It is long past time that we address blighted properties in many of our Des Moines neighborhoods. There are almost 300 houses that are in severe disrepair. Not only is the city losing out on the tax base from these properties and enhancement of other property values, but vacant houses that are allowed to deteriorate become a safety concern. Investment in these neighborhoods – many of which are populated by our lower income and working-class families – is critical to making Des Moines a great place for everyone who calls it home. That is why blight removal and revitalization plans need to be made with an end in mind and that end should prioritize the positive benefit to our neighborhoods and their residents. I believe that a combination of things will help make this happen such as city investment in revitalization through prioritization of city dollars toward removal, incentivizing investment for purchase and restoration of salvageable homes with historic value and/or architectural significance, and ensuring a mix of affordable housing because revitalization shouldn’t mean gentrification.
Improve Public Safety
I value our public safety officers – the brave and dedicated men and women who go to work every day to keep the citizens of Des Moines safe while jeopardizing their own safety. That is why we need to do more to give them the tools they need and to build capacity in the ranks to improve public safety in our city. Over the last eight years, we’ve seen crime rates higher than the U.S. average – murder rates have more than doubled, assaults have increased 35%, auto thefts have increased 30%, and robberies and burglaries have also increased. We cannot watch these numbers continue to increase or even to remain stagnant. I support an independent review of staffing levels to ensure that we have enough officers serving our city now and that we will be prepared for future city growth as well. We need to increase the amount of officers in each neighborhood and get back to more neighborhood policing where they can get to know the people in the neighborhood.
I believe that our public safety departments also deserve the professional development needed to do their jobs effectively such as Crisis in Training (CIT) Programs that train officers in responding to calls that involve persons with mental illness and for programs that support their own mental health as they fulfill the responsibilities of a demanding and stressful job.
I am proud of my 14 years of service on the Des Moines Public Schools Board of Directors. I have worked hard toward the vision of making our school district the model of urban education in the nation. Schools are a community bedrock – they are essential to the health, vitality, and vibrancy of any city. I want to do more to connect the City of Des Moines with our schools to ensure that our students have access to the best educational offerings possible and that our city benefits from the investment families make to live in our city and attend here. Too many leave our city, move their children to a different school district, or never even choose to live in the City of Des Moines to begin with due to misperceptions about Des Moines Public Schools. Our city needs to be a leader in lifting up our schools and advocating for them to be appropriately resourced. A positive relationship between the city and the school district is an investment in the future of our community and I am committed to working with the DMPS Board of Directors and my colleagues on the City Council to build that positive relationship.
Clean water is vital to our community and Des Moines must continue the conversations to regionalize this important service. Currently Des Moines Water Works covers over 500,000 in its service area which includes many communities outside of the City of Des Moines. A regional solution should help keep costs down while maintaining quality water for everyone – the City of Des Moines does not need to take over the operations of the Water Works. The bottom line is that our state should not be legislating what should remain a local issue and local decision and I intend to ensure that does not happen. Count on me to speak up regarding any proposed legislative action long before hired City Council representatives have an opportunity to file in support!