Governor Chet Culver returned to the Old Capitol in Iowa City yesterday to sign a proclamation declaring March to be, “Flood Awareness Month.” He also talked with local leaders and flood victims about flood relief efforts at a town-hall meeting.
Culver stated that a century and a half ago, people gathered in the Iowa City Capitol to build our state. Now we have returned to rebuild it after last year’s floods. He said the key to recovery is coordination between federal, state, and local agencies.
When asked why the flood recovery was so slow, Culver said he understands the frustrations, and he’s here to let the public know that the state is committed to help. Culver also expressed frustration with how long it takes the Federal government to get the money to flow due to the beureaucratic barriers and red tape.
The reoccurring theme of Culver’s visit was not just about rebuilding after the floods, but about rebuilding better. After spending a couple hours in Iowa City listening to Culver and local leaders, I’m left wondering who the real victims of last year’s floods are. Is it the public structures that were damaged, or the people who lost everything?
When commenting on what home owners could expect in additional state aide, Culver said, “We can’t make them whole again, but we may be able to get them $5,000 that could help buy some drywall.” The outlook isn’t so bleak when Culver talks about Hancher Auditorium.
I was a little surprised at how much Culver focused on Hancher. He spoke about it with the media after he signed the proclamation early in the day, and he mentioned it numerous later times during the town-hall meeting. Culver mentioned installing new high-tech energy efficient windows, a state-of-the-art geo-thermal heating system – in his own words, “We need to go all out.”
Yet, in the audience was Louise Wolf-Novak, a flood victim who said that she hears a lot of talk about flood relief but isn’t seeing it. She said that people are losing confidence, which is leading them to make bad decisions; they are sinking money in to bad properties because there is uncertainty regarding what to expect from the government.
Wolf-Novak and her husband are currently renting while they repair their home. She considers herself one of the lucky ones. They own a home in Parkview Terrace which sits two feet short of being included in the 100-year flood plain. Her home was spared in the 1993 floods.
Governor Culver was genuinely concerned about her situation, but as he asked her if she had applied for assistance through various federal programs, Wolf-Novak explained why she doesn’t qualify. Both she and her husband work, their home was paid for, and it wasn’t in the 100-year flood plain. Culver then said that maybe they should look into some sort of rental assistance.
After Wolf-Novak spoke, the conversation turned to a more positive note, as the topic of discussion was once again Hancher Auditorium. Culver said he wants to see it become a world class facility, saying, “What a recruiting tool it would be. Think of all we could do with a facility like this.”
I understand the need to fix and repair the public infrastructure which was damaged in last year’s floods. But it seems to me that Culver and others are forgetting about our greatest asset – the citizens who lost everything.
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