As we approached our second year in Cedar Rapids, Iowa, poverty stricken neighborhoods hit by the Federally Declared Disaster of 2008 still sit empty and are now blighted. These homes were not blighted by the people who lived there the houses were blighted by the City of Cedar Rapids who hired contractors and consultants to come in and force the people into a ‘voluntary property acquisition’ so that they could implement their ‘vision’ of Cedar Rapids that did not include the historic neighborhoods that house the people whose income is considered low to moderate.
I read on the HUD website that the CDBG money is supposed to address “critical social, economic, and environmental problems facing Nation’s urban communities” and I wonder just who we talk to if we think that something is wrong with the way this money is being handled. How does a “park” help the homeowners who were devastated by the 2008 floods? http://www.iowalifechanging.com/community/disaster-action-plan.aspx The more I read about Sec. 5301.* Congressional Findings and Declaration of Purpose [*Section 101 of the Act] the more apprehensive I become about where the money is going to really go when we receive it. The blight in Cedar Rapids is rampant and has not been addressed properly. Some people, who did not have the resources to come back to rebuild have given up hope and moved away. Some have moved into houses they really can’t afford. Instead of cleaning these areas up to rebuild the city hired consultants and environmental companies who came in and blighted the houses in our 100 year old neighborhoods for a posh riverfront project that the city paid to have planned before the flood of 2008. http://gazetteonline.com/?s=sasaki
The people most affected by the flood of 2008 are those who are low-income, disabled, or elderly. It offends me to think that some of our city council members see the flood as a ‘good thing that will help us make our city better than it ever was’. All cities can use changes but this city has plans for us that are not in conjunction with our core values that come from our five core neighborhoods. The plans they have in place are a shock to our social conscience. Tears are falling all over town because people feel they have no choice but to let the city come in and demolish their homes.
I not only feel the monies being sent to Cedar Rapids were misused but I also feel that the people who suffered the most were left out of the recovery process. The people affected the most do not feel they have had any say in what happens to their neighbors. Some neighbors were asked to relocate in city’s miles from Cedar Rapids while others were just flat denied services. Making a phone call to United Way is like being a dog that chases its own tail for amusement. Lives have been destroyed here and I want to make sure justice for the people the organization is supposed to be helping.
I made certain I took part in the citizen participation plan but outsiders and out of state consultants far outnumbered the flood affected citizens so we weren’t fairly represented and in my opinion is not a fair representation of what the people of these neighborhoods want, but what the city employees want. The surveys the city turned in were not ours! The people the city’s plan was going to affect were not able to make it to these planning sessions because they were still trying to recover from losing everything.
Arbitrary lines were drawn only on the NW side of the river for plans that the Army Corps of Engineers supposedly had and the city has gone as far as denying people building permits and neglected city services such as snow removal for the last three years and today solid waste management has become an issue. The United States Army Corps of Engineers says that we don’t have enough property to protect on the west bank of Cedar Rapids and will only protect the east side of the city. We need help immediately.