Post-Flood Legislature

A few posts back, I had discussed the need for quick, decisive action on the part of local leaders following the Iowa floods. I am happy to see that discussions of possible neighborhood buyouts are moving fairly quickly. Over 4,000 homes were completely flooded in Cedar Rapids and officials are upgrading the number of unsalvageable homes daily. This community can not sustain such a disaster and to rebuild in these areas is short-sighted. I am especially amazed to learn the percentage of homes and businesses that were completely without flood insurance–even in the so-called 100-year zone which had been hit in ’93. While affected homeowners would actually end up financially hurt by a buyout (the actual payments would hardly afford them a new home, if even pay off mortgages), they generally see that this is the smart thing to do and are willing to pursue buyout plans. What they most want across the board is to know one way or the other so that they do not have to put their lives on hold more than necessary.

I had pointed to Grand Forks, North Dakota as a model of efficient leadership following the floods of ’97. I was happy to see an editorial from Grand Forks mayor and city council President in Sunday’s Gazette. They pointed out that a community must forget about “normal”; it won’t be back. But with bold, and certainly controversial, leadership a new normal can be developed. I do not envy city leaders right now as there will be no good decisions. People will be frustrated in whatever direction we move; emotions will understandably run high with all of these decisions. But move we must, and I’m happy to see that our local officials seem to be taking this to heart.

What I am not so happy about is to see that our State leaders do not seem to be taking this to heart. Here, too, I will echo and support a Gazette editorial: these floods have highlighted a disastrous state of infrastructure in this state and pose serious questions of recovery process that need to be addressed immediately. It’s sad to see that the call for a special session to address the flooding is being ignored. The State legislature understandably wants Federal money to come to the rescue, but this does not mean that decisive leadership is not also needed at the State level. We can not wait for Federal money to handle this, and we certainly can’t wait for a post-election session. Any money that does come in will still need to be allocated, and allocated quickly. We need a system of prioritizing in place now, and we need a plan to come up with the funds that the state will certainly be asked to contribute to recovery. The need for an ambitious special session seems unquestionable to me. If nothing else, people will feel better if they know their legislature is working on their behalf while they wade through the muck and slime to recover what little of their lives is left. Come on folks, this is what leadership is all about! This is what we voted for; now is the worst time to pass the buck.

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