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

Archive for April 17th, 2009|Daily archive page

State lawmakers from Cedar Rapids deliver again: Jumpstart housing loans now forgivable in 5 years, not 10, once governor signs the bill

In City Hall, Floods, Jumpstart, Rob Hogg on April 17, 2009 at 5:21 pm

It has gnawed at flood victims who have received Jumpstart housing funds for months: That the money has come in the form of forgivable loans, which take 10 years to forgive, while Jumpstart funds for businesses are forgiven in five years.

This week, though, the Iowa Legislature passed a new law and sent it to Gov. Chet Culver that will make the term of the Jumpstart housing loans now in place and to come five years instead of ten years, Sen. Rob Hogg, D-Cedar Rapids, confirmed Friday.

Hogg, who credited Sen. Wally Horn, D-Cedar Rapids, with managing the bill through the state senate, said the measure was somewhat controversial simply because of the work required to change the terms of a large number of loans. But he said the Iowa Department of Economic Development has said it was committed to taking the work on.

Hogg noted that some Jumpstart housing awards were made with state dollars and some with federal Community Development Block Grant funds, and he said the state will have to amend its CDBG arrangement with the federal government so that both sources of forgivable loans are treated consistently.

Jon Galvin, a flood victim and Jumpstart recipient as well as vice president of the Northwest Neighbors Association, on Friday said shortening the time period on the forgivable loan from 10 years to five years puts the homeowner on the same level as the business owner.

Galvin, a retiree, says who knows how long he and his wife might live.

“At our age, our kids would be or could be still paying off these liens at the 10-year rate,” he said. Now, he said he might get out of debt again “before I leave this world.”

Seven at library laid off; flood that closed main library finally has caught up with them

In Cedar Rapids Public Library on April 17, 2009 at 5:01 pm

The city has laid off seven library employees, two full timers and five part-time employees. In total, it is the equivalent of four full-time employees, Conni Huber, the city’s human resources director, said on Friday.

One of the positions was eliminated as part of the city’s new budget, and the others who have lost jobs consisted of a supervisor and five employees who shelve books part time, Huber noted.

With the main library closed because of last June’s flood and not to be rebuilt for a couple years, the main library is operating in a much smaller, temporary setup at Westdale Mall.

“Since the volume of materials is greatly reduced, there is not enough work to keep them all busy,” Huber said.

In the aftermath of the June flood, Huber noted that some library personnel helped in a variety of other city departments, mostly in code enforcement. In addition, she said some library staff members have worked at the Marion and Hiawatha libraries to handle increased traffic from Cedar Rapids residents. And some library staff helped, too, in converting the former Osco’s space at Westdale Mall into the temporary library space.

“We now do not have those needs and so had to take this action,” Huber said.

Joe calls Linda; wants local read on getting federal dollars to the front lines

In Linda Langston, Linn County government on April 17, 2009 at 1:02 pm

Vice President Joe Biden called Linda Langston, Linn County supervisor, this week to include her in a conference call with five other local officials from around the nation.

Biden wanted to know how the federal government’s new stimulus package — the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 — is working at the local level.

Langston says she asked Biden if there was a way for more of the federal money to be driven down to the metropolitan areas so that it doesn’t all have to go through states, or if it must all go to states, if there was a way to expedite how it gets to localities from there.

Langston says she also talked to Biden about how money gets to local communities to fund public health programs like those related to the prevention of chronic diseases.

Part of the conversation focused on transit funds and how to order and buy hybrid buses, and beyond that, how to make federal funding available for a wider assortment of fuel-efficient cars and trucks from squad cars to garbage trucks.

Langston figures she and another county official were included in the Biden call because Biden has a fondness for county officials. That’s where he got his start in public life, Langston says.

Langston says Biden is getting a follow-up letter from her about funding for public health and for matters related to flood recovery in Cedar Rapids and Linn County.

Also on the call were Carl Dean, mayor of Nashville, Tenn.; R.T. Rybak, mayor of Minneapolis; John Robert Smith, mayor of Meridian, Miss.; Barbara Fiala, county executive, Broom County, New York; and Darwin Hyman, mayor of Columbia, Mo.