Cars Matter More Than Kids

Dear Friends,

My birthday is next week, and in the great tradition of Hobbits – who instead of receiving gifts on their birthdays give them – I’m offering four of you a $50 gift card to either Gateway Market and Cafe, Ritual Cafe, HoQ Restaurant or Cinco de Mayo Restaurant. Just leave a comment on my website – HERE (scroll down to the end of the post) — and tell me what you think of my take on Des Moines’ “Cars Matter More Than Kids” day-care policy. I’ll randomly pick four names out of a hat. You can tell me how wrong I am and still win a gift card. Is this a great country, or what?

“So, cars matter more than kids,” you ask? Yes, I’m afraid so. Like soylent green, governments are made of people. And people not only taste bad, they make mistakes.

Like West Des Moines banning air B & B.

Like Aurelia vanquishing a Vietnam Vet’s service dog.

Like Ankeny outlawing chickens. (Note: Ankeny reports an average of 35-45 dog bites per year, yet zero chicken bites.)

This year’s Local Government Run Amuck Award (yes, the year is young, so this could change) goes to the City of Des Moines for limiting in-home day-care providers to six children. Why? Because one south-side curmudgeon complained about parking.

And the city has taken the curmudgeon’s side, possibly because he votes and kids don’t. One city official quoted in The Des Moines Register story claimed the restriction was needed to prevent “unintended consequences for neighbors, like too much parking, too many people on the streets, overcrowding.”

Seriously?? So, are these toddlers driving themselves to day care and hogging all the on-street parking? Or is even the act of dropping off and picking up one’s child deemed to be “too much parking?”

And since when is “people on the streets” a bad thing? A vibrant neighborhood has people on the streets. A dead, dying or decayed neighborhood has empty streets — streets that are less safe, I might add.

And “overcrowding?” In Des Moines? Give me a break . . . although this is likely to change when climate change forces refugees from submerged coastal communities to flee to the American Heartland.

This is a serious problem, folks. If the City Council refuses to budge, the number of in-home child-care slots in Des Moines would drop by around 2,000. That affects not only those kids and their families, but the employers those parents work for, too. It also affects in-home day-care providers like Tonja Boggs (featured in The Register story), whose income would be cut in half.

Finally, if none of that matters to City officials, they should care because this makes Des Moines look dumb and backward. How does the City expect that fancy new hotel it subsidized to achieve optimal occupancy rates if prospective visitors say, “Wow! Why hold our HUGE convention where they value cars more than kids when we can go to Minneapolis – America’s most bike-friendly city?”

Bike-friendly. Kid-friendly. Progressive. High quality of life. These things kinda go together. I thought the City of Des Moines would have figured it out by now.


Check out podcasts from this week’s Fallon Forum:
– Rampage in Kalamazoo
– Cars Matter More Than Kids|
– Chet Culver on Medicaid
– The Kinder-Morgan Pipeline, with Hattie Nestel
– Restaurant Renaissance, with Paul Rottenberg

Listen to the Fallon Forum live Mondays, 11:00-12:00 noon CST on La Reina KDLF 1260 AM (Des Moines) and online. The number to call is (515) 528-8122. The program re-broadcasts Wednesday on KHOI 89.1 FM (Ames) at 4:00 p.m. and Monday at 6:00 a.m. on WHIV 102.3 FM (New Orleans). Check-out podcasts here.

Thanks! – Ed Fallon

32 Replies to “Cars Matter More Than Kids”

  1. Tara Golden

    I thought you said CATS matter more than kids.. and I did think it was rather a bold statement which some may agree with and some may not. however some cats are a lot nicer, more affectionate than some kids and could be considered to be far less consuming of resources. They dont pollute much, although they may eat innocent birds which i dont like, and mice and rats which i do like.

  2. Gabriel wilk

    Outrageous! We must continually rally to promote healthy communities (that includes children). Thank you Ed.

  3. Kimberly Graham

    I agree x 1000, Ed. And as a mediator, I’d like to see some actual solutions worked out among the neighbors, if there is indeed a parking problem. Losing 2,000 day care slots will have a huge negative impact and shouldn’t need to happen.

  4. Carolyn Uhlenhake Walker

    It will involve a lot of poor families whose children attend these daycare centers so their moms can go work minimum wage jobs! Thanks, Ed!

  5. Marcia Keyser

    Child safety matters more than child-care center income. And if a city has an ordinance, it should be enforced. Otherwise, people learn that city ordinances are meaningless. The change here might be more kids, but with two caretakers, or maybe move it to seven kids per single caretaker, but consider studies and other city experiences to determine a “safe” number. My neighborhood home day care has had 11 kids at once during the summer, from infant to 12, with one caretaker. Not good.

  6. Amy Calvert

    I’ve been a preschool teacher, in-home daycare provider, working mom using childcare, and homeschooler. I won’t argue the “correct” number of children one provider should have (not here/now), but why should Des Moines NOT follow the state law? Most kids don’t get picked up/dropped off at exactly the same time. If we want affordable quality care, some serious discussions need to happen fast. Just like public education, we all have a stake in this issue.

  7. Tracy

    As a parent to seven and former daycare provider, it is difficult to make a living at home daycare. Yet it provides a small, homey, spot for kids to be. Parking should not be an issue related to licensing. The city should be striving to partner and support providers, not make it more difficult. Thanks for bringing attention to this issue, Ed.

  8. Bev

    I am not a Des Moines resident, but when visiting my mother in a multi level nursing home there, we almost always had to park on the neighborhood street, along with many others, who were there all day–I hope the neighbors there don’t complain or hundreds of elderly will looking for a place along with the toddlers. This is a different kind of “day care”, but could have repercussions just the same.

  9. John

    We do not need additional problems for low income families. I hope that the city will change on this one.

  10. Kelly Boon

    Happy early birthday Ed! Thanks for being a gift :0) …and love your home grown eggs!

    …These knee jerk responses to resolving conflict need to stop. I suggest a talking-stick circle involving the curmudgeon, the daycare folks, parents and the City Council. When voices are heard and there is accountability present, and when we sit in a sacred hoop, we remember our connectedness and we are more likely to listen with our hearts instead of letting ego and competition put us on defense. Maybe something even better will surface for everyone!

    We are all related.
    Kelly :0)

  11. Mary

    This is an example of a larger problem in management, be it government, businesses, schools, etc. To avoid the work of dealing with and resolving a single situation, those in charge use or make a blanket rule/law/ordinance that forces everyone to change even though the majority were not creating any problems. What’s next? Limit the number of children in a family so they won’t park as many cars on the street?

  12. Dave Spencer

    I grew up in Des Moines and even as a youngster I regarded the city as just an overgrown hick town. Attitudes like this only serve to affirm my ongoing negative view of Des Moines and its stupid politics. As the old KGGO radio slogan used to say, “From the top of a very tall tower in the middle of a great big field…” We’re just here to see to the whims of those who own the place…

  13. Bob Farr

    And some officials wonder why people are ed up with legal strait jacket government.. One loud complaint registers more than the quite contentment of the many. That practice makes it look like government agencies are just waiting for an excuse to botch things up. Bob

  14. Al Hutton

    Sadly this all but true, it shows that this great country is still haunted my aberrant effects of the Reagan presidency, the “Me Only, Greed is Good” years of “The Gipper” still has ripple effects that are being felt to this day. His ascent to the presidency help the religious right to eventually get a stranglehold on the republican party. One wonders what it would have been like if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated, it’s hard to imagine Reagan coming up with a novel concept like the Peace Corp.

  15. Al Hutton

    Sadly this all but true, it shows that this great country is still haunted by the aberrant effects of the Reagan presidency, the “Me Only, Greed is Good” years of “The Gipper” still has ripple effects that are being felt to this day. His ascent to the presidency help the religious right to eventually get a stranglehold on the republican party. One wonders what it would have been like if John F. Kennedy had not been assassinated, it’s hard to imagine Reagan coming up with a novel concept like the Peace Corp.

  16. Mary Jane Follett

    Dear Mr. Fallon, Have you ever lived close to a day care? It’s not parking but the kamikaze driving behavior of the parents! From all directions playing chicken with all the other crazy parents! And God forbid there be bad weather to cause a fender bender to delay saving Jr. from that rain drop!! Please picture 6 mini-vans racing to the same house and all wanting to be the first to get there. They do not care about you! So I’m O.K with this rule,it’s a public safety precaution! thanks!! MJ

  17. Carolyn F.

    Tell the city they should reserve one parking space for the daycare so parents can drop off/pick up.
    If I win .. Please give the gift card to a local, needy family. Happy Birthday ! 🎂

  18. Charles G.

    Happy Birthday, Ed. It’s already tomorrow here in New Zealand so I have had the extra day to consider your words. Parking should not be an issue; a city such as Chicago that has an exponentially greater parking problem than DSM has all sorts of spaces reserved in residential neighborhoods for home businesses and the disabled. No question that could be done easily in DSM. But do agree that one home caregiver should not be watching double digit numbers of children.

  19. Sheila H

    Thank you for the continued discussion on the issue. I think one thing to remember is that the highlighted day care did have two adults present. I keep seeing comments ( not necessarily here) that one adult s not enough. State law requires her to have two adults and she did.

  20. John A. Gersib.

    The City Council members better not have children or grandchildren in day care, or the kids could find themselves walking the streets. (Hint, Hint). It is sad to see that one selfish person can have such an effect on so many people.

  21. Lisa Homann

    How embarrassingly ridiculous! There will be more parking available when all the groovy ,progressive ,kid friendly adults flee the Des Moines for bike friendly, progressive places that place a premium on quality of family life and MUCH less on parking spots

  22. Richard

    Hi Ed,
    I do agree with you about all the cars. Who do all these cars belong to? Certainly not the children who attend the day care. But I certainly do not agree with your assessment that people on the streets is a good thing and makes for a vibrant neighborhood. On my street we have homeless people and prostitutes wandering the street day and night and that does not make for a vibrant neighborhood and certainly does not make the street safer!! I wish the city of Des Moines would take action on this problem and leave the children alone.

  23. Ryan Elson

    The state already limits in home day care providers to no more then 6 preschool age children. More then 5 or requires it is licensed. No more then 4 younger then 2 and 3 less then 18 months. The city just set the limit the same as the states for max in home day care capacity. So are we upset that the city limited unlicensed daycares with 12 kids operating at double the states capacity? Because it seems to me this doesn’t effect licensed in homes at all and anybody this does effect is already operating illegally with unsafe staff to children ratios.

  24. Lynn Wielenga

    The title’s idea is outrageous…and pitiful if proven true! I appreciate your take on this child-care provider issue. We must put a stop to silly regulations and promote kid-friendly, family-friendly communities.

  25. Louie Arbs

    we actually agree for a change. City should not be limiting home businesses of any type because they bring traffic. Thats what roads are for. As long as the business is legal, it should not matter if people are having people in and out of their homes.

    The only thing i can think of that would cause the city to support this is if it interfered with how they pick out drug houses.

  26. John M

    I can see both sides of this, but the potential loss of almost 2,000 daycare slots weighs more heavily on my scale than the possible inconvenience in a particular neighborhood. This would be a terrible hardship on hundreds of working families. Day care providers can do themselves a big favor by being as neighborly as possible and doing what they can to eliminate or minimize real problems that crop up.

    While I dislike the convention hotel project and the enormous giveaways elected officials have engineered to build it, a better comparison might be the disastrous franchise fee litigation. By previously not enforcing the law consistently, and now going after all providers, won’t this encourage some lawyer seeing a fat payday to swoop down on city hall with a class action suit?

  27. Lee Olmstead

    We have a parking lot with assigned reserved places off street for the renters in the complex. One of the residents ran a daycare in their apartment within the complex. There is plenty of street parking where those who bring their children could park long enough to make a drop off, but they are too lazy to walk the length of a house to drop off their kids (or even to just visit the residents who have reserved places, for that matter). My husband has M.S. (Multiple Sclerosis). We live in this complex and we have two reserved spots. We come home and find cars in our spots ALOT (and, under the circumstances, ONCE is too often). This is unacceptable. As you see, there can be more than meets the eye regarding this issue.

  28. Becky Kipper

    Hi Ed -Thanks so much for staying on top of these issues on behalf of the level-headed and taking the time to publicize them for us. The number of kids per caregiver and/or per available play space certainly does need to be regulated, but based on maintaining safety and quality of care standards. To establish a cap based on a single incident of problematic parking is clearly ludicrous. Either this single parking complaint is an excuse to forward some other agenda, or a whole series of people in our municipal system are not doing their jobs. What can we do to help you keep them honest?

  29. Chuck G.

    First of all I would ask more people use mass transit when biking or walking isn’t possible. Yes, personal vehicles are a necessity but please think of our ecosystem and the future we leave these kids.
    Next, it would be a whole different story if it was a city council member/one of their family members kid/kids involved. I’m sure maybe some council members maybe able to look another way. Ohhh, that’s right using a in home daycare would be a shame/disgrace for a Des Moines council member. Unless it is a family member or personal friend watching their child and then I’m sure that person is not under any type of watch.