Letter to the Corps

I was at my home at 1426 1st Street NW in Cedar Rapids, Iowa when I nervously watched flood waters seep through the bottom of the Time Check levee at 1st Street and N Avenue NW. I was livid when city workers came by the next day and took a bite of dirt out off of the side of our levee further compromising our flood protection. Forced to leave by the rivers we were kept from our home for ten days.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Even worse we couldn’t even see our house. When we were finally able to get a view of the house it wasn’t until June 14, 2008 and we did so from a hallway in St. Luke’s Hospital. I looked through binoculars where I saw two boat docks dangling off the corner of my house while unmanned and uninsured houseboats drifted down the river where they could be seen stacking up along the 1898 Railroad Bridge that sits by Quaker Oats.

After being inundated by the 2008 Midwest Floods my home’s economic value dropped more than $50,000.00 in less than a year. My house’s monetary value may have hit rock bottom but its sentimental worth tripled in that time. My 110 year old riverfront home sat neglected for more than a year because we were led to believe that it was too far gone to repair and that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) was going to tear it down to build a stronger levee.  A levee that was lowered by about 4-feet less than ten years ago.

I became infuriated when I learned the city intended to tear down our historical neighborhood full of affordable housing for a posh riverfront project and that my house was going to be replaced with a green-way park. Since June 2008 many of the flood affected people have been unjustly mistreated . Many have lost hope.  The city hired some companies who came in and further stripped our neighborhoods dignity and pride. Now, many of these people just want to move on with their lives. The Inner-NW area is now viewed as a ‘bad’ part of town.

When the flood hit we were all ready to  rebuild but the city has been made such a circus out of it many gave up.  Homeowners were forced to prove that their home received less than 50% damage before the city would issue them a building permit some were denied permits altogether. It wasn’t so much the federal government that was holding us up but the local leadership whose unreasonable decisions have ruined the finances of hundreds of hardworking people in Cedar Rapids.

One of the most interesting meeting I’ve been to was when the City Engineer, Dave Elgin, stepped up to the podium and spoke about the recent findings of the study done by the United States Army Corps of Engineers. Dave stated that the City Engineer’s Office is held to the same federal standards that the United States Army Corps of Engineers are and if that is the case then this city is guilty of monumental negligence. Dave spoke about the Neighborhood Planning Meetings and all the public comments that they keep referring to. I was at all those meetings and I did not feel my comments mattered nor did anyone else who was participating.

I later found they already had a plan that “they weren’t going to just tear down”. Well, we aren’t going to just let some costly outside consultant’s come in and tear down our historical neighborhoods either! Those of us who were hit hardest by the flood have been beyond frustrated since June 11, 2008. We have had our doors kicked in by the police and though it is publicly denied we were kept from our homes by way of Marshal Law.

This is all in the name of a posh riverfront project that planned before the flood.  Homes are going to fall next week and for what? So the city can build 4 high rises on the corner of Ellis and O Avenue NW (this way they get rid of us and can justify their levee).

I was willing to sacrifice my home for my neighbors but I am not willing to sacrifice my whole neighborhood for something that is not our idea! The only reason people didn’t come back because they were bullied by special interest groups supported by the City Manager and Council.

Cedar Rapids, Iowa

Thank you for reading

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About Ajai Dittmar

There is nothing 'radical' about wanting to save your historical neighborhood! There is nothing 'negative' for wanting an 'outside investigation' done a public service that has had a lot of embarrassing news, especially when they don't do their jobs! There is nothing 'odd' about wanting politicians to uphold the Constitution they swear to uphold when they are sworn into office! Follow @sibzianna View all posts by Ajai Dittmar

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