Hopefully, the Des Moines City Council and the Des Moines Police Department will follow the recommendation of the marijuana enforcement task force that was formed earlier this year as part of an anti-racial profiling ordinance.” (See link to Register reports below.)
Included among the list of recommendations are passing ordinances that make enforcement of the possession of marijuana for personal use the lowest enforcement priority for the police, and if allowed by state law, to legalize or decriminalize marijuana for personal use.
It appears clear that our marijuana prohibition laws are enforced unfairly against black folks, In every case, a conviction dramatically damages a person’s future prospects for work, housing, education, and more. All because of our prohibition laws criminalize peaceful activities that do not infringe on the rights of any other person.
Our Iowa state legislators need to get a clue from other states and at least decriminalize the peaceful use of marijuana. It will not only reduce systemic racism, but it is the morally right thing to do.
It may be good for the City of Des Moines to have a policy that, “…requires all city employees to perform their duties without regard to race, ethnicity, gender or other characteristics…”, but that does not replace the need for a anti-racial-profiling policy specifically for the Des Moines Police Department.
For better or for worse, conscious and unconscious bias exist in most human beings. It is in our nature to look for norms, patterns, averages, etc., and to apply what we think we know to our everyday situations. But police officers are rightfully placed in a very special position: we allow them the legal use of force. So, police officers especially need to make sure they treat each person as an individual, presumed innocent, following due process procedures.
In this case, the City of Des Moines should give the Des Moines Police Department clear policy regarding what police officers can and cannot do as it relates of acting on their “feelings” or “hunches” in any given situation. Profiling or pretextual stops based on race should be prohibited. Suggestions by Iowa CCI, the ACLU of Iowa, and the NAACP should be given serious consideration as part of developing the policy.
Link to related articles in The Des Moines Register:
In The Des Moines Register story, “11 things to know about the proposed convention center hotel,” (see link below), Number 9 was, “Consultants say it will help other downtown hotels.” The consultants reported that the proposed hotel will, “…bring an estimated 3 million additional visitors to the city… during the first 20 years.” 3 million divided by 20 years equals 150,000 per year. Divided by 52 weeks = 1,442 people each week, every week for 20 years, who, the consultant says, will not be coming to Des Moines if we don’t have this new conventions center hotel. I don’t believe it. I also don’t believe the consultant’s report that, “other downtown hotels will book an additional 3,200 room-nights per year as a result of the convention hotel.” Sure, there will be some new conventions that will come to Des Moines only because of the convenient location of the new convention center hotel. But, there will also be other conventions that will come to Des Moines with or without the new hotel, just as they have in the past, and some of those will no longer use the existing downtown hotels.
And all this will cost taxpayers $60 million in subsidies, and the hotel will be not-for-profit, meaning that it will also not be paying any property taxes or income taxes.
Link to Register article: http://www.desmoinesregister.com/story/money/business/development/2015/02/20/des-moines-convention-hotel-facts/23746645/
Today, the Des Moines Register reported that the group charged with bringing a hotel to the Iowa Events Center is suggesting that the hotel be managed by a nonprofit organization. (See link below.) It appears from the report that the hotel would have a separate private owner. I don’t get it. Wouldn’t the owner decide who would manage the hotel? The project has already been scaled back from 450 room to 300 rooms due to project costs. The current proposal is relying on, “a number of city, county and state incentives.” It appear pretty clear that the private sector thinks such a hotel does not make good economic sense. Given the vitality of the downtown Des Moines area, we need to ask when, if ever, are the taxpayer subsidies going to end for what should be private investments.
The new downtown Des Moines YMCA should not receive federal funding for its new Olympic size swimming pool. The Register reported that the Y did not receive the $6 million in federal tax credits it had requested, but that it had reapplied for funding next year under the same program. I don’t blame the Y, or any of the thousands of similar organizations across the nation, for applying for available grants. I blame our federal government and elected representatives for creating such spending programs. Building swimming pools, and other local community projects, is clearly an improper role for our federal government. There is no authorization for this kind of spending in the Constitution. Wanting to fund good causes is not sufficient. (As a longtime member, financial supporter, and twice past board member, I believe in the good cause of the Y.) Spending proposals that are not authorized under the Constitution must be opposed for that reason alone – no matter how good the cause. Let’s see if the newly Republican controlled Congress will honor their oath to uphold the Constitution and work to reign in these Constitutionally abusive spending programs.
Des Moines and surrounding communities should welcome Uber, the internet based company that coordinates ride sharing as an alternative to taxis and limousines. Uber is now available in the Des Moines area for both drivers (car owners) and for riders. Uber takes advantage of the fact that most privately owned cars are very under used, and that many car owners have available time to provide a ride to those who need one. What a great way to earn extra income, or to start your own business full time. Uber does extensive background checks on people who want to provide rides in order to ensure a high level of safety. Beyond that, Uber actively solicits riders to rate drivers on a scale from 1 to 5 with 5 being excellent. It has been reported that Uber stops working with drivers who’s average rating falls below 4.6. So, Uber strives for high quality. (Uber drivers also rate passengers, so it is possible that Uber can also stop serving customers who are abusive.) Although Uber will be very upsetting to existing taxi companies, the City of Des Moines and surrounding communities should make whatever legal and regulatory changes are needed to allow Uber to operate in the metro area. If Uber is not doing enough to provide for reasonable customer safety, then laws and regulations should address those issues. Licensing should not be necessary. Generating tax revenues or protection of existing businesses should be considered in the process of making any needed changes.
Recently, the D.M. City Council approved $3 million in federal flood disaster relief funding subsidy for the $3.9 million Franklin Field Senior Apartments project. Since there was no flooding in the area, I assume we must just want more taxpayer subsidized housing. In this case, the owners risk $0.9 million and taxpayers give away $3 million. This will build 30 units at $129,000 each. “Of the 30 units, 66% will be designated for households under 80% of median income and will charge approximately $580 for a one bedroom apartment.” After 10 years of compliance with the subsidized housing regulations, the $3 million loan will be forgiven. After that, I presume they can charge whatever rent they want. The owners will have a $3.9 million dollar property at a cost of only $0.9 million. I understand the good intentions of making low cost housing available to needy seniors, but I disagree that taxpayers should be forced to pay for this kind of thing. This is something that should be handled locally. If there is a real need, and if people want to contribute to this kind of project, then private charity should be able to add whatever support is needed.
On 10/9/2012, The Des Moines Register reported that the Des Moines City Council granted $3 million in federal economic relief funding for 134 new apartments in downtown’s Des Moines Building. The Register reported earlier that the funding comes by way of the Iowa Economic Development Authority and is intended to provide economic relief for the 85 counties that flooded in 2008. I don’t believe there was any flooding of the Des Moines Building in 2008. The federal government has no proper business subsidizing housing in Des Moines, Iowa. This is a perfect example of the kind of federal spending that must be ended.