Did Windsor Heights, Des Moines improperly advocate for sales tax?

Iowa’s campaign regulator may soon break new ground on interpreting language that forbids government bodies from spending public money for political purposes. When deciding whether two city governments went too far in encouraging residents to vote for a local option sales tax, the board will determine whether “express advocacy” can include language that stops short of explicitly urging citizens to vote a certain way.

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I'm voting no March 6 (twice if I don't get caught)

Heather Ryan makes her case against the local option sales tax for Iowa’s largest county. -promoted by desmoinesdem

In case you haven’t heard, there is a special election scheduled on the intentionally obscure date of Tuesday, March 6, 2018. Polk County residents must decide if they believe an additional 1 percent sales tax will help solve their financial woes. I will be voting “No.” Twice if I don’t get caught. Here’s why:

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Why I support the local option sales tax

A government that does not provide adequate services is more regressive than a sales tax, writes Des Moines City Council member Josh Mandelbaum in this case for Polk County residents to support the measure on the March 6 ballot. -promoted by desmoinesdem

There is a cliché that the start of one’s term in public service is like drinking from a fire hose. My experience the last few months definitely shows the merit of the cliché. More comes at you quickly than you can possibly absorb. The budget is a perfect example of this, but in the case of the budget, I don’t have the luxury of time because local budgets must be certified by the end of March. I want to share with all of you some of what I have learned.

In examining the budget, one thing becomes clear quickly: the city will not be able to maintain its current service levels without new revenue or significant increases in property taxes.

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Des Moines City Council Ward 3 forum: Neighborhoods and advocates

Thanks to Stefanie Running for a play-by-play of the October 10 candidate forum for Des Moines City Council Ward 3, featuring Michael Kiernan, Josh Mandelbaum, and Abshir Omar. First-person accounts of campaign events are always welcome at Bleeding Heartland. -promoted by desmoinesdem

6:30 PM
It’s really a lovely night. Mid 60s, you can smell fall emerging from the hundred-year-old neighborhood trees and the glowing sunset inching forward sooner each day. Max Knauer and Kate Allen have been working with neighborhood associations and advocacy groups since August putting this forum together. I volunteer as a social chair for Gray’s Lake Neighborhood Association (GLNA), so I’ve seen the work that they’ve put into the program. They’ve scheduled the forum right in the heart of my own neighborhood, so it’s barely a half mile for me to travel.

As I arrive, other neighborhood reps are setting up, Knauer fields questions from co-sponsors and attendees alike. The candidates arrive. I’ve spoken to all three digitally via email or facebook. Tonight I introduce myself. I’m Stefanie Running. I’ll be the rep for this very neighborhood. I’ll also be writing about tonight’s forum for Bleeding Heartland. All three are gracious and welcoming.

Unpacking my camera gear, I realize it’s non-functional. I forgot something. I can’t go back home because the event is about to start and I didn’t drive. So I sit and I prepare to take notes. I apologize, dear reader, for my lack of photos. That’s my favorite part. Sadly, what I lack in photos, I’m going to make up for in article length. I apologize in advance.

To make this article a little more readable, from this point on I’ll show the panelist’s comments in bold, the candidate responses will be in standard font, and my own comments in italics.

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Twelve depressing facts about racial disparities in Polk County

The Des Moines metro area has received top-ten rankings from dozens of national organizations or publications that evaluate the job climate, housing markets, or other factors affecting the quality of life.

Unfortunately, extensive research on the State of Black Polk County revealed “significant racial disparities in the traditional economic and financial indicators including banking, savings, employment, and housing.” The Directors Council and State Public Policy Group coordinated the yearlong project, producing the first-ever “snapshot of the financial stability and well-being of African Americans and Africans living in Polk County.” Iowa’s largest county is home to more than 31,000 black people, a little less than 30 percent of the estimated statewide African-American population.

I first learned of this study, now nearly six months old, when Teree Caldwell-Johnson presented key findings to congregants at Temple B’nai Jeshurun in Des Moines during a break between Yom Kippur services on September 30. The full report is after the jump. For each portion, I’ve highlighted the facts and figures that most struck me.

These numbers partially explain why analysts for 24/7 Wall Street ranked the Des Moines metro area the country’s ninth-worst city for black people in 2015 and the third-worst last year.

On a related note: The Fifth Annual Iowa Summit on Justice and Disparities, co-sponsored by the NAACP, is happening in Ankeny next Tuesday, October 10. More details are here and near the end of this post.

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Weekend thread: 2017 elections edition

Many posts about Iowa’s 2018 campaigns for state and federal offices are in progress, but for this weekend, I want to focus on elections happening in 2017. The weather looks almost perfect for the last few days of GOTV in Jefferson, Davis, and Van Buren counties, where voters will choose a successor to State Representative Curt Hanson this Tuesday. The House district 82 special election may not foreshadow what happens in next year’s legislative races, but the outcome could shape the media narrative about whether Democrats or Republicans have momentum in small-town and rural Iowa, which in turn could influence people thinking about running for the state House or Senate in 2018. If you’ve been knocking on doors or phone banking in House district 82, please share your stories in the comments.

August 3 was the filing deadline for the September 12 school board elections across Iowa. In future years, school board and local elections will be held on the same day of November in odd-numbered years. Proponents say the shift will increase turnout. John Deeth isn’t a fan of the change.

Candidates for city council or mayor will need to submit nominating papers between August 28 and September 21 in most Iowa towns, which don’t hold primaries before the November local election. (The filing period for local candidates runs from August 14 to 31 in cities that sometimes hold primary as well as general elections for local offices; this document explains more.)

Anyone thinking about running for school board or city office should read Lauren Whitehead’s advice on waging a successful local campaign.

Iowa’s most closely-watched city elections include the Cedar Rapids mayoral race, where Monica Vernon is one of several well-known local figures hoping to succeed Ron Corbett, who is seeking the Republican nomination for governor. (Former State Representative Tyler Olson considered that race but decided against it.)

Four candidates have announced in Des Moines City Council Ward 3, where longtime incumbent Christine Hensley opted to retire: Josh Mandelbaum, Michael Kiernan, Chris Draper, and Abshir Omar. Mandelbaum has the most backing from local political leaders and organized labor. CORRECTION: Draper recently dropped out of the city council race.

Quite a few central Iowa incumbents don’t yet have challengers, as far as I know, including the mayors of West Des Moines and Urbandale.

I expect an intense city council campaign in Windsor Heights, where some residents are outraged that sidewalks are finally being installed on three streets near two elementary schools. You probably don’t understand why hundreds of people in this small suburb fiercely oppose making the neighborhood more walkable. I can’t explain it either, even after living through several of these battles during the past fifteen years. Most residents of the Des Moines metro area find sidewalks convenient but otherwise unremarkable. For whatever reason, multiple city council races in Windsor Heights have turned into a referendum on the sidewalks question. Even though the city is paying the full cost of the installations this summer, I expect a strong backlash from the anti-sidewalk contingent in November.

When Iowa Republicans destroyed all meaningful collective bargaining rights for public employees earlier this year, they also enacted major union-busting provisions, such as frequent re-certification elections for public-sector labor unions, under rules making it difficult and costly for a union to remain certified. Those elections will begin in September Brianne Pfannenstiel reported this week in the Des Moines Register. Excerpts from that story are after the jump.

This is an open thread: all topics welcome.

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