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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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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Who's endorsed the seven Democrats running for Congress in IA-03

Seven candidates are seeking the Democratic nomination in Iowa’s third Congressional district, where two-term Representative David Young will be a top target for national Democrats and outside groups. Young’s approval rating was below 40 percent in an October survey by Public Policy Polling for Patriot Majority USA. The latest Iowa poll by Selzer & Co for the Des Moines Register found that 36 percent of respondents in IA-03 would support an unnamed Republican running for Congress, while 35 percent would vote for a Democrat.

This race is wide open, and the nominee may be chosen at a district convention, if no contender receives at least 35 percent of the vote in the June 5 primary. To that end, several candidates are recruiting supporters to attend Iowa Democratic precinct caucuses on February 5. Those caucus-goers will select county convention delegates, and county conventions will select district convention delegates on March 24.

About two-thirds of the Democrats and more than half of all registered voters in IA-03 live in Polk County, containing Des Moines and most of its suburbs. The district’s sixteen counties contain 161,724 active registered Democrats, 173,947 Republicans, and 171,061 no-party voters, according to the latest figures from the Iowa Secretary of State’s office.

While many Democratic activists, including myself, haven’t chosen a favorite in this strong field, others have been coming off the fence. Some labor unions or other progressive organizations have started to weigh in too. Last week I asked all seven candidates–Cindy Axne, Pete D’Alessandro, Austin Frerick, Theresa Greenfield, Paul Knupp, Eddie Mauro, and Heather Ryan–for a list of endorsements or prominent supporters.

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Joe Gatto defeats Joe Henry in Des Moines City Council special election

Business owner Joe Gatto defeated real estate agent and longtime community activist Joe Henry in yesterday’s special election to represent Ward 4 on the Des Moines City Council. Unofficial results from the Polk County Auditor show that Gatto won by 1,687 votes to 1,283 (57 percent to 42 percent). Ward 4 covers most of the southeast side of Des Moines. The City Council seat became open when Brian Meyer won a special election for an Iowa House seat last October. Henry had begun campaigning for that Iowa House race but stepped aside once Meyer made his intentions known last August.

The Ward 4 special election campaign was not quite as bitterly contested as last year’s at-large race between Skip Moore and Chris Diebel, but it was a close call. Gatto has long lived in Ward 3 while owning a business (Baratta’s restaurant) in Ward 4. In September, after it became clear that Meyer would leave the City Council, Gatto took possession of his mother’s home in Ward 4. A Des Moines resident who works with Henry’s wife challenged Gatto’s eligibility for the race, since he claimed residence at his mother’s home rather than where his wife and children still reside in Ward 3. Gatto said his elderly mother needs help because of health problems. A three-person panel including Des Moines Mayor Frank Cownie ruled Gatto eligible for the ballot. He appears to have won on a strong early voter drive; Henry’s campaign claimed to have won more votes cast yesterday. After the results were in, Gatto pledged “to focus on the real issues of Ward 4 and get to work for the people of the Ward.”

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