Why we're supporting Sheila Knoploh-Odole

Bleeding Heartland welcomes guest posts endorsing progressive candidates in local elections. Kathy Byrnes and Ed Fallon are climate activists with Bold Iowa in Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Even with the relentless focus on the presidential campaign, it’s important that we now turn our attention to local elections. There’s one race in particular that we want to weigh in on: the at-large seat for the Des Moines City Council.

A whole lot of fine candidates have thrown their hats into the ring. But one candidate stands out: Sheila Knoploh-Odole. (Yes, Sheila’s last name is a mouthful — try saying it “ka-NO-plo oh-DOH-lay. Come on. If we can learn how to pronounce “Buttigieg,” we’ve got this. And for reference, you’ll see Sheila’s nickname — SKO, or Sheila KO — on yard signs and literature across Des Moines.)

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Des Moines City Council members flouted gender balance requirement

Two Des Moines City Council members seeking re-election on November 5 used their appointment powers to perpetuate a gender imbalance on a key board in the state’s largest city, despite a state law requiring certain local boards to have no more than a simple majority of male or female members.

Joe Gatto, who represents Ward 4, and Linda Westergaard (Ward 2) both named men to fill vacancies on the Des Moines Plan and Zoning Commission when state law indicated a woman should have been appointed. Gatto has done so twice. The second time, his choice worsened the commission’s imbalance and happened well before the end of a statutory period during which officials are supposed to make a “good faith effort” to find someone from the underrepresented gender.

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Joe Gatto is not fit to serve Des Moines Ward 4

Brent Newman is a resident of Ward 4 in the city of Des Moines. -promoted by Laura Belin

Joe Gatto, who “represents” Ward 4 on the Des Moines City Council, proudly displays a picture of him with Donald Trump in his Des Moines restaurant. Which seems out of touch considering the demographics of this side of the city.

The framed photo of Trump is one small example of how Gatto does not understand what being a public servant means, nor does he reflect the integrity and welcoming spirit of those who call the south side and east side their home.

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Jack Hatch running for Des Moines mayor

Former State Senator Jack Hatch will run for Des Moines mayor, he announced on WHO-TV on September 19, the last day for local candidates in Iowa to file nominating papers. A few minutes later, his campaign released a statement and a video, both enclosed below, and launched a website at JackHatchforMayor.com.

Key issues for Hatch will include fixing roads and neighborhood infrastructure, addressing “the urgent mental health care crisis that has been ignored,” protecting drinking water, improving area schools, and public safety measures including steps to reduce gun violence. All of those topics were mentioned in a telephone poll Hatch commissioned earlier this month, which Bleeding Heartland summarized here.

Defeating sixteen-year incumbent Mayor Frank Cownie will not be easy, and Hatch will have only six and a half weeks to build his case with voters. However, unlike most challengers, he already has very high name recognition. Hatch represented parts of Des Moines in the Iowa House or Senate for more than 20 years, was the 2014 Democratic nominee for governor, and is a well-known property developer.

Hatch told WHO-TV’s Dave Price he started thinking about running for mayor after Cownie “decided not to protect our drinking water when he had a chance to,” adding that Cownie “was silent” as Republican legislators tried to break up the Des Moines Water Works in 2017. Hatch acknowledged he was starting his campaign late, saying others had considered running against Cownie but backed off. He’s in the race because sees the future of Des Moines “being blurred” without strong leadership.

Turnout on November 5 may be higher than usual for a city election, because Des Moines has multiple competitive city council races, and this is the first year school board elections will be held concurrently with elections for municipal offices. Early voting begins on October 7.

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