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Let’s make it Mayor Hensley


Des Moines voters in Tuesday’s mayoral election have two strong choices in Frank Cownie and Chris Hensley. Each of them is appealing for different reasons, but both are passionate about need to set the stage for growth and prosperity of the Capital City.

In Cownie, who is two years into a four-year term as an at-large representative on the City Council, voters would get a consensus-builder, but hardly a yes-man. In two years, Cownie has proved himself to be a strong and needed voice on the City Council.

He hasn’t been afraid to depart from the majority on the council in his votes or to hold department managers accountable. For example, throughout the tense city budget discussions earlier this year, he discussed at length the effect of capital-improvement budget increases on a department’s operating budget, insisting in one case that the purchase of a new fleet of police cars with an estimated life of 18 months be moved out of the capital improvement budget, which is used for purchases with a longer life. He’s also not afraid to float avant-garde solutions, including selling vacant, unused and non-tax-generating properties and getting them back on the revenue-producing side of the ledger.

Hensley, who has represented Ward 3 on the City Council for the past decade, offers a more straightforward leadership style that, in some respects, has been her nemesis throughout this campaign. Her outspoken nature has made her a lightning rod for criticism that belies the sense of compassion with which she approaches her job. Hensley has worked hard over the past decade to understand the city’s problems, develop pragmatic solutions to them and build understanding about them among her constituents.

She’s a big-picture thinker who understands that only through invigoration of the downtown and expansion of the city’s commercial and industrial tax bases can city leaders avoid the unpopular cuts that have punctuated budget discussions over the past several months. She also offers unqualified support for merging Polk County and Des Moines city governments, which she calls a necessary first step toward metrowide cooperation among local governments. Her goal, she says, is to be the last mayor of the city of Des Moines.

The breadth of Hensley’s experience and her larger vision for the city make her our pick to lead the city through the next few years. But whatever happens Tuesday, Des Moines citizens will be the winners. Both Cownie and Hensley are only halfway through their terms, meaning both will retain strong voices in city government. We need them both.   

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