Looking for leadership in West Des Moines: A case for change

Local elections are coming up this Tuesday, November 7. Julie Stauch shares her perspective on the candidates running in West Des Moines, the largest Des Moines suburb and eighth-largest city in Iowa. -promoted by desmoinesdem

Last winter, in response to the bill by Representative Jarad Klein that went after the Des Moines area water utilities, I became involved to stop that horrific piece of legislation. I went to my first Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement meeting and learned that West Des Moines was one of the suburbs where our leaders had not spoken out against the legislation. I volunteered to go to the next city council meeting and make what I thought was an easy ask – oppose this legislation.

And I learned firsthand of the dysfunction of our system of government and the deceit of our city leaders.

That led to a desperate need to find actual leaders – people who will represent the people of the city and not just themselves – which has taken me down the path of civic activist in a way that I haven’t traveled since the 1980s when we lived in Mason City. I’ve met and connected with a great group of West Des Moines residents seeking leaders who will be thoughtful, engaging and listen to all points of view.

Here are my thoughts and recommendations for West Des Moines residents. We need you to vote! Change begins here and now. Below are my assessments and recommendations on our candidates.

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Data Centers Do Not Make Iowa a High Tech State

Dave Swenson

The news out of West Des Moines last week was that Microsoft will add a third data center. At first glance, a data center cluster looks to be popping-up in Iowa. We have the three Microsoft projects in West Des Moines, Facebook’s two complexes on the other side of the metro in Altoona, Google’s two projects in Council Bluffs, and a smattering of smaller centers scattered about the state.

“Microsoft could build these centers anywhere in the world,” said West Des Moines Mayor Steve Gaer, as quoted in the Des Moines Register, but they’re building them right here in Iowa. A map of data centers across the U.S. tells us, though, that data centers of all sorts and sizes are just about everywhere there are people. In short, Iowa isn’t that special. Don’t tell West Des Moines.

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Iowa City ranked 10th most "livable" city in U.S.

Iowa City ranks tenth on Livability.com’s second annual list of “100 Best Places to Live” among small to mid-sized cities in the U.S. Looking at 2,000 cities with populations between 20,000 and 350,000, researchers calculated each city’s “LivScore” using 40 data points falling under eight broad categories, explained in more detail here: amenities, demographics, economy, education, health care, housing, social and civic capital, and transportation. The website said of Iowa City,

Annual cultural events and a strong literary history with writers like John Irving and Flannery O’Connor have helped shape Iowa City, home to the University of Iowa. The college community offers a hardy arts and entertainment environment along with good health care for residents, highlighted by Mercy Hospital and the University of Iowa Hospitals & Clinics.

Iowa City has previously been recognized as Iowa’s most walkable city.

Farther down the list of “Best Places to Live,” Iowa cities mentioned were Ames at number 30, West Des Moines at number 57, Cedar Rapids at number 65, and Des Moines at number 82.

Livability.com explained the methodology underlying the list here. The website tweaked the criteria they used last year to compile the first “Best Places to Live” list:

Specifically, we wanted to add some more variables about health care; look at the role of proximity to institutions like hospitals, colleges and universities; and create a better balance between our survey questions and the topics we were measuring. We created some new variables including a measure of racial and ethnic diversity and a rather unique look at the diversity of housing stock.

Those changes allowed Iowa City to move up from number 47 last year to this year’s top ten. Iowa’s highest-ranking city on Livability.com’s inaugural list was Cedar Rapids at number 30, followed by Ames at number 32. Des Moines was ranked number 70 and West Des Moines number 77 last year.

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