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Cedar Rapids Flood Victims Draw The Line

By Joyce Godwin Grubbs

January 31, 2010 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cable Muse Network, LLC) – Survivors from the great 2008 flood awoke to a startling sight. What they saw was gang graffiti in florescent paint on neighborhood houses glowed ominously. Since the flood and the slow response to get victims back into their homes, the neighbors assumed the worst.  A recent invasion of squatters moving into vacant neighborhood houses, even establishing drug houses, has neighbors on the alert for anything; but residents question the addition of “Florescent gang tags.”

Cedar Rapids ( Homes tagged
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Cable Muse spoke with Cedar Rapids flood advocate, Ms. Linda Seger concerning the use of florescent tags and she related that she had a face to face with the people who were working in the flood district and tagging houses. They would not speak with her until she told them she was a flood advocate. Segar stated, “They finally told me they were from Kansas City and work for a company from Colorado called Family Environmental”. According to Family Environmental’s website the company offers a “gambit of environmental services” including “the management of multi-million dollar construction and demolition projects.” Linda Seger said, “I was familiar with them because they were here this fall going through the homes and checking for environmental hazards. These men were doing that too”.  Also working in the Cedar Rapids area is Tetra Tech based out of Pasadena, California with 10,000 employees and revenue of 2.29 billion (FY 2009).  Segar responded, “How many people do we need to do testing? Is there no one in Iowa that can do it?” Linda was also told another company would be going through the homes in the spring when demolition is scheduled to start.

Cedar Rapids ( Home Marked

As the persistent advocate, Linda Seger questioned, “Who told [you] to spray these letters in bright orange on the siding of homes?” The workman said the city did. “I told them this was inexcusable and it made the area look like a gang was tagging the buildings. He told me the homes belong to the city. I corrected him and said that until the city hands over a check to these owners the homes are still theirs.”

Linda told Cable Muse Network, “They deserve to have their property treated respectfully.  The next day another man in the neighborhood called me and he said the Tetra Tech people were at his neighbors home and broke down the door that was boarded up. He said he made them go back and put it back on before he would let them leave the property. The city spent $900 in November boarding up those houses so that they would be safe”. The next day Linda Segar went to the city council.

The neighborhood is amazed that neither city workers, Family Environmental nor Tetra Tech workers have ever appeared to “un-do” the tags even though the Mayor instructed that the tags be removed and a more appropriate method of identification be used.

In Cedar Rapids there is a schism between the old regime of city officials and the new led by Mayor Ron Corbett and a battleground has developed. At the swearing in ceremony January 2, there was acrimony apparent in the absence of the City Manager Jim Prosser who had also walked out of a council meeting when the newly elected mayor came for the first time after his election.  Another incident involved newly elected council member Don Karr who found planted “nude pictures of Playboy women" in his City Hall office cubicle. Questions arose as to whether they were meant to embarrass him with female staff that might have found them, or were setting him up for something bigger. The military vet went to the heart of the matter and called in the police. That investigation is ongoing at this time to see if there is evidence on the pictures such as fingerprints.

Dont Tread On Me Flag

In the 1770’s the rattlesnake became a symbol on a flag and many items of patriotic unity. The most famous was the flag, which showed the rattlesnake and the words “Don’t Tread On Me” emblazoned beneath the coiled snake. There are many parallels to the flood victims in Cedar Rapids. The rattlesnake is only found in America, and like few other mammals and animals that are protecting themselves, the rattlesnake will “warn” you before it strikes, but once it does, it does not quit until the deed is decided. The flood victims showed their presence before the election warning they were weary of being looked over and stepped on. Now, they are shaking their rattles to say they aren’t taking anymore, and they expect action and respect.

Approximately 1300 homeowners still await resolution, and others have given up, and moved on without realizing their monies and benefits owed them. The Cedar Rapid floods did not receive the same recognition as other famous disasters or locations of devastation where stars rushed to their aid.

At least one Cedar Rapids resident died waiting to go home. Connie Phillips’ sister-in-law told Cable Muse Network that Shirley Phillips was disabled with COPD and on oxygen 24/7. Her elderly mother had Alzheimer’s and was living with her at the time of the flood. Relatives took them in during the flood, but eventually, when it became apparent that they were not going home anytime soon, her mother was sent to Arizona to stay with her son.

Shirley Phillips ( I want to go home
Shirley Phillips

Shirley Phillips ended up alone in a FEMA trailer at the Five Seasons Trailer Park, while waiting, and then waiting longer on inspectors to give the okay for her to go home. All she had talked about for months she “wanted to go home”. She died in the FEMA trailer after accidentally un-plugging her oxygen tubing to the tank.

The flood victims of the older neighborhood have gone through a transformation in the last year and a half. They felt they had gone from an economic development “charm” being presented as an “old but well kept ethnic neighborhood”, to being regarded by naysayers as “slum neighborhoods”. Their once proud neighborhoods, which were comprised of multiple ethnic and religious groups, were very “communal”, getting together and being there for each other in times of need. Many people bonded even stronger during the flood, and then assisting each other in many ways during the after math. Their sorrow is evident as they speak of missing so many of their neighbors still stuck in the mire awaiting buyouts; others will never be back.

Cable Muse Network correspondent Ben Cable contributed to this article.

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Related Articles: (Cable Muse Network, LLC) has committed to follow the saga of the Cedar Rapids flood victims and serve as a conduit for their stories. The message is still they are standing their ground and after nineteen months of survival, “We shall not be moved’. “Be forewarned, we expect our due, so Don’t Tread On Us".

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