CITY COUNCIL: The Register Withdraws Endorsement

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A black and white feud emerged out of the south side of Des Moines.

The Des Moines Register’s editorial board endorsed candidate Chris Diebel for city council at-large last week.  That seat represents the entire city.

The board withdrew that endorsement on Saturday.

Earlier this week, voters started receiving mailers from the Diebel campaign that criticized incumbent Skip Moore.  The city had added on what was called a franchise fee to customers’ monthly bills.

The court later ruled the fees illegal and ordered the city to refund the nearly $40-million.  But Skip Moore was not a member of the council that decided to originally charge the franchise fees.

For these reasons, we can no longer support Chris Diebel for the Des Moines City Council.  Withdrawing an endorsement after the fact is unusual for the Register, but given Diebel’s reckless and inaccurate campaign ads, we have no choice, the Des Moines Register Editorial Board said.

The Register’s decision to withdraw its endorsement from a candidate has never happened.

“I’ve been here for 39 years and this is the first time for the Register,” said Randy Evans, Opinion Editor for the Des Moines Register.

“The Houston newspaper, a few weeks ago withdrew its endorsement to Sen. Ted Cruz, so it does happen.  But it is not very common,” Evans said.

The Register said it will not endorse anyone on Tuesday’s race.

“Our mail pieces were factually accurate and fully cited.  They echo the judge’s comments that something should have been done in the past few years to address this problem and it was not.  Nowhere did we assert that my opponent cause this issue,” Diebel said in a statement.

But these franchise fees also emerged as an issue in a different city council race.  But this time, the incumbent in Ward Three did have a role in the original decision.

Incumbent Christine Hensley set up shop calling voters for their support.

Challenger Cal Woods hit the pavement going door to door.  Woods said he believes Hensley should be held responsible for the franchise fee decision.

“She was there from the very beginning from the conceptual stages of the franchise fee.  She was there for 10 years on the city council before they decided that there was a need for a franchise fee.  So she was involved with the budgeting process before we got into this mess,” Woods said.

“Sure I wish we weren’t in the situation we are, but we’ve developed a plan and we’re moving forward.  Alternative revenue is going to continue to be an issue that we need to look at from the city’s perspective,” Hensley said.

The franchise fee decision was made after receiving legal advice from multiple parties which indicated it was the best decision, Hensley said.

The decision was made by the mayor and a majority of the council members at the time, Hensley added.

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