazard, and pollution caused by illegal fireworks, Council passed a draft ordinance that will update the city’s fireworks ban. The hope is to pass an ordinance that is easier for police to enforce. Staff modeled this ordinance on others that are in place elsewhere.

Possession of fireworks has been illegal in Des Moines since 2006. Until 2012, it was an arrestable offense. According to City Manager Tim George, this created an enforcement barrier and took much more officer time. In 2012, possession of fireworks was changed to an infraction, which simply requires officers to issue a warning, and then a fine, allowing them to respond to more complaints in less time. 

Unfortunately, when there is no positive identification of who set off the fireworks, it becomes quite difficult for the police to take any action. This draft ordinance, which passed unanimously, will hold owners or renters responsible for anyone setting fireworks off on their property. Responsible parties will be fined, most likely after first receiving a warning. Fines that aren’t paid will be sent to collections.

Improved Drone Show

As the technology improves, drone shows will only become more impressive. The city’s 4th of July celebration will again include a drone show, and according to City Manager George, it should cost the same as last year (~$90,000) but be even better. Drones were chosen instead of fireworks because this option eliminates water pollution to Puget Sound, air pollution, and noise that disturbs residents as well as wildlife. 

Biennial Budget Approved

This was the second reading of an ordinance that will switch city finances from an annual to a biennial budget. Finance Director Jeff Friend said that it will take more time to set up the biennial budget the first year, but after that it should be much more efficient. He estimated that it will free up about 3 months of his time during year two, as well as countless staff hours. He said he could use that time for more public outreach and input, perhaps allowing him to work with the Citizens Advisory Committee. He gave assurances that there will be no reduction in transparency to Council or the public. This switch will enable smarter long-term planning for city funds.

Levy Lid Lift, First Reading Approved

Council also voted unanimously in support of placing a one-time levy lid lift on the ballot in August, in order to help revenue stay on par with increasing expenses. This would bring property tax up from the current rate of $0.90 per thousand dollars of assessed value, to $1.40 per thousand dollars of assessed value. There will likely be exemptions for those earning less than $84,000 per household and who are over the age of 61, disabled individuals, and disabled veterans.

The increased revenue would go toward maintaining and increasing public safety expenditures. Projections show that there would be money for four additional police officer positions, as well as retaining the two officers and one crisis response specialist that are currently being funded by expiring ARPA money. The revenue will also be used to purchase new police vehicles, cover the salary of a new part time paralegal, increasing SCORE jail costs, and court staff needs.

According to the presentation, the median home value in Des Moines is $521,000. The following shows the current and projected dollar value of property tax residents will pay to the city if voters pass this levy lid lift in August, based on their property value:

Property ValueCurrent RateIncreased RateChange

The city will need volunteers to be on both the pros and cons committees for this ballot measure. Council will appoint applicants to the committees. City Manager George said that if this doesn’t pass, staff will be spending months trying to figure out how to cut $3 million dollars from an already stretched budget. Council passed this unanimously to a second reading on April 11, 2024.


Watch full video of the meeting below:

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.