By Joyce Godwin Grubbs
December 12, 2009 – Cedar Rapids, Iowa (Cable Muse Network)
-- On the ground and listening to the stories of Cedar Rapids victims Cable Muse correspondent Joyce Godwin Grubbs reports
devastating losses from the floods and tornadoes of 2008 the wounds of are deep and open for many Cedar Rapids residents.
|Click To Enlarge All Images
The now infamous line,
“We will not go quietly into the night” from the movie “Independence Day” characterizes the determination
of the Cedar Rapids flood victims who met with Cable Muse Network following a public forum organized by Mayor-elect Ron Corbett.
Self-appointed advocates of the remaining flood victims were comprised of both victims in FEMA trailers, and victims who had
found housing. Some flood victims had returned to their homes that were rehabbed just enough to get them “back in the
door”. There was concern that there has been a concerted effort by the city to “outlast the victims” and
in some cases present them as “whiners” and “greedy”. In turn, frustration of the victims had brought
out verbal missiles lobed at the city officials such as; “economic cleansing”, “homegrown carpetbaggers”,
“white Katrina” and “Westbank politics” (a reference to the victims on the west side of the “construction
line” declared by the city).
This tired and beleaguered group of survivors, no longer trusts that media and newly interested
parties, who say they have the victims’ best interests at heart. Never the less, they forged on with their stories.
The human stories involved hundreds of hours of research, learning the law as it pertains to their rights, and attempts to
prove or debunk various conspiracy theories and get honest and relevant answers.
story appeared to touch Mayor-elect Ron Corbett and Peter Teahen, facilitator of the December 3rd meeting. Teahen
pointed out that Ms. Wharton’s testimony at the meeting was most gratifying because few people will share the emotional
trauma and toll of a flood in an open forum. Ms. Wicher testified she now suffers from agoraphobia and OCD. It manifests it’s
self in particular when it rains. She spoke of pacing endlessly from window to window to check the level of the water. She
is now sent into panic mode when she sees puddles, and now has to be medicated to leave her home. She stated in a follow up
interview with Cable Muse Network (CMN), the need to drive to a relative’s home who is dying of cancer. She went through
the intricate ritual of preparing to leave her house and be confined in an automobile. The difficulty is being away from her
house at any time, but when the weather is wet or threatening, it is almost impossible. Peter Teahen, a veteran of more than
45 disasters including major international events while working within the American Red Cross, says testimonies like Ms. Wicher
are, “ too rare and there are many more that go unheard because people are unwilling to speak about the mental health
Linda Seger, an outspoken and respectful critic of the city’s
flood recovery efforts spoke with CMN in a meeting held on December 4th after the open forum at the IBEW hall with
Mayor Corbett. In this smaller venue with unrestricted time limits, one of the issues discussed was concerning the discriminatory
“construction zone” that prevents 554 properties from rebuilding, selling, renting and getting volunteer assistance.
They are not eligible for federal (state) Jumpstart money. The victims say they were being told the line was purportedly drawn
on the instruction of the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers. Ms. Seger reports her conversations as well as the conversations of
other victims she advocates for, found the Corp indicated they did not mandate the construction line, nor did they feel the
city was responsive to their warnings about the potential of the flood and its predicted impact. 1270 citizens are restricted
under this construction line, and Ms. Seger furnished Cable Muse with a document from the city which was mailed on 12/11.08.
The point being made was the “construction Zone” was only accepted by the council the night before the mailing.
In part, the information stated: “Plans for this area will not be finalized until the Us Army Corp of Engineers completes
its feasibility study in 12 to 24 months and construction begins in five to 15 years. There is no money to acquire these properties
at this time but the City is searching for resources to assist these property owners.” This left Ms. Seger who had already
reinvested in her property because the city gave her the building permits, in limbo; unable to sell or, rent. She and her
husband now in their sixties raised six children in their home of thirty years. Through rebuilding help from family they can
once again use their 100 year old home as a center for their family and their fifteen grandchildren.
In commentary to CableMuse Ms. Seger wrote: “I am fighting for the rights of the people of Cedar Rapids. We are Americans and we deserve our 14th Amendment Rights denied to us
by our city government through their ignorance of what can and cannot be taken from Americans during times of
disaster. We are not disposable people. The citizens along the river bank are the sons and daughters of immigrants,
veterans, laborers, pioneers, native Americans, slaves, and indentured servants. We are diversity. We are American.
Please help us get the justice we deserve”.
|Mayor-elect Ron Corbett
Twelve hours after the
public meeting with Cedar Rapids flood victims, Cable Muse Network (CMN) sat down with the Mayor-elect Ron Corbett, the organizer
of that public forum, to ask his thoughts about the response of the victims. His words were passionate as he spoke of people
who had lost their homes and in most cases, all that they had. He declared, “They were not being heard. They were talking
but then being told what to do to fit in the process. I believe if you are elected to office, you signed on for the people
and the problems. These people have concerns and problems that are real. We are talking about their homes. Their lives are
in those homes. Of course, they are going to be emotional and hurt. They no longer believe anyone cares or will listen. Trust
is now a big issue between the city and the victims”. In the hours since the meeting he had already drafted a plan to
work with State Senator Rob Hogg to get the Iowa Legislature to approve legislation which will create stiff penalties for
vandalism and crimes on flood victim properties. This is in response to recent fires allegedly attributed to meth labs and
occupation illegally by drug addicts and pushers in abandoned buildings in the flood plain. He also will instruct the city
to resume additional trash and refuse services to flood victim properties as they are still paying taxes for those services
and trying to clean up their properties; it’s only a start.
The Mayor-elect who made flood recovery a priority issue in his campaign, called his first
meeting with flood victims since his election so each victim would have time to recount his current concerns. Scheduled as
a two-hour meeting, it went four hours without breaks. The mayor-elect left as the building lights were being shut off and
no constituents remained. During the meeting, in a poignant moment after hearing many flood stories; he walked to the tripod
tablet and wrote his name, address, personal email and cell phone number for all the attending public to have access too.
He told the audience that he might not be able to solve everything, but he would be working toward it. If he only helped with
eighty out of a hundred, they would know he had done his best; he had listened and he heard. He will again, in January after
he is sworn in.
|With limited resources many victim applications for help were handwritten
Cable Muse was aware of dozens of stories that needed to be told in-depth after hearing the
testimonies. A 87 year old woman complying with regulations which presented copies of her receipts and was told they weren’t
legible. She returned with the originals and was told she couldn’t use them as they weren’t legible either. Now
she may pay-off her debt when she is “117 years old. Then there was the woman whose son brought his construction crew
from Alabama only to be told he couldn’t help his mother and a police car sat in front of the house to insure they did
not work. It remained until her son and his crew packed up and returned to Alabama. The site of a large, impassioned city
worker who was harassed about the two flood damaged cars on his property telling his story and struggling to remain calm.
He told how he had to stay on duty after the flood for days and later suffered a heart attack. Each story was not for sensationalism,
but was a piece to the puzzle of why these disasters take so much recovery time and what are the “universal” problems
in common with other like disasters.
In an email response to this article Mayor-elect Ron Corbett wrote, “As we head into
a second winter without closure many flood victims are losing hope. We need to provide legal support for the flood victims
as the buy-out process begins. I will (be) sending out to those that attended the meeting the list of issue that need to be
addressed. The next meeting will be schedule for early January (2010)”.
Cable Muse Network LLC has made a commitment to be “the voice” of those who
have become unheard in this unprecedented effort by victims of America’s fourth largest natural disaster. With nineteen
months and counting, there are stories and abuses that still need to be told. You can share and read them here, on CableMuse.com.
Submit Your Cedar Rapids Story to the Editor: submitCableMuse@msn.com Please remember to include your
contact information if a member our staff needs to contact you.