Rents rising in Cedar Rapids

Some owners of rental properties in Cedar Rapids, Iowa are citing supply and demand as a rationale for raising rental prices. Disgusting. The soul of capitalism is revealed within the midst of a tragic situation. Cedar Rapids, Iowa flood survivors’ need for housing is turned into the “market’s demand”. Heinous.

A post-flood housing shortage in Cedar Rapids is driving up rent for everyone as displaced families look for places to live.

Some 3,900 homes in town were damaged by the flood. Many continue to be uninhabitable. In Iowa City and Coralville, about 800 homes were evacuated.

Josh Pierce and his wife and three children had been looking for a house to rent for about a month. They’ve outgrown their small apartment in northeast Cedar Rapids, where they’ve lived for about a year.

A home at 938 38th St. SE caught their eye and on June 9, the Monday before the flood, it was listed at $645 per month by Equity Realtors, a company owned by Bob Miell.

A week later, the same house was listed online at $845 per month. Pierce called Miell’s office.

“‘Supply and demand’ — that’s all they said,” Pierce said.

Miell did not respond to requests for an interview.

Continue reading Rents rising in Cedar Rapids

Race, Disaster and Comparative Suffering

Tim Wise on racism and racist rhetoric in Iowa flooding and New Orleans Katrina

Tim Wise has written a new essay that critiques the racist rhetoric that’s being furiously spread around the interwebs in the wake of flooding in Iowa – “Adding Insult to Injury: Race, Disaster and the Calculus of Comparative Suffering.” It’s a deeper analysis that is very similar in context to my post on “Comparing Iowa to New Orleans.”

Disasters bring out the best and worst in people.

On the one hand, millions of folks respond to the suffering of their fellow human beings with compassion, concern, and even significant financial assistance when needed. Be it a hurricane, an earthquake, tornadoes or the recent massive flooding in the Midwestern United States, the hearts, minds, and often wallets of large numbers of the nation’s people are with those in need.

And on the other hand, there’s Rush Limbaugh, who has decided to use the flooding in Iowa not to demonstrate compassion, but as an opportunity to make derogatory statements about poor black folks: specifically those caught by the flooding in New Orleans after Katrina in 2005.

This week, as folks in Iowa, Indiana and parts of Illinois have watched flood waters rise ever higher, Limbaugh took to the air to contrast these supposedly good and decent people who have joined forces to help each other, with the presumably evil, lazy and violent folks of New Orleans, who we are told, did nothing but foment criminality and wait for the government to save them during flooding there in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

University of Iowa flood update

University of Iowa flooding in Iowa Memorial Union 2008

The Iowa Memorial Union on the campus of the University of Iowa is currently closed due to extensive flood damage. Floodwaters were 5 feet deep in the IMU. The university is pumping air into the building to help dry it out.

From: University of Iowa Interim Executive Vice President and Provost Lola Lopes –

Although the worst part of the flood seems to be abating we are still in crisis mode regarding utilities (steam, chilled water, and electricity). This means that even though we are resuming classes, research, and other university operations on Monday, this is not a return to normal. We have beaten back a major catastrophe and should be proud of ourselves, but it will be many, many months before we return to full functioning. Until then, we need to continue to work as a team and always keep the functioning of the entire enterprise in mind.

From a utility point of view, the east and west sides of the campus are no longer connected. This means that conditions are different on the east and west sides of the river.

via the UI Flood blog.

Continue reading University of Iowa flood update

Cedar Falls, Iowa + flooding

flooding in Cedar Falls Iowa

I noticed this photograph on the Flickr set of the Red Cross’s Midwestern flood relief efforts. The photo provides an idea of how much water was flowing around Cedar Falls, Iowa on June 10, 2008.

Sandbagging efforts in Cedar Falls kept the raging waters of the Cedar River from flooding the downtown area. The sign is located in an area that is usually above water. My guess is that the water level in the photo is somewhere between 2 to 3 ft. high.

I was curious as to what the text on the sign said. Fortunately, a hi-resolution version of the original photograph had been uploaded and it was easy to discern the text on the marker.

By the way, I think it’s important to note that critical thinking can still exist within a discourse of support…just wanted to give everyone a heads up as I am going to delve into some thinking that is critical of a historical marker that needs some serious editing.

Continue reading Cedar Falls, Iowa + flooding

Columbus Junction, IA flooding photos

Photographs of flooding in Columbus Junction, Iowa:
flooding in Economart grocery store in Columbus Junction Iowa
The store with the giant apple on it is the Economart – Columbus Junction’s grocery store. I worked at the Economart for 2 years while I was in high school. I was always asking people if they wanted “paper or plastic”. My former doctor’s office is located just a few stores down from the Economart.

Columbus Junction Iowa Photographs of Economart flooding in 2008

More photos of flooding (before and after) in Columbus Junction after the jump…

Continue reading Columbus Junction, IA flooding photos

Recovery efforts in Columbus Junction

Woohoo!!! “The boil order for Columbus Junction and Columbus City has been lifted. The water plant is functioning normally, and the water in your faucet is safe for all uses including human consumption. Restaurants and bars are free to serve prepared foods and beverages.”www.columbusjunctioniowa.org

[Columbus Junction] officials said medical and dental services are back in operation, albeit from a remote location since the town’s medical center fell victim to the Iowa River.

A chiropractor has rented a facility in nearby Columbus City and has started accepting patients. Members of the National Guard helped load and unload the chiropractor’s supplies.

The town dentist “got a chair” and office in Washington County about 20 miles from Columbus Junction.

“They have given him one chair three days a week and he’s (dentist) looking at a temporary facility about halfway in between,” said City Councilman Hal Prior.

More importantly, the medical clinic has been moved to occupy about four to five classrooms at the elementary school. Patient medical records are intact and were also moved to that location.

City officials also have allowed a lumber yard and an auto parts store to return to their buildings and restock their merchandise. It will take an additional two days for some businesses to get back in their properties.

“We, however, don’t anticipate that the other businesses getting in soon because they are submerged a little deeper,” Prior said.

via the Burlington Hawk Eye

Iowa as “God’s country”

The trope that “Iowa is God’s country” is furiously spreading around the interwebs in the wake of this month’s flooding in Iowa. This rhetoric seems inherently similar to the comparisons that are currently being made with Iowa-flooding and New Orleans-Katrina.

I was under the impression (from those folks who believe in God) that God sort of looked over the entire planet and didn’t pick favorites. (Also, exactly which God is Iowa the country of?)

Iowans are putting in a valiant effort to protect each other, their homes, and their private/public infrastructure. It is what anyone in that situation would do.

Saying that Iowa is God’s country is an insult to anyone who is not in Iowa and who believes in God. Let’s just say that God has the planet and end divisive tropes that disintegrate community.

Oldest U.S. Mosque is in Iowa

mother mosque of america cedar rapids iowa

The oldest mosque in the United States is located in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. It only took several days of flooding and countless hours reading news reports for me to find this out. The mosque was dedicated in February of 1934. I love it when I learn something new about Iowa’s history. I lived in Iowa for 23 years and never knew about the Mother Mosque of America.

The oldest standing mosque in the United States is one of the many structures in Cedar Rapids damaged by flooding. Imam Taha Tawil is the executive director for the Mother Mosque of America. He was allowed access to the building Tuesday for the first time since it was flooded last week.

“There is a sadness, a hurt in my heart, because this mosque is like part of my family,” Tawil said. The mosque is one of many museums and historic buildings in Cedar Rapids hit by the floodwaters. “When I look around, I see the Czech Museum, the African American Museum, the Mother Mosque,” Tawil said, “and I said ‘flood doesn’t know color, flood doesn’t know race or religion or tradition. Flood is like death…it doesn’t distinguish.'”

via Radio Iowa

Flooding in Burlington, Iowa

My parents both grew up in Burlington, Iowa. It was the Stoller family weekend destination when I was growing up. My grandparents as well as several other relatives still live there. Fortunately, everyone is safe. The waters that flooded Cedar Rapids, Iowa City, Columbus Junction, Oakville and several other towns in Iowa have made their way to the Mississippi River. The floodwaters are impacting communities in the southeastern tip of Iowa as well as in Missouri and Illinois.

As an overflowing Mississippi River was headed for a second record-setting crest, Burlington residents braced for the worst while hoping for floodwaters to make a quick exit.

The Mississippi set a new record with high-water mark of 25.73 on Tuesday. Wednesday, water levels decreased due to a levee break three miles south of Burlington in Illinois.

By later today, the river is expected to climb back up to 25.4 feet, according to the National Weather Service.

“The second crest is a result of the levee break where the water level in Burlington dropped,” said Dan Ferry, meteorologist at the National Weather Service. “All that water has filled in behind those levees, and now it’s making its way back up the Mississippi.”

via the Burlington Hawk Eye

Police shoot hogs to save levees

Police shoot hogs to save levees near Burlington
Police shoot hogs to save levees near Burlington.” This is a recent headline story from the Des Moines Register. Apparently, the hogs are coming from a hog confinement facility that flooded in Oakville, Iowa (the site of some of the most severe flooding in the state). I’m not a fan of hog confinement operations. They stink. The smells emanating from their lagoons are atrocious and the treatment of the hogs inside stinks worse than the hogs themselves. I understand the rationale for killing these animals to save the levee. However, I do not have to like it.

Des Moines County Sheriff’s Department deputies are shooting hogs that are destroying the top of a levee north of town that is protecting thousands of acres of farm ground and dozens of homes.

“We don’t like having to do this, but we don’t have any choice,” said Sheriff Mike Johnstone.

The hogs are being shot as they appear on top of a drainage ditch levee that is holding back several miles of floodwater that poured into the area when an Iowa River levee near Oakville broke Saturday. The water moves south and enters what is known here as the “big ditch” and is carried on an east-west route to the Mississippi River. The threatened levee holds the water in the ditch.

The hogs are from confinement facilities from the flooded Oakville area. Many drowned when the Oakville levee broke, but those that survived have been swept south by the current and are seeking high ground. And the levee is the only nearby ground.

“They’re crawling up the side of the levee and breaking down the plastic and the sandbags on the top,” said Johnstone. “It is destroying the levee. There’s no way to contain the hogs or round them up and there’s no way to get them out of the water.”

The animals are being shot with AR-15 rifles, Johnston said. He said about 15 had been killed as of early afternoon Wednesday. It is unknown how many hogs are in the area, but it is estimated to be in the hundreds “They get on top of the levee and try to jump over a three-foot berm at the top and their hooves are puncturing the plastic and tearing up the bags,” Johnston said. “If that levee breaks it’ll flood from there to Burlington.”

It’s an area about three miles wide and 12 miles long.