Tag Archives: CDBG

RE: “We are no longer the City of Five Smells”


Cedar Rapids Corrupt cityCedar Rapids, Iowa

We are no longer the City of Five Smells according to our Mayor, Ron Corbett. I wish I could bottle those non-existent smells because I totally would if it were possible. Cedar Rapids, Iowa has been, and always will be, the City of Five Smells. Some of the smells could be described as aromas. I mean who doesn’t love the smell we presume radiates from Quaker Oats, the smell of maple syrup or Captain Crunch, yum. 

Other smells such as ADM can only be described as putrid, questionable, and outright offensive. The worst smell of all though doesn’t have any odor and that is the smell of corruption.

Perhaps the mayor could embrace the smells instead of denying their existence. For some these smells pay the bills and their very existence is comforting. Instead of denying the smells Mayor Corbett inspire a company like Febreze to bring in more jobs!

1625520_291136864367923_1951750586_n(1)I feel like the rosy, we are recovered, State of the City speech was a distraction from the bigger problems like the record debt, crumbling streets, and the talk about saving Ann Poe’s childhood home’s family fire pit over on Ellis Boulevard NW while the shell of the city owned abandoned home stands as a reminder that we are not recovered from the flood.

Let us not forget that we still don’t have any reasonable “flood protection” for the west side that the media will talk about.  Most people don’t know that the berm was stabilized by the City Corps of Engineers from Penn Avenue NW to N Avenue NW for $800,000 in 2010. 

DSCN9975The sewer system is finally being worked on as I type! I am still curious to see what the city plans to do about the storm outlet into the river on N Avenue NW. The water isn’t able to drain from the from the creek by Harrison into the river because the water flows from the river into the outlet!

Some people who just want to move on from the flood aren’t totally recovered because they’re still being asked to pay taxes for land that the city desperately wanted to acquire. Our city can give their insurance company, True North, a $4 million dollar profit to acquire a property that they didn’t even own before the flood from our local option sales tax but they can’t clear up petty debt for these 18 homes?

Click here to read that story!

I wonder if these homes have city liens? Seriously, this happened on 6th Street NW. The city had mailing addresses for people whose homes were sitting there empty. Instead of mailing the homeowner a notice explaining that they were still responsible for things such as mowing their yard at their flooded out home, the city hung notices from overgrown bushes near the front door of the abandoned house. Many homeowners had no idea that the city was going to charge them by placing liens on the property being acquired! 

There is no doubt the mayor would like to think the city smells like a bed of roses but it doesn’t!  He will have to accept the fact that our city always has and always will stink! He would like to think we have recovered from the 2008 flood but we are constantly reminded how skewed the city’s priorities were when we are reminded that rebuilt homes and churches have been demolished while the shell of Ann Poe’s childhood family continues to stand! That alone, stinks!

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The City of Cedar Rapids, IA, Did Not Ensure a Competitive Procurement Process and Did Not Properly Execute Its CDBG Disaster Recovery-Funded Contracts


information

Lisa Kuzela

PRESS RELEASE —-

From Lisa Kuzela to Cedar Rapids to local media –

Attached is the May 6, 2013 HUD Office of Inspector General Report.

It states “The State did not monitor the City’s voluntary property acquisition program in accordance with its approved Disaster Recovery action plans. Its monitoring checklists did not include all of its procurement requirements, such as cost reasonableness and all required contract provisions.”

In other words, the City of Cedar Rapids has done whatever they wanted, and the State turned a blind eye. Could it possibly have something to do with the local relationships at the state level?

I don’t care to know why you didn’t cover this huge issue; I just want our local news media to start informing the public on what is really going on in this town.

Once the fraud and illegalities crash in on our town, our local media will be viewed as accomplices to this corruption. Many of us have told you over and over, but the media chose to ignore the facts.

Worse, our newspaper continues to take even proof of wrongdoings by our city and spin it into something positive. Case in point: the October 2012 HUD OID Report.

Rick Smith reported statements of deceit by Mayor Ron Corbett. He included Corbett as stating “there is no fraud.” The report never even eluded to such, but by including the Mayor as stating so, Smith led the public to believe everything is fine.

Office of Inspector General

Office of Inspector General

Smith further misled the public by not including something as simple and informative as the subject title of the report:

The City of Cedar Rapids, IA, Did Not Ensure a Competitive Procurement Process and Did Not Properly Execute Its CDBG Disaster Recovery-Funded Contracts.”

The question is: are you going to continue to ignore? Are you going to continue your denial and worse – chastise those of us speaking out with the truth as “naysayers?”

OR are you going to do what they taught you in journalism school and report the news?

This is only the beginning!

(This must be why Karr, Swore, Shields and Corbett bullied me at the May 14th, 2013 council meeting. They were angry at me about this Report that came out several days earlier.)

Please please consider donating to this cause. http://www.gofundme.com/disasterrecoveryreform

You can donate anonymously, if you’d prefer.

The funds pay for public information from the City and State who have increasingly set up roadblocks for me by increasing costs (by increasing the estimated amount of time it takes them to get me the information.)  I do not pay myself out of this account. But, public information is not free and funds are running low.

Please help me continue these investigations! You can pay online or drop by my home or mail to:

Disaster Recovery Reform
c/o Lisa Kuzela
341 Carter Street NW
Cedar Rapids, IA  52405

 

 


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!


Lisa Kuzela files conflict of interest charges against Mayor Ron Corbett


PRESS RELEASE:

lisa1Lisa Kuzela files conflict of interest charges against Mayor Ron Corbett

On Monday, February 25, 2013, Lisa Kuzela submitted to the Iowa State Ethics Board claims of conflicts of interest that Mayor Ron Corbett has violated Iowa Code 68B.2A which prohibits outside employment and activities. Those charges have been forwarded to the Linn County Attorney’s office.

The pertinent subsections to the code are as follows:

According to:
Iowa Code 68B.2A – “Prohibited Outside Employment and Activities-Conflicts of interest:”
“Any person who serves or is employed by the state or a political subdivision of the state shall not engage in any of the following conduct:”
“Outside employment or an activity that involves the use of the state’s or the political subdivision’s time, time, facilities, equipment, and supplies …”

In addition, specifically regarding employment conflict…
“Outside employment or an activity that is subject to the official control, inspection, review, audit, or enforcement authority of the person, during the performance of the person’s duties of office or employment.”

Corbett was the Vice President of Human Resources at CRST. John Smith was President and CEO of CRST International, Inc. and is currently Chair. David Rusch is the current President and CEO of CRST. Corbett supposedly remains employed by CRST, although questions remain as to if he actually works there or simply receives a salary under a fictitious position.

Corbett has a personal interest through his official capacity of mayor which has benefitted John Smith and David Rusch at CRST which violates State Law.

The most recent actions he has taken in regards to the casino have prompted me to finally file an official complaint and request for an investigation.

My suspicion rose first when I learned who the investors were. They included John Smith and David Rusch of CRST.

Two weeks ago I learned about the Agreement between the Cedar Rapids Development Group (“investor” group) and the Linn County Gaming Association (nonprofit group) which states that if there is any debt incurred on the land or operations, then a “third party” will cover that debt. I knew what that meant. Again, the city taxpayers will be subsidizing another facility. But this time, it will be for Corbett’s employers.

Last week, I learned of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) (see attached) that Corbett approved at the October 9, 2012 City Council meeting.

This Memorandum is basically a no-competition declaration stating that the City will exclusively support the Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC and the Linn County Gaming Association, Inc. They will not consider anyone else who wants to bid for the gaming license.

This created an environment in which there can’t be competition. A bid process would have been in the form of bidding a higher percentage of funds to go to the nonprofit who then allocates it to the community.

By doing so, Corbett not only dishonored the residents, costing them tens of millions, but he secured that those proceeds will stay in the hands of the investor group, of which Smith and Rusch are investors.

The MOU that Corbett supported therefore:
1) secured that this investor group, of which Smith and Rusch are members, Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC, and no one else, would be sole ownership of the casino, entertainment, gift shops, etc. proceeds – as stated in the Agreement;
2) secured that a lower percentage of proceeds be distributed into the community;
3) secured that this investor group will make millions more (that otherwise would’ve gone into the community).

Note that I don’t think that a bid process is required under law or regulations in this situation, however, through Corbett’s official actions, he has granted favor to Smith and Rusch of who Corbett is employed.

This MOU agenda issue was a critical one for Cedar Rapids, yet was not only not discussed at the council meeting; it was noticeably inconspicuously placed on the consent agenda. No council member pulled it off to discuss, and it was passed by the simple vote of passing the consent agenda.

The Resolution was signed by Mayor Corbett October 9, 2012. (See attached)

Earnestly submitted by
Lisa Kuzela

Extended information: The casino conflict of interest has many tentacles …

In April 2012, I, along with others, attended and spoke at a House Ways and Means Subcommittee regarding Senate File 2217 – a $600 million bill for “flood protection” in which Mayor Corbett strongly lobbied for. At that meeting, there were two lobbyists from CRST. At the time none of us could understand why they were there.

This bill, signed into law April 19, 2012, was so broadly worded that it allows any project to be funded under this bill, as long as part of the major project qualifies as “flood protection.” This includes a casino.

Senate File 2217, Section 4 – New Section 418.1 Definition #5 “Project”
“A project may consist of one or more phases of construction or reconstruction that are contracted for separately if the larger project, of which the project is a part, otherwise meets the requirements of this subsection.”

Although the bill states the funds would be granted to the “governmental entity,” this city knows how to get around that. Three LLCs (Courthouse II LLC, Courthouse II Tenant LLC, and Courthouse II Manager LLC) were created for the former Federal Courthouse / new City Hall, in which they used all public funds to rehabilitate. By doing this, not only did the taxpayers end up paying more, but it bypassed any bidding process that was required by law with these funds and prevented transparency.

There’s already an LLC formed for the casino – Cedar Rapids Development Group, LLC. I predict they will do the same with the casino – providing even more funding to the “investor” group – all with our tax money!

Now that the casino project is being pushed and John Smith and David Rusch have been named as investors, I think I understand now why a trucking company located miles from the river was lobbying for a “flood protection” bill.

Currently, as I predicted, Corbett and Senator Rob Hogg are lobbying the Board (established under this bill) to have part of the casino project count as flood protection.

However, if this is granted by the Board then, according to the bill, the taxpayers, rather than the investors, can be paying for the construction of the casino project with the appearance that the investor group (LLC) is paying for it.

Sidebar: Each phase or subproject is capped at receiving $15 million through this law. In addition it requires a “local match.” However, the State received a waiver from HUD allowing the CDBG Disaster Assistance to count as a local match. Therefore, with this match, it allows Corbett to help fund up to $30 million per phase / subproject of the major casino project. Thereby, leaving the investor group, of which John Smith and David Rusch of CRST are investors, to invest very little, if any, toward the casino, obligating Local, State and Federal taxpayers to fund the construction of the casino.

Recently, it’s been published that Ron Corbett has historically opposed a local casino. I even heard him say so at a dinner during his campaign at the Islamic Center in Cedar Rapids. He said that the market is saturated and it doesn’t make sense to have another one here.

Now he suddenly supports a casino.

Of course this sudden change of attitude about such a major issue is usually explained away politically, but when all these facts are pieced together, questions can’t help but be raised as to why he is now using his elected position as mayor to push through the casino upon which Smith and Rusch are an investors.

Earnestly submitted by Lisa Kuzela, Cedar Rapids, Iowa

###

memorandum of understw

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FEMA pays city the cost to replace the Time Check Rec Center; city intends to use a school modular classroom this summer to serve the neighborhood


http://www.kcrg.com/news/local/FEMA-Rejects-Plans-for-Recreation-Center-in-Time-Check-177088741.html

Now they want to take the money from the recreation center that they neglected to clean out and put it across town! How about they build their own recreation center without taking the money from ours!

Eye on the Island

Two pieces of news on the flood-damaged Time Check Recreation Center:

At noon Tuesday, the office of Sen. Tom Harkin, D-Iowa, announced that the Federal Emergency Management will pay the city $1,638,155, which is the amount FEMA has determined is the cost to replace the building. Harkin’s office noted that “biohazardous conditions within the facility” at the time of the FEMA inspection convinced the agency that the flood-damaged building could not be renovated.

Also this week, the City Council is expected to approve an agreement with the Cedar Rapids Community Schools, which will let the city use the school district’s existing modular classroom at Harrison Elementary School as a community resource center from June 15 through Aug. 14. The resource center will serve as a temporary neighborhood center to serve some of the functions that the Time Check Recreation Center did.

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Political Patronage and Publicly Funded Land Deals


Political Patronage: The practice or custom observed by a political official of filling government positions with qualified employees of his or her own choosing. For the legal definition go to “The Free Dictionary

Here is a textbook example of Political Patronage in Cedar Rapids, Iowa just last week:


Todd appealed to the politicians as a former politician understands the decisions that our current council are being criticized for. Todd has no respect for free speech or our Constitution as he appeals to the council as one politician to another. He has that “you understand how these CAVE (Citizen Against Virtually Everything) people operate” mentality. Dale Todd expressed the view that free speech is a nuisance that people like Hatch and Todd have to put up with.


THIS STINKS!

“Todd is a habitual liar. He said “We did not know about it”. If he and Hatch do know what is going on, they are damn poor project managers. City Council delivers projects and free land to proven poor managers! Many of us in this community have witnessed this Council condone criminal trespass, illegal use of City land, and denial of neighbors property rights.”
CRSmells.org


The Preferred Scam and The Local Option Sales Tax


Homeowners residing on 1st Street, NW, like myself, chose to live by the river and know the risks. That is why we have flood insurance. The city’s so-called “voluntary” buyout would have forced us to take a $50,000 loss.

The 2008 flood did not begin with the river over-topping the earthen levee on the west bank, as many think. Neighborhoods were flooded through the storm and sanitary sewer systems.

During the evacuation, Ellis Boulevard, from Penn Avenue to 1st Avenue, seven blocks from my house, water was 2 feet deep, while 3rd Street NW was dry. The city’s plan wants a levee on 4th Street NW. Even with a wall, neighborhoods far from the river will still flood through the sewers, making it harder for the water to drain.

I was on the Local Option Sales Tax “Oversight Committee.” This “oversight” committee has absolutely no authority. The only thing this committee does is give a recommendation. The Committee voted down using L.O.S.T. for public facilities every time, yet the Council used it anyway.

In my opinion, the city did not use L.O.S.T. correctly. Was 90% of it used for acquisition and rehabilitation of flood-damaged housing, as sold to the voters in 2009? No.