Klein has received support for and, possibly, help to draft this vindictive bill from a group of lobbyists/attorneys who represent both the Iowa drainage districts and the city of Des Moines. While it can be argued such a glaring conflict of interest would prevent a group of attorneys from representing entities serving people on opposite sides of a federal court case, the support Klein is receiving from the Des Moines City Council is even more dubious.
Des Moines City Council Member Christine Hensley has been a vocal critic of the DMWW lawsuit. Now, Hensley’s city council has made the decision to support HF 316 outside of the public meeting process. The public does not know which council members support dismantling DMWW, although Mayor Frank Cownie told me he would remain neutral, and council member Skip Moore has stated his opposition.
If the Des Moines City Council had wished to expand DMWW board representation, it could have moved to do so on its own and long ago without this action by the General Assembly. The city could have authorized a referendum. Voters may have opted against giving up their assets and control in return for nothing, but the city could have asked.
The mayor, with the approval of the city council, appoints the board of DMWW, a responsibility the mayor appears to place low on his priority list. One member of the DMWW board, Dave Carlson, was appointed to a six-year term in 2003 when George W. Bush was a new president and Barack Obama was still an Illinois state senator. Carlson’s term expired in 2009, but the mayor could not be bothered to fill the seat until last week, nearly eight years or one full term plus two years after Carlson’s term expired. Other than deciding behind closed doors to back HF 316, the city council has never discussed the need or acted on regional governance. The council’s previous lack of interest and public action is suspect and should concern the people of this city.
Had the Des Moines City Council met in public to discuss HF 316, council members could have been asked if they would continue the lawsuit when the stripped DMWW became a department of the city. Avoiding this question is likely part of the reason the council ducked public debate.
The June DMWW trial will most likely be canceled should HF 316 become law — it will be argued the pending change in ownership of DMWW leaves the case without the filing party.
The dismantling of DMWW will give away assets owned by the people of Des Moines, and throw water management into disarray. Water rates will increase. Those advancing HF 316 wish to stop a lawsuit that might help curb water pollution, which harms public health and causes environmental damage from Iowa to the dead zone in the Gulf of Mexico.
Klein, Hensley, Farm Bureau and company's goal is to circumvent the lawsuit instead of arguing the merits of a case they will likely lose.
The Des Moines City Council and those in the General Assembly who support HF 316 are working against the people of Des Moines and are standing in the way of efforts to protect Iowa’s water. The only ones who stand to benefit from HF 316 are the agriculture industry and the politicians they fund.
This entry was first published in the print edition of the Des Moines Register .
Graham Gillette can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org