HIGHLINE COLLEGE |Fri, Nov 15, 2019


Des Moines candidates debate city's direction

By Emmitt Servores- Staff Reporter



Des Moines City Council candidates are pushing for change but incumbents want more time to continue progress within the city.

The seats for Positions 2, 4, and 6 are open for candidates.

•The race for Position 2 is between JC Harris and Luisa Bangs.

JC Harris has lived in Des Moines for the past 25 years.

Before that he went to school to get a bachelor of arts degree in music from Wayne State University in Detroit and a master of science degree in computer engineering from the University of Michigan.

He was a small business owner for 25 years. He also worked as an engineer working on large systems, including finance for companies such as Disney, Walmart, and AT&T.

The now-retired candidate is running for city council because he said he believes that Des Moines is not being used to the best of its ability.

At a forum Harris said "downtown is way too valuable for dollar stores and nail salons."

He said that due to tax changes starting in the 2000s, cities can no longer survive on just property taxes; they must build robust retail business districts.

"We must develop a long-term business plan that derives far more of our revenue from

small-business sales tax than we do now," Harris said.

He said that supporting local businesses through sales tax is one of the easiest things to do because "at least you get a steak with it," referring to getting a product instead of paying taxes and getting nothing in return.

Harris said he wants to help add a three-star restaurant which will increase foot traffic around the city.

He also thinks that he could be a different voice on a city council that "votes 7-0 on practically everything."

Harris said he believes that they aren't getting an objective view on anything.

He said in the past 10 years the Sea-Tac Airport has grown, resulting in a 60 percent increase in flights.

"That has made the area much noisier, but it also has made Sea-Tac the single biggest single-point polluter in the State of Washington," Harris said.

He said he believes that this affects the health of residents and property values.

Three years ago Harris helped found a website that acts as a resource for people interest- ed in learning about the issues of the airport.

He said he wants the city to emphasize younger families.

He wants to do this by adding restaurants, parks, and other family programs.

Harris said this would be achievable if Des Moines develops its small business and downtown area.

Luisa Bangs has lived in Des Moines for 24 years.

She is running after five years on the council because she felt an obligation to continue to act on issues and resolve issues that needed resolution rather than create unfounded issues.

"I know the potential of our city and have worked and will continue to work on ensuring Des Moines becomes a destination city while continuing to assure its livability," Bangs said.

Bangs said she believes that her 40 years of experience in the workplace will help her deal with complex issues and do what she was elected to accomplish.

"Council work is difficult, it never ends, but we all feel re- warded when we work things out together... it takes collaboration and negotiation on a council of seven," Bangs said.

She said she wants to move forward with development plans and wants to increase retail opportunities and economic development in the down- town area.

"If the city owned the properties downtown, we could actually move toward securing more retail and increasing vitality downtown," Bangs said.

She said that she is committed to maintaining and increasing affordable housing as well as continuing to support the Des Moines police department and the city's safety efforts.

"It is our job to keep our city financially solvent and sustain- able," Bangs said.

She said she believes that environmental impacts from the Sea-Tac airport is another major issue affecting Des Moines.

•Position 4 features incumbent Jeremy Nutting and former council member Susan White. Susan White is attempting to return to the Des Moines city council after a 10-year hiatus. White has lived in Des Moines, specifically Redondo, for 34 years.

One of the reasons White said she is running is because "[Redondo] needs a little bit of representation."

"I am running again because I believe we need equitable balance on the city council and representation for the lower half of our city," White said.

She, along with other candidates, believes that the environmental impact from the airport is affecting the quality of life in Des Moines.

White also said she wants to continue increasing the amount of affordable housing in Des Moines.

She said experience on the Des Moines city council from 2001 to 2009 helps because it shows that she "knows how to make things work."

She also said she wants to add restaurants and shops to help with the sustainability of Des Moines.

Jeremy Nutting is running for re-election for Position 4.

Nutting has owned his own demolition and construction business for seven years and also works for a local contractor.

At a community forum Nutting said that he wanted a proactive police department rather than a reactive one.

He said that this will be done because "this is the first time in 15 years that we have had a fully staffed police force."

He said the police department has been able to increase speed patrols and has had Des Moines Police officers deputized as US Marshals.

Nutting said that through collaboration between the city manager and the city council they were able to "create a sustainable budget and brought the city back to financial solvency."

He said that the city council has created multiple working relationships with businesses, investors and property owners that are built on trust and communication.

"I would hate to see us take any steps backwards due to a change in council personnel," Nutting said.

•The race for Position 6 is between incumbent Rob Back and Anthony Martinelli.

Rob Back is a long time local business owner in the City of Des Moines. He has owned a building maintenance service since 1985 and owns many rental properties. He is also a certified baseball umpire.

This is his fifth run at being a City Council member, previously having run in 2001, 2003, 2005, and winning for the first time in 2015.

Back has a bachelor's degree in theology from Pacific School of Theology and a bachelor's in business administration from Griffin College.

Back wants to be re-elected so that he can "continue pressure on the Port of Seattle for mitigating the disproportionate impacts we suffer from the SeaTac Airport."

Another reason Back is running for City Council is so that he can continue building financial stability for the city.

Back said that he was part of the effort to keep Des Moines out of bankruptcy in 2015.

He said "[the city] is in a very good place."

Back said he wants to limit the city's "wasteful spending."

Anthony Martinelli, 29, is the youngest candidate on the ballot.

Martinelli graduated from Mount Rainier High School in 2008 and used the Running Start program to attend Highline during his junior and senior years of high school.

He then attended The Evergreen State College and studied journalism and environmental science.

Martinelli currently operates a news website, theveganherald.com, which talks about news regarding new vegan food options and where they can be found.

Martinelli wants to support local businesses.

"Businesses are the backbone of any city," Martinelli said.

He said the city does very little to promote and retain local business, so he wants to sell discounted vouchers that could be used at any local business.

Another one of Martinelli's issues is that one of the main problems is the crime rate which is "considerably higher now than five or 10 years ago."

"Our per capita vehicle theft rate is triple the national average and double the state aver- age,'' Martinelli said.

At a forum last week, Martinelli proposed the idea of adding a substation along Pac Highway, near the Safeway on 216th Street.

He also said that he wants to better fund the Des Moines Police Department to allow for the hiring of more officers and increase patrols.

He said that he is in support of a local push to bring forth a bill to put a 5 percent tax on marijuana sales, which could bring in "$500,000 per year."

Another thing that Martinelli says he wants to improve is governmental transparency.

Our city government lacks transparency, and often passes laws and tax increases with little to no public input and without making it known beforehand," Martinelli said.

Martinelli has also suggested ideas of raising the minimum wage to $14.50 and making parking at the Des Moines Marina free for Des Moines residents.

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