The Gazette covers City Hall, now a flood-damaged icon on May's Island in the Cedar River

Council cancels special meetings; members head to Des Moines and DC in search of flood-recovery help

In City Hall, Jerry McGrane, Justin Shields, Mayor Kay Halloran, Monica Vernon on January 13, 2009 at 12:49 pm

The City Council had intended to hold one of its “brown-bag” discussions at lunch Tuesday and then to convene a budget session at 5 p.m.

Both meetings have been called off for a more urgent priority: Lobbying and arm-twisting any lawmaker or policymaker at the state or federal level that the City Council can get his or her hands on. The council is in the hunt for more state and federal funding for the city’s flood recovery and it wants state lawmakers to make some changes so the city can raise money in new ways. Now the city and other cities in Iowa say they must rely too heavily just on property taxes.

On Monday, Mayor Kay Halloran traveled to Des Moines for the first day of the legislative session. She’ll be there today, too, for the governor’s state of the state address.

Accompanying Halloran were Linn County Supervisors Jim Houser, Ben Rogers and Brent Oleson. The group was armed with easels and photographs to remind lawmakers from across the state of the devastation that Cedar Rapids experienced in the June flood, the mayor said.

Halloran said Gov. Chet Culver has called flood recovery a top priority, and she said she and the supervisors were there to make sure Cedar Rapids and Linn County are on top of that top priority list.

At the same time, council members Monica Vernon, Justin Shields and Jerry McGrane were slated to leave the Eastern Iowa Airport at 6 a.m. Tuesday on a lobbying trip to the nation’s capital. They’re scheduled to return on Wednesday.

Vernon said she and her council colleagues will join representatives from the city’s Washington, D.C., lobbying firm to visit the members of the city’s Congressional delegation. Vernon said staff members of the delegation also will accompany her, Shields and McGrane to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

Vernon said she and her colleagues intend to give HUD representatives a first-hand account of the problems the city of Cedar Rapids is having in trying to work around HUD rules and regulations in handing out funds to disaster victims. HUD’s Community Development Block Grant money, which is a chief source of disaster relief, was never intended for disasters and so the program’s rules don’t fit the situation, Vernon said.

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