Oct 20, 2023 - Politics

Des Moines Voter Guide: Meet the candidates for Ward 1

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of their campaigns

Des Moines voters will select a Ward 1 councilperson in a competitive Nov. 7 election that includes seven candidates.

Why it matters: The ward represents more than 50,000 people, including the Beaverdale, Merle Hay and Drake neighborhoods.

State of play: The election follows the August resignation of former City Councilperson Indira Sheumaker following extended absences.

  • Sheumaker was elected in November 2021, so there are two years remaining on the four-year term.

Of note: Des Moines adopted a winner-take-all election model in 2020.

  • Even if one candidate doesn't reach a 50% threshold, there will be no runoff.

πŸ“› The candidates

Photo illustration of Dennis McCullough, RJ Miller, and Rose Marie Smith.
Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: Courtesy of their campaigns and the City of Des Moines

πŸ‘πŸ‘Ž Speed round:

🀰 Would you support or oppose a city ordinance to make DSM an abortion sanctuary city?

  • Barron: πŸ‘
  • Strope-Boggus: πŸ‘ I am 100% pro-choice and believe that decisions about a woman's body should be made between her and her doctor.
  • Coleman: πŸ‘Ž The city has its hands full with our own issues. To be the safe, affordable and dynamic city we want to be, we need to stay in our lane and keep our own house in order.
  • Hellstern: πŸ‘ If or when this becomes necessary, I believe careful discussion is imperative. Protecting the rights of our neighbors is important, but we have to consider the results of our actions and make sure we use caution. There is risk here and it must be thought through.
  • McCullough: πŸ‘Ž
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

🧨 Would you support allocating a special annual police force to patrol and write illegal fireworks citations?

  • Barron: πŸ‘
  • Strope-Boggus: πŸ‘Ž
  • Coleman: πŸ‘ Yes. The illegal use of fireworks should be addressed with overtime officers ensuring kids and youth are not hurt, and property not damaged.
  • Hellstern: πŸ‘ Staffing is probably the biggest barrier to this, but I want to figure out a solution and will keep trying until we do. The noise, pollution and mess are becoming unbearable (and expensive) for weeks and weeks in the summer.
  • McCullough: πŸ‘Ž
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

πŸš— Would you support more (πŸ‘) or fewer (πŸ‘Ž) DSM street diets?

  • Barron: πŸ‘
  • Strope-Boggus: πŸ‘ Keeping people safe on the roads should be a priority of City Council, and as long as studies show that these diets save lives and decrease the number of accidents, I will support them. Furthermore, I will support policies and legislation that attempt to curb distracted driving.
  • Coleman: πŸ€·β€β™‚οΈ Many are positive, but we must maintain parking in our business districts or this diet will turn the lights off in the city. Everyone seems to agree that the neighborhood business nodes are a priority, but the city sometimes seems to want to systematically take their customers from them.
  • Hellstern: πŸ‘
  • McCullough: πŸ‘Ž
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

❌ Should the city set an attendance policy for council members and the mayor?

  • Barron: πŸ‘
  • Strope-Boggus: πŸ‘ Absolutely, 100%. Councilmembers are elected to serve and represent the people of Des Moines. At a minimum, there should be an attendance policy that is enforced. I wholeheartedly believe there should be an attendance policy, and if elected, I will work to not only implement it but enforce it.
  • Coleman: πŸ‘ Yes. Councilmembers get most of the same employee benefits that all city employees get. Employees do not get paid if they are not showing up to work. The City Council should be no different.
  • Hellstern: πŸ‘
  • McCullough: πŸ‘
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

⛔️ Would you support banning soliciting from streets, regardless of median widths?

  • Barron: πŸ‘Ž
  • Strope-Boggus: πŸ‘
  • Coleman: πŸ‘ I hate seeing solicitors at our street corners because it's a visual reminder the community is failing. Failing those who turn to panhandling and failing the residents of Des Moines who expect the city council to keep the city and its streets clean, safe and beautiful.
  • Hellstern: πŸ‘ Soliciting in the medians is dangerous for both the solicitor and drivers. Generally, I don't have a problem with people at corners, but those I see in medians are definitely at risk. But, enforcement then becomes a concern. Can we effectively enforce a ban without citations and legal troubles?
  • McCullough: πŸ‘
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

πŸ”Ž Going deeper

🧐 What do you think is the biggest problem facing DSM?

  • Barron: Families need hope that Des Moines is their forever city. For some that means we need to address basic needs like affordable housing and child care. For others, it means living in a dynamic city with a council that is eager to try new ideas to solve generational problems.
  • Strope-Boggus: On City Council, I will push for thoughtful development that puts people first and attracts families and small businesses to Des Moines instead of losing out to the suburbs. I will be a strong advocate for affordable housing, including wraparound services and dignity for the city's unhoused population.
  • Coleman: A looming budget crisis that cannot be solved with higher taxes. We need experienced leaders who will listen and take decisive action to ensure top priorities are achieved. We need a plan to grow the tax base so we can provide the services a great city should give its citizens.
  • Hellstern: The biggest problem facing Des Moines is housing. Residents lack access to housing they can afford. Too much of our housing stock is owned by companies outside the city and state that exploit our neighbors and allow properties to fall into disrepair. Too many neighbors struggle to maintain aging homes.
  • McCullough: Skyrocketing prices on everything, especially housing and other necessities like food and gas for our cars. This also leads to an uptick in homelessness and higher crime rates.
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

πŸ— What should the city do about the uncertainty linked with the Merle Hay/Buccaneers project?

  • Barron: We have to be engaged in the discussions, but I'm reticent to commit public funds with other needs more directly affecting families.
  • Strope-Boggus: I believe we need to look at both public and private partnerships in this to make sure it doesn't become a blight in our ward.
  • Coleman: Merle Hay Mall is central to a strong Ward 1. We need a leader who will make this a priority bringing people together to make it happen. Our area has been granted significant state dollars; we need to capitalize on it and make us stronger. Count on my leadership here!
  • Hellstern: To provide opportunities in neighborhoods for business, work and community building, this project should be supported. Suggesting city funding when neighbors don't have homes or secure access to food feels wrong, so if funds are used, there should be guarantees of jobs added and income dollars returned to the city.
  • McCullough: Honestly, nothing. Merle Hay & The Bucs need to pay their bills.
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

πŸ€Ήβ€β™‚οΈ How should the city help downtown enhance its vibrancy?

  • Barron: More affordable housing options will help bring young people back to downtown as residents. People make a community vibrant. So we need to continue to talk to fellow residents and learn from them.
  • Strope-Boggus: I am a firm believer in beautification of the city including creating more murals and areas for free expression throughout the city. I would also be open to implementing bike and walking art tours where residents are free to show off their talent and creativity.
  • Coleman: Our city should prioritize and excel at the following: 1) clean up downtown and make it a pleasant place to live, work and play; 2) ensure safety with innovative efforts to reduce fear and crime 3) engage with small businesses; they should know we want them to grow and succeed.
  • Hellstern: Downtown Des Moines is vibrant. Anyone can take advantage of enviable public art, fantastic restaurants, unique events and activities, and features like Lauridsen Skate Park, Grays Lake Park and the soon-to-be Market District. It's time for the city to focus on creating vibrant neighborhoods and housing unhoused residents.
  • McCullough: Keep the streets and parks clean, fix the roads and make parking more affordable.
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

😎 What's 1 fun thing voters don't know about you?

  • Barron: I once went skydiving in Mexico.
  • Strope-Boggus: I collect snow globes, I have more than 100 from all over the world. I love the calmness they bring, but when you shake them up they are just as beautiful. Sometimes we need to shake things up.
  • Coleman: For a guy who loves this city, it is pretty cool that my oldest kid is president of his neighborhood association in Waveland Park.
  • Hellstern: When I have a song stuck in my head, I sing the theme to "Gilligan's Island." Eradicates the earworm every time.
  • McCullough: I enjoy playing Dungeons & Dragons.
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: ❓

✍️ Summarize the city in five words or less.

  • Barron: Vibrant, diverse; council less so.
  • Strope-Boggus: We are going to do better.
  • Coleman: Welcoming. Promising. Beautiful. Diverse. Home.
  • Hellstern: Home.
  • McCullough: The Heart of Iowa.
  • Miller:❓
  • Smith: 2024 and Beyond...For Citizens of Des Moines.
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