Des Moines City Council still abusing consent agenda

Brandi Webber is a candidate for Des Moines City Council in Ward 3.

So about the Des Moines City Council meetings… You may have seen coverage (again) about distractions, protests and arrests. “Why is this happening?” you may be asking yourself. I certainly can’t answer that alone, but I can add some important context as someone who was inside the chamber during the July 19 meeting.

The council has continually attempted to limit public comment and abuses the consent agenda to push through controversial items, items on police funding, criminalizing and punishing the houseless, denying accessibility concerns and much more. This has been happening over the course of the last year and a half, while the public has been speaking up and begging to be heard. During the virtual meetings the council was able to silence the public. Now that meetings are back to in person, there is no mute button to silence and control the public.

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Refunding Des Moines

Brandi Webber is a local artist, volunteer, mother, and candidate for Des Moines City Council in Ward 3. -promoted by Laura Belin 

A community’s priorities can be made visible by looking at the breakdown of the city budget. Looking at Des Moines’ city budget, you see that our largest single priority, at roughly 39 percent of spending, is policing.

With such a large portion of our budget devoted to policing, examining the effectiveness of police and their role in our community should be non-controversial. When we talk about “defunding the police,” many will conjure an image of a city in disarray as the pillars of society crumble to the ground. The reality is, our society relies too heavily on a policing system.

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Iowa can lead the way

Bruce Lear: A bipartisan policing reform law enacted last year was supposed to be a start. As it turned out, that bill was also the the end. -promoted by Laura Belin

When a police officer pulls me over for a traffic stop, I don’t think death sentence. I think where is my registration and insurance card, and what did I do now?

That’s white privilege, and that’s not how any of this should work.

I know it’s possible to honor and respect the police, and still be horrified when unarmed person of color is murdered by a police officer, often on video, and then the officer is exonerated by internal investigation or by the courts.

I also know there is a middle ground between the “Defund the police” crowd and those who know we need strong, fair, well trained, law enforcement not required to play the role of social worker or psychologist. 

Something has to change in this country. Iowa lawmakers took a first step in 2020, but didn’t follow through this year.

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Large Iowa cities spending more on police, less on social services

Iowa’s seven largest cities are spending more on policing per capita and a greater portion of their municipal budgets on law enforcement compared to the 1990s, according to a new report by the Iowa Policy Project. Over the same time period, spending on social services per capita and as a share of the municipal budget has declined in six of those cities.

Colin Gordon and Peter Fisher authored “Policing, public safety and community priorities,” published on July 22 (also available in pdf format). They examined budgets for the 24 Iowa cities with populations of at least 20,000, because “it is in our larger urban settings in Iowa that the problems with policing — including a well-documented pattern of disproportionate minority contact — are most acute.”

Seven of the cities studied are “metropolitan”: Des Moines, Cedar Rapids, Davenport, Sioux City, Waterloo, Council Bluffs, and Dubuque. Seven are suburbs in large metro areas: West Des Moines, Ankeny, Urbandale, Bettendorf, Marion, Coralville, and Johnston. Three are college towns: Iowa City, Ames, and Cedar Falls. Seven are micropolitan cities: Mason City, Marshalltown, Clinton, Muscatine, Burlington, Fort Dodge, and Ottumwa.

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Three notable Iowa events that happened on July 4

Independence Day was established to celebrate the July 4, 1776 vote by the Second Continental Congress to adopt Declaration of Independence. But many other noteworthy historical events also happened on this day. Thomas Jefferson and John Adams both died on July 4, 1826. New York state abolished slavery on this day in 1827.

July 4 has also been a significant date in Iowa history. Two of the events described below happened within the lifetimes of many Bleeding Heartland readers.

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Des Moines hiring practices don't reflect community's diversity

Joe Henry is a community activist who served on the Des Moines Civil Service Commission from 2013 to 2020. -promoted by Laura Belin

The City of Des Moines’ hiring practices do not reflect the diversity of our community.

Nearly 90 percent of the city’s police department employees (472 total) are white. Only 57 officers are Black or Brown. In addition, the majority of police officers do not live in the city and have never lived here!

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