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Hensley a clear choice


If history repeats itself, a scant 10 percent of Des Moines’ 111,765 registered voters will go to the polls Tuesday to winnow the field of six mayoral candidates to the pair who will face off in the Nov. 4 general election. Voters can and should strive to do better than that.

The issues facing Des Moines are myriad, the decision on who will lead the city through financially challenging times too important to be decided by a handful of voters. When too few voters participate, it’s easy for special-interest groups to manipulate the election’s outcome and advance candidates based on their personalities rather than their vision for the city.

If the tone of this campaign is an accurate measuring stick, that concern is not ill-placed. At candidate forums, in the media, in campaign literature and on bumper stickers, the focus too often has been on character assaults rather than on solutions to the perplexing problems facing Des Moines. The city has the highest property tax rate in the metropolitan area, has been forced to make deep service cuts and has reached its debt ceiling. It hemorrhages businesses to the western suburbs like an untreated wound oozes blood.

We’re fortunate in this primary election to have so many qualified candidates from which to choose. All candidates – save Mary Martin, whose sole motivation for running appears to be advancing the agenda of the Socialist Workers Party – have focused on the problems facing the city, whether they be the effects of deep cuts in the police and fire department budgets, the difficulties of expanding the city’s tax base or how to curb the disintegration of its neighborhoods. Only one of the mayoral hopefuls, Christine Hensley, has demonstrated the big-picture thinking required to lead Des Moines.

As a member of the City Council, Hensley has worked hard over the past decade to understand the city’s problems and develop pragmatic solutions to them. She supports merging the Des Moines and Polk County governments to allow the metro area to speak with one voice on economic development and other policy matters.

She understands the need to invigorate the downtown area to both expand the commercial tax base and level the playing field between Des Moines and its suburban neighbors in the competition for new business. She’s passionate, tough and fearless about speaking her mind, qualities that sometimes have made her a lightning rod for criticism. But she “gets it.”   Let’s do better than a 10 percent voter turnout. And let’s send Hensley to the mayor’s office.

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