Category Archives: Weather

City of Five Million Potholes


ImageDecades of neglect to finance Downtown District demands have made a mess of Cedar Rapids streets. The Mayor of the City that no longer smells has scheduled a made for television event.     If you go, trust your nose more than your ears.
News Conference: Mayor Corbett to address street challenges
CEDAR RAPIDS, IA – February 24, 2014 – The combination of this winter’s rain and deep freezes has made conditions ripe for potholes and other pavement stress. Mayor Ron Corbett will share how the City is maintaining ongoing vigilance in addressing pothole issues, and will inform citizens of measures the Public Works Department is implementing for immediate needs. City Manager Jeff Pomeranz will share the long-term goals of the City as it implements the first year of a multi-year street repair campaign funded by the local option sales tax. Dave Elgin, Public Works Director; and Craig Hanson, Public Works Maintenance Manager, will also be available to answer specific questions on the topic.

WHEN:
Tuesday, February 25, 8:00 a.m.

WHERE:
City of Cedar Rapids City Services Center (500 15th Ave. SW)
Service Vehicle Storage Area
**Media can park on 4th Street SW and walk into the side door of the garage.

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Flood Watch 2013


Flood Watch 2013

We had a flash flood the day before yesterday and a flood similar to the flood of 1993 that is to crest tomorrow, June 2, 2013.  I have lived in Cedar Rapids, Iowa most of my life and one thing that stays the same during each of these floods and that is the water has to have somewhere to go.  A few feet could make all the difference in the world for people who went through and continue to have water problems since the 2008 flood.

Flooding in Cedar Rapids

I don’t think we would have the sewer problems we have if the city would just work with the DNR to dredge the riverIf the city council worked as hard for flood protection as they have to acquire and demolish homes and businesses we would be so much better than we were before the flood of 2008. 

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Flash Flooding in Cedar Rapids


Flash Flooding In Cedar Rapids

First Avenue Bridge

1st Avenue Bridge

Do you live in Cedar Rapids, Iowa? If so, do you live in a flood zone? Was your home impacted by the 1993 floods? How about the 2008 floods?
Yesterday, May 30, 2013 a fast moving storm caused some flash flooding in Cedar Rapids. The city is frantically working  to prevent flooding, or so they claim.

Current Flood Warning

There is currently a  flood warning in effect.  KCRG reported last night that “several homes on 1st Street NW will be impacted”. Problem with that statement is there is only one home on 1st Street NW and “the basement is still dry.” The storm and flash flooding certainly impacted drivers though!

Flood Lessons

Like the city, homeowners also learned valuable lessons from the 2008 flood. Always trust your instincts and have a plan. I will be watching the river and updating my findings.  Flash flooding and river flooding are different types of flooding. The river rising is a drawn out event and predictable but flash floods happen quickly without much notice.  Both are potentially dangerous. If flood water is already starting to come up through your basement drain you might want to consider disconnecting your furnace and moving it to higher ground. If you don’t know how to do that call for help.
I
am no expert on the city but living on 1st Street NW as rebuilt homes were demolished after the 2008 flood I have a unique perspective on how things operate around here. I do not blame the city workers for doing things backwards because they are only following orders. I hope that a city worker who understands the frustrations of the people who live in the core neighborhoods will step up and run for city council.
We have got to get this city back to operating without any agendas but to equally serve and provide essential services to it’s citizens.
Everyone I’ve spoken to agrees that the city should have focused on flood protection before buying and selling Real Estate. Flood protection should have been the city’s first priority since the 2008 flood but it hasn’t been. Nope, instead of focusing on the real issues the Cedar Rapids City Council squabbled with people all over the city over buyouts in the name of flood protection while giving downtown players “sweetheart deals” for riverside property on the east side.

When we voted for the Local Option Sales Tax (LOST) it was supposed to help rebuild flood impacted property and flood protection. FEMA did not require we move the Public Library and spend millions of our disaster dollars to acquire and remodel the event center three blocks from the river the city council did.  FEMA did not require properties be bought out the city did. Remember the buyout program was a voluntary property acquisition after the 2008 flood.

 


FEMA From Evacuation to Eviction


I am excited to report that the garage I’ve complained about to the city, my family, friends, and neighbors on the 1400 block of 4th Street NW is finally gone. It will no longer serve as a convenient dumping ground and I will never have to wake up to the sound of demolition again. The demolitions are done around me!  The only remaining structures are blocks away from my house and I hope that I don’t have to hear them.
You would think I would be happy that this is almost over and that these rotting structures will finally be gone and I am. But I am still very unhappy about what happened to the west bank and I wonder how many people felt like they went from evacuation to eviction?
50% of Hosting for your Website at GoDaddy.com!Before the flood we were undergoing intense inspections by the city because our community was approved for Weed and Seed money from the Community Capacity Development Office out of the Department of Justice. My neighbors and I were working hard to have everything perfect for the city inspectors but then flood came on June 11, 2008.  Our final inspection was supposed to happen on June 17, 2008 but it never did and we were denied volunteers from the Weed and Seed program by Bruce Vandersanden, program coordinator at the Sixth Judicial Department of Correctional Services.  I was on the Weed and Seed Committee as a representative from my neighborhood association when I complained to Gary Hinzman about the houses that have been denied all help at an unrelated board meeting where he told Bruce to “make it right”, but that never happened.  In fact, in front of a room full of people Bruce told me that “it wasn’t ever going to happen”.

Operation Weed and Seed is a joint federal, state and local coordinated law enforcement and community initiative that aims to prevent, control and reduce violent crime, drug abuse and gang activity in targeted high-crime neighborhoods across the country. The Weed and Seed strategy recognizes the importance of integrating law enforcement with social services and the private sector on federal, state and local levels to maximize the impact of existing programs and resources.”
Sponsored by the United States Department of Justice and under the local leadership of the United States Attorney, the strategy involves a two-pronged approach. First, law enforcement agencies and prosecutors cooperate in “weeding out” criminals who participate in violent crime, gang activity, drug use and drug trafficking in targeted neighborhoods. Second, “seeding” brings a variety of human services to the area, restoring it through social and economic revitalization.”

The city lied to all of us about flood protection, they lied to us about the buyouts, and they continue to lie to us about being bound by FEMA.  The city applied for the buyout program. The buyout program was voluntary . If we were truly in danger FEMA would have declared our city unsafe and there would have been an “involuntary buyout”. FEMA did not destroy our city- city officials destroyed our city and used FEMA money to do it! In a Gazette article labeled: Property owners refuse to leave Cedar Rapids flood plain dated August 16, 2009 it said: “They plan to use $27 million in federal money to buy out property owners and create a city park or wilderness trail along the river. A levee built by the Army Corps of Engineers will separate remaining neighborhoods from the greenway and provide protection from another surge.” They also claim in the same article that: “The city has said it won’t use eminent domain to force the property owners off their land. But the Army Corps of Engineers could designate the properties as risks to the flood-protection system and force the owners to sell for pre-flood assessed values plus improvements. Fournier said that would be a last resort.”

Evacuation to Eviction

Evacuation to Eviction

What the Gazette didn’t report at that time was that the United States Army Corps of Engineers (USACOE) did not approve any flood protection for the west bank because it didn’t meet the required guidelines. There is no property left on the west bank of the Cedar River therefore it does not meet the monetary specifications that are required for the USACOE to approve flood protection. The specifications  include a cost to benefit ratio. Because the neighborhood was flattened there is no property value to protect therefore, no flood protection.
The United States Army Corps of Engineers also told me directly and on record (in a questionnaire) that they were not interested in buying our home now or ever. At a different United States Corps of Engineers meeting the  I attended I informed one of the men from the United States Army Corps of Engineers that we were told by the city and news outlets that they needed our houses out of the way so that they could implement flood protection for the west bank. I was told by this man that this was not only wrong but it’s illegal. He said “saying that qualifies as coercion in a voluntary property acquisition” by FEMA.
Another thing that the Gazette failed to report is that “eminent domain” can “never” be declared because it was a “voluntary property acquisition”. Question number seven on the “Corridor Recovery” site clearly states this as a fact:
7. Is the City going to force me to sell my property?
No. This is was a voluntary property acquisition process. When using FEMA Hazard Mitigation Grant Program (HMGP) and Community Development Block Grant (CDBG) funds, the City cannot use eminent domain to acquire properties.
The five year anniversary of the flood is coming up and that is a huge milestone for some of us. There is a small group of us in the greed-way that stuck it out and decided that the city’s buyout offer was not only ridiculous but it is a farce! Who in their right mind would want to take a $66,000.00 loss because of one flood?  The city offered us $14,000.00 for our property and $0 for the house! This was the first flood my house has ever been through and we have flood insurance why would we sell out?  The National Flood Insurance Program which is also known as FEMA and anyone who received money from the National Flood Insurance Program or FEMA was required by the City of Cedar Rapids to “pay back” any and all FEMA money they received in the buyout. Meaning a lot of people took losses.
If you’ve never heard of the term Disaster Capitalism I suggest you look it up. In a neighborhood meeting Chuck Swore was confronted by Mike Augustine who asked him where all the money was coming from for all these projects because the city seemed to be spending federal tax money like it was free money.

That's a Smart Move! Economy Hosting for $1.99/mo.In summarizing his statement Chuck Swore said  that we’d probably be alright without FEMA  but since the money was there and available to the city, “they used it as if it were free money”.  FEMA money for communities is not meant to be used in the way it was used in our community. Those of us who dealt with FEMA and the city were told “not to expect FEMA to “make people whole” yet, everything was ripped down to make way for new and supposedly with FEMAs blessing. Communities that have been hit by disasters of their own have called on Cedar Rapids to ask for recovery advice and that’s not good. Communities impacted by disasters would be better served if they were required to follow the Property Acquisition Handbook provided on FEMAs website. Had FEMA handed these guides out to victims in Cedar Rapids when they were in town it would have saved America millions and millions of dollars.
Houses that were rebuilt and lived in after the flood continue to find their way to the dump while the city complains that there isn’t enough affordable housing. If there isn’t enough affordable housing then why are renters being relocated so that the affordable housing we do have can be demolished? What is going on around here?

We must demand reform or FEMA will systematically allow a few people to exploit them while destroying everything in it’s path!


Time Check Maternity Roost – 2013 Bat Diaries






http://www.empowernetwork.com/almostasecret.php?id=beverlydittmar

TCMR

Time Check Maternity Roost Cedar Rapids, Iowa

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday, Apr 27, 2013
62°Mostly Cloudy
Wind: Southeast, 6 MPH

Sunday, Apr 28, 2013
62°Fair
Wind: North, 0 MPH

A couple rows of one layer in the house opposing the river
Two in the house facing the river

Monday, Apr 29, 2013
72°Fair
Wind: Southeast, 10 MPH

Thought I saw a couple babies in there one for certain
All three chambers on the house opposing the river are full while there are only a couple of bats in the house facing the river

Tuesday, Apr 30, 2013
87°Fair and Breezy
Wind: Southwest, 21 MPH

Houses seemed less populated today but still three chambers full of bats!

Talked to man from Iowa Department of Natural Resources this morning about getting more bat houses down here to monitor them.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
63°Partly Cloudy
Wind: North, 13 MPH

2:46 pm
Wednesday, May 1, 2013
74°Fair
Wind: North, 4 MPH

Wednesday, May 1, 2013
66°Fair and Windy
Wind: North, 26 MPH

Thursday, May 2, 2013
38°Overcast and Breezy
Wind: North, 20 MPH

Thursday, May 2, 2013
37°Overcast
Wind: North, 19 MPH

I didn’t see any bats in the east house but the west house has at least two chambers full all packed together tightly. There was no bat chatter in the house It’s cold out there!

Check out my in depth blog on the bats here:  Time Check Maternity Roost Cedar Rapids, Iowa

 


Should the City of Cedar Rapids Fine People who feed Geese?



Please answer this poll!

Snapshot - 2

KCRG Story click here


RE: Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force


Letter to the city council and the Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force

I know the Northwest Recreation Center Site Selection Task Force meets tomorrow and that they are in charge of selecting the site for the Time Check Recreation Center replacement and I want to make certain my concerns are heard if I am unable to make it to the meeting.
Is the plan still to build on this “preferred” spot that just flooded?

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The “preferred” site for the replacement of the Time Check Recreation Center

“Sina said the city might need to cut down 600 trees to make way for the recreation center on the Q Avenue NW site” http://thegazette.com/2011/09/26/panel-recommends-ellis-for-rec-center/
Couldn’t we instead appeal to FEMA to go with the Ellis Blvd site by Time Check Park? At least it doesn’t flood “every year”. I would be willing to write in favor of that site but I will fight tooth and nail against anything being built in Ellis Park especially after the last few days!
Here’s a video I made today hoping to have input (even though we already went through the neighborhood planning process and had our opinions asked over and over until we’re blue in the face). I am concerned that our input as a community still hasn’t been taken seriously. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ecckNCbx1Dk

Please take this into consideration when choosing the site.
This ice jam flood reminded many of us who went through the 2008 flood just where the river fed into the neighborhoods before coming out of it’s banks! Please train someone to run the dam to control this better in the future.
Thank you,
Ajai Dittmar

 


Flooding Flashbacks


The city of Cedar Rapids, Iowa flooded in 2008. It was horrible. Thousands of people were impacted and the city has milked FEMA for all they could since it happened.
ellis
Why isn’t the water going into the “greenway”?

My neighbor Connie (who was not in a good mood) wanted to check out the neighborhood! I want to apologize to anyone that I might have sounded grouchy towards.

The river is supposed to crest by 8 pm and it’s after 9 pm now and we haven’t been swept away and the basement is still dry! It would have been nice if the city would have managed the 5 in 1 dam better and dealt with the sewers properly.


City of Cedar Rapids Chapter 29 Forces Man into Streets


Snapshot - 2
“He needs to get out of his own house for his own good” according to the police who forced this man to leave his home today in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. Now, homeless, this man’s only crime is not being in compliance with the city and their costly ordinances. He hasn’t broken any state laws.

29.14 – TENANT RESPONSIBILITY
Tenant to maintain dwelling unit. The tenant shall:
(1) Comply with all obligations primarily imposed upon tenants by applicable provisions of building and housing codes materially affecting health and safety.
(2) Keep that part of the premises that the tenant occupies and uses as clean and safe as the condition of the premises permit.
(3) Dispose from the tenant’s dwelling unit all ashes, rubbish, garbage, and other waste in a clean and safe manner.
(4) Keep all plumbing fixtures in the dwelling unit or used by the tenant as clean as their condition permits.
(5) Use in a reasonable manner all electrical, plumbing, sanitary, heating, ventilating, air-conditioning and other facilities and appliances including elevators in the premises.
(6) Not deliberately or negligently destroy, deface, damage, impair or remove a part of the premises or knowingly permit a person to do so.
(7) Act in a manner that will not disturb a neighbor’s peaceful enjoyment of the premises.

It is cold outside! Where do the city and police propose Mr. Fairchild go since they deemed his house uninhabitable? The streets? It’s his house, I highly doubt he is going to try to set it on fire! What is the deal with this city and poor people? Why does it feel the need to put this man on the street? Are these city ordinances more important to the city staff than people? YES!


Cedar Rapids Headlines 1/4/13-1/5/13


City Warns Fines Will be Issued if Sidewalks Aren’t Clear

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – It’s been over two weeks since the storm that dumped about five inches of snow on the Cedar Rapids area. Yet, in many neighborhoods there are sidewalks that still aren’t cleared.  Complaints are now piling up at the city’s public works department. The city says they’ve cited around 200 sidewalks that haven’t been cleared.  City Ordinance states residents are supposed to have DSCN1871their shovels out within 48 hours of a storm. Public works are urging residents to take action, before they get hit with a fine of as much as $200.   If would like to report a sidewalk in your neighborhood that hasn’t been properly cleared you can call the city’s public works department at 286-5802 or email street@cedar-rapids.org.

Cedar Rapids looking for input on rental housing code changes

Landlords and tenants both should find a City Hall-sponsored forum next Wednesday evening useful, as the city prepares to amend its existing rental housing code.  Landlords, not tenants, usually turn out to make comments to city officials.  The code amendments specifically under review will require landlords to conduct background checks on tenants. In that regard, city officials have proposed offering a service for a fee to help landlords make criminal background checks  In addition, the city is looking to require landlords to attend periodic training classes. The city also wants input on the frequency of city inspections of rental properties and the size of inspection fees.

The public-comment session will be held from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. Wednesday in the council chambers at City Hall, 101 First St. SE. 

The city’s rental housing code, Chapter 29 of the city’s Municipal Code, is being amended in tandem with a new Chapter 22A of the code to address nuisance properties.  The City Council voted unanimously last month to adopt Chapter 22A over the objections of some landlords. The council must vote two more times on Chapter 22A. The chapter establishes a mechanism for tracking calls for city services at specific properties — services from police calls to zoning and housing code violations. At some point, a property can be labeled a nuisance, which will confront the owner with city fees and the need to develop a plan to remedy the nuisance.

Car Break-Ins Up 5% In Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – For all of the gadgets and options available on cars in recent years, Cedar Rapids police are asking people to simply use the standard door locks to cut down on thefts.  “You’ve got locks on a car,” said Sgt. Cristy Hamblin of the Cedar Rapids Police Department. “Use them.”
In 2012, 950 formal reports of thefts from vehicles came into Cedar Rapids police. Naturally, warmer months lead to more of what Hamblin calls these “crimes of opportunity.” In the summer months, June had 96 reports, July had 118 and August had 122. Overall, last year’s reports was more than a 5 percent uptick from the 2011.

Police Respond to Bank Robbery in Downtown Cedar Rapids

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – Police in Cedar Rapids are on the scene of a bank robbery in downtown Cedar Rapids.

Police responded to the Banker’s Trust location at 221 3rd Ave SE at 4:15 Friday afternoon. According to police, a man entered the bank and demanded money while displaying a handgun. The subject had a face mask on and fled on foot with an undisclosed amount of money. The investigation is ongoing at this time.  Check back for updates

Iowa public school enrollment up sharply, but Cedar Rapids sees steep decline

UPDATE: A new public school enrollment report from the Iowa Department of Education shows a rising tide does not lift all boats.  Iowa’s kindergarten through 12th grade enrollment had its first significant year-to-year jump since 1996 – adding 2,741 students, a .6 percent increase, for a total of 476,245 learners – but 167 of the state’s 351 school districts lost students between the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years. The Cedar Rapids Community School District shed 127 students in that time, second only to the Davenport Community School District’s 191-student decrease.  “This statewide increase is refreshing news for Iowa after years of declining enrollment,” said Jay Pennington, chief of the Iowa Department of Education’s Bureau of Information and Analysis, in a statement earlier today. “However, the reality is that this increase most likely is temporary.”  The picture is less rosy from a five-year perspective, with Iowa showing an overall loss of 774 students, a .16 percent decrease, since the 2008-09 school year. In that time, the Cedar Rapids district’s enrollment shrunk by 851 learners, the largest drop in the state and almost three times the size of the time frame’s second biggest decline, 286 students in the Clinton Community School District.  “The district had been going along losing about 100 to 120 students a year, a very modest decline historically,” said Dave Benson, superintendent of the Cedar Rapids district. “The [2008] flood hit, and over a two year period we lost over 500 students, attributed to the loss of housing in the community due to the flood. That accelerated that loss.”

Benson urged people to keep the enrollment decline in perspective, because while the district has tallied a 4.9 percent loss in the last five years, that number is “negligible” in comparison to other Iowa school systems. In fact, the Stratford Community School District showed the biggest percentage drop over the last five years, hemorrhaging a full quarter of its 213 student enrollment – five times the Cedar Rapids district’s percentage drop. Stratford’s actual student decrease only amounted to 53.

“We can attribute a large part of that loss to a single historical event, and I feel that puts that loss into a little bit of perspective,” Benson said.

The news is much better for the Iowa City Community School District, which gained the fourth largest amount of students in the state from 2011-12 to 2012-13, 321 additional learners, as well as over the last five years, counting 1,025 more students since 2008-09. School district officials are gearing up for a Revenue Purpose Statement vote on Tuesday, Feb. 5, where local voters will have the power to authorize early access to $100 million in sales tax funds. If approved, administrators have indicated they will spend that money on construction projects to address the district’s expanding student population.

Waukee, Des Moines and Ankeny reported the largest one-year enrollment number increases, while West Sioux, Moulton-Udell and Waukee reported the largest one-year percentage increases.

Iowa Gun Advocates Want to Abolish Gun-Free Zones, Including in Schools

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa – In the wake of the Newton, Conn., school shooting that left 20 children and seven adults dead polls show public support for stricter gun control at a 10-year high.  However, gun rights advocates say they will push the Iowa Legislature to expand gun rights and abolish gun-free zones, including schools.  “The problem we have is there are too many so-called gun-free zones,” says Aaron Dorr of Iowa Gun Owners. “There are way too many areas where law-abiding Iowans are victims of the system because they are not allowed to defend themselves if something happens to them.”

That includes schools, Dorr says. The failure of gun-free schools should be evident in the wake of the Sandy Hook school shooting, he says.

“Our position is that it is an undue burden to be shot in the back of the head while trying to protect students in your classroom because you are legally prohibited from protecting yourself,” Dorr says. Iowa Gun Owners is hearing from teachers “crying out to have the option of having a weapon in school because they are scared of being victims.”

“We’d have a problem with that,” Iowa Association of School Boards Executive Director Tom Downs says about the elimination of gun-free schools. The association also will oppose any attempt to carve out an exemption in the state’s concealed weapons law to allow teachers to have guns at school.

In the days after the Newton shooting legislative leaders said they thought it was unlikely the Legislature would approve more restrictive gun laws.

It’s more black and white for John Johnson of Cedar Rapids, the co-director of the Campaign to Keep Guns Off Campus and formerly with the now-defunct Iowans for the prevention of Gun Violence.

Johnson believes a majority of Americans support gun control, especially in the wake of a string of mass shootings.  The only demographic opposed is lawmakers,” Johnson says. “They’re basically cowards.”  Not all of them. Rep. Dan Mulbauer, D-Manilla, has called for a ban on assault and semi-automatic weapons and the confiscation of weapons owners don’t voluntarily give up.  Jeff Burkett of the Iowa Firearms Coalition, Inc., doesn’t see Mulbauer’s proposal as a live round.  “It appears he could use some education,” Burkett says. “It sounds like an emotion-based response” to Newtown.”  Johnson agrees it’s unlikely lawmakers will ban assault and semi-automatic weapons or require background checks for all gun ownership transfers or limit the capacity of ammo magazines.  Lawmakers “are basically gutless when it comes to standing up to the gun lobby,” he says.

2 cents myI live in an area where the sidewalks have been closed for more than four years.  I will not be shoveling my sidewalk until they are open. Meantime, the city searches for renters to talk about their nuisance policy that they want to implement.  I wonder when the city will take care of their own nuisance properties.  They own houses and garages that sit empty falling apart and are vulnerable to arsonists.  I don’t think it’s in their best interest to make up new rules that they can’t follow themselves!

Crime has only worsened in Cedar Rapids since the 2008 flood.  Many crimes that should have been reported by the police weren’t and bad people have gotten away with committing crimes.  Why the low key story on the bank robbery in downtown Cedar Rapids?  Seems to me like they are downplaying it.  There hasn’t been any video or even a description released of the suspect.

Our schools and enrollment.  I would like to see Benson let go and replace him with a local person who can and will make the necessary cuts we need in order to keep our schools open (we have a TOP HEAVY school district here in Cedar Rapids).  I would like to see a comprehensive report on why our enrollment dropping in Cedar Rapids but going up everywhere else?  Why are families leaving Cedar Rapids?  That’s simple to answer! No one wants to live in a city that doesn’t care about their young people! Cedar Rapids isn’t the family friendly place it used to be. There isn’t much to do here except go out drinking and that’s not good for children or families.

images (17)Finally, guns at schools.  I don’t own a gun and hope that I will never feel the need to own one.  However, I  do not want my child or her teacher to feel helpless if some nut job goes in there to shoot them up! While I am not in favor of the “police state” I am not opposed to utilizing our police to protect our most precious people, our children.