Federal Disaster Recovery Reform
The funds I am requesting will go toward receiving documentation through Freedom of Information Acts (FOIA) from Federal and State Agencies and Departments in order to build my cases more solid to achieve this much-needed change of direction in our country for disaster victims and disaster spending. It's difficult to get Federal Disaster Reform without proof of the misuse of funds, fraud, and unethical actions that hurt those who the funds are intended to help. And it's difficult to get FOI documents without money, especially when our city is charging well over the actual cost amount to deter me from getting the information.
Cedar Rapids Flood BACKGROUND:
In 2008, Cedar Rapids, Iowa (U.S.) experienced a historical flood of magnitude proportions - 10 square miles. Thousands of homes were flooded, as well as nearly every public facility- main public library, central fire station, police station, sheriff's station, city hall, school district administration building, school district warehouse, an elementary school, county administration building, animal control, ground transportation center ....
"Although the flood was a disaster, what happened afterwards was shear tragedy." (As quoted by our then-NW Neighborhood Association president.)
No one knows the exact amount, but it's in the billions the state received from FEMA and The Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). Iowa got $3.8 billion from the American Recovery Reinvestment Act. The Governor created a state I-Jobs program bonding nearly a billion dollars. With the help of those in charge of these funds, the were (ab)used and wasted, mostly by non profits and developers, as well as our city building everything new, whether needed or not. This even included buying a hotel and building a convention center, building a year-round farmer's market and an amphitheater playground.
While businesses were immediately handed $50,000 grants without question, the flood victims waited for help and were stuck with documenting every cent, while making immediate decisions about where to live, what to throw out and what to keep and clean (and where to put it), filling out continual paperwork, standing in line to get help, rehabbing their home, going to work, and watching their family.
Landlords did not get any assistance to rehab for nearly eight months, and then it came with strict conditions. They were also denied assistance with their carrying costs - loss of rent to pay their mortgage, insurance and property taxes. They are still denied this, unless they participate in the buyout.
After four years, this inequitable treatment still continues in extensive and broad ways, and the city wastes millions and millions more of our taxes to rebuild this city with their dream projects that were planned before the flood.
One by one, thousands of flood victims watched their Constitutional Rights disappear; specifically the 4th and 5th Amendments.
MY GOAL: Federal Disaster Recovery Reform.
Unfortunately, reform usually doesn't take place unless 1) there is proof for the need. Proof for the need usually has to come from accountability of the abuse, fraud, or unethical actions; and 2) there is continual steadfastness to do so. After four years, I still have not let up on this goal. If it doesn't happen, future disaster victims will continue to be abused as we (and other disaster victims) were, and trillions of wasted tax dollars will be wasted to help the rich get richer, instead of going to the intended cause of recovery.
The specific Constitutional Rights that were seriously violated with the majority of flooded residents:
IV. Right of
search and seizure regulated
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness a
against himself,nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use without just compensation.
Here is why:
Although there are SO many inequitable treatments between groups (flood victim vs. non-flooded person; commercial flooded property owners vs. residential flooded property owners...), I will focus on one major issue:
the issue of the backdoor eminent domain.
Excerpt from one of my written reports:
Six months after the flood, on December 10, 2008, the Cedar Rapids City Council approved dividing the flooded neighborhoods up into three zones:the "Greenway;" the "Construction Zone;" and the "Neighborhood Revitalization Zone."
The Greenway:This area consisted of 192 parcels, nearly all homes.It was closest to the river, and it was decided that this area would be on the "wet side" of the levee - once the levee was constructed.
The Construction Zone: This area consisted of 554 parcels, nearly all homes. It was in between the Greenway and the Revitalization Zone. It was told to the public that this area is needed to construct the levee.However, although the City discussed flood protection on both sides of the river and throughout the city, the Construction Zone in the Time Check neighborhood was predominantly larger than any others "“ actually larger than all other construction zones combined.
Revitalization Zone: This area consisted of the remaining flooded parcels and deemed as the area to rebuild.
The onset of inequitable treatment began immediately, especially in the lower-income neighborhood named "Time Check," which included a high percentage elderly and disabled homeowners and renters.
1(a)Explanation "“ Permits, Funds, and Volunteers:
(1)Building permits were denied to most households on the east side of Ellis Blvd. NW., which was closest to the river. Later, the City released this restriction. Commercial properties just as close to the river were not denied building permits.(This inequitable treatment between residential and commercial flood victims is expounded upon in a later section.)
(2)Immediately upon the passage of the December Council vote, the City and their third party administrator for Jumpstart residential assistance (Affordable Housing Network, Inc.) immediately began denying any and ALL disaster recovery funds to the hundreds of residential property owners living in both the Greenway and the Construction Zone.
Many of these homeowners had already begun using the FEMA funds and their own money to rebuild.All funds, including State, Federal and Local Government funds have still since been denied to them, while others outside of those zones were allowed funds from all sources. In addition, it is understood that because of their location in the Greenway and Construction Zone, banks would not loan them money to help them rebuild.
(3)In addition, volunteer groups, such as Hands On, Eight Days of Hope, Christian World Organization (the "Greenshirts") came to Cedar Rapids to help and were required to sign up at the Linn Area Long Term Recovery Center.Those at the Center decided who got volunteer help and who didn't. The homeowners in these two zones were also denied volunteers.
End of Excerpt.
Approximately seven months after the flood, the city sent out "Right of Entry" forms to flood victims in the Construction Zone. (Since then, all persons on the buyout list received this form.) I went before the City Council and complained. The staffer overseeing these stated to the Council that this is only asking for permission to go on their property; not to enter any home. The Council directed her to send out a second letter explaining that. The second letter said to basically sign the first, but it did state that "right of entry" is a legal term asking to enter onto the property; "we are not asking to enter any structure on the property."
The City, however, used this form as an opportunity to do just that. They hired environmental crews to go into these homes and trash them. They put large holes in the walls and ceilings in every room, tore off siding, gutters, and even doors. If a flood victim wanted to rehabilitate and go back, they couldn't, because it would mean even more work, and people were just exhausted to even stand up to it.
The goal of the environmental crews were to deem the home an "imminent threat." By doing so, then three things happen:
- FEMA will pay for the demolition (thus saving Community Development Block Grant, CDBG, funds for other projects);
- The demolition of these historical homes bypasses the Historical Commission for approval;
- They can be demolished without paying the property owner first.
FEMA has "imminent threat" for those buildings that are actually an immediate public danger. (We all probably saw many images of this with Katrina.) Nearly all of these homes were NOT in any danger to the public! There is evidence of this.
However, the environmentalists would deem these an imminent threat due to such things as lead paint, asbestos, and even an added on garage falling down - the house was in great shape, and though the owners were still considering rehabbing it, they destroyed it to the point it could not be rehabbed. - Yes, we have photos! :-)
Before we were allowed to go back into our homes after the flood receded, the fire department and other non-qualified persons "inspected" our homes and taped colored placards on them. There were four levels of placards:
Green - can go ahead and occupy;
Yellow - some damage, rehab it;
Red - some possible structural damage;
Purple - serious structural damage, must be demolished.
The purple tags are those homes that FEMA would consider as imminent threat/danger to the public, and need to be torn down immediately. However most of the homes that the City pulled this backdoor eminent domain on were yellow! They have even demolished green-tagged homes.
Might I add that after the City purchased these properties with Federal funds, they have and are in the process still of giving hundreds of them away for FREE to their friends -developers, contractors, and non profits. The two non profits were the same two in charge of the residential funding for rehab and the volunteers. Interesting, isn't it? This conflict of interest still continues to be ignored, even by the Federal Agencies.
When flood victims entered into the "voluntary property acquisition," most homes were demolished usually well before the property owner was compensated. Some even waited two years to get paid. In 2010, over 500 homes were demolished; 80% of them were done before being paid for their home.
Yet, the City continued calling it a "voluntary acquisition." Who is going to back out of an acquisition when their homes is gone?
Those of us involved in the Time Check neighborhood (the largest neighborhood that was flooded) before the flood knew for years before the flood that the city wanted our property for redevelopment. The Army Corps told the City for decades that they were eligible to receive Federal assistance for a levee on the west side in Time Check - we, at that time, met the cost to benefit ratio required to receive Federal assistance for the flood protection. However, the City's response was that they "did not want to detract from the aesthetics of the river." The Army Corps even warned the City that we were not protected for even a 100-year flood. The city did not act on any of these warnings or recommendations.
Disasters, especially floods, have been utilized as an opportunity for the community to "economically cleanse" the area.
These residents were of lower income, elderly and disabled. They were taken advantage of and mistreated. Their Constitutional Rights were trampled on. It happened in New Orleans, and it happened here, and I'm sure it's happened in nearly all the other floods that our country has experienced. I can guarantee it will continue to happen as long as nothing is done about it.
We must end this. On behalf of all disaster victims now and in the future, please help!
I have the tenacity to get this done, but I do not have the funds. I lost my teaching job after the flood due to the flood issues, and I am still waiting on my buyout of my flooded home. I am mortgaged to the max on my replacement home, so that I can pay my bills while continuing to work on this goal fulltime. I have spent four years and thousands of hours voluntarily researching, and although these funds will not be going to pay me or anyone else, I need them to get more public information. FOI is not free.
Before anyone asks, we have begged for help from every angle we could think of - ACLU, FEMA, HUD, and even state and federal elected officials. Many of us have contacted major national news stations and new programs (our local media will not cover it, as they are in bed with the city), and even good-hearted activists like Ellen, Oprah, and even Michael Moore (I can see his new movie: "Disaster Recovery; A Capitalist Story."
Thank you for helping future disaster victims to get a voice and keep them from having their Constitutional Rights stolen!
PS - I invite you to search on YouTube for videos of me speaking and search through my "notes" (located under the profile picture) or other comments on FB. Go to the Cedar Rapids Gazette and read comments. Google to find news articles and clips. You will be able to verify the advocate I (and others) have been against these injustices and waste of ALL of our taxes.
HAITI: Humanitarian Aid for Earthquake Victims Used to Build Five Star Hotels
By Julie Lévesque
Global Research, June 28, 2012
URL of this article: www.globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=31646
As some 500 000 Haitians still live in displaced camps, five star hotels are being built amid shanty towns.
As part of the country's "Reconstruction", The Clinton-Bush Haiti Fund recently invested $2 million in the Royal Oasis Hotel, a deluxe structure to be built in a poverty-stricken metropolitan area "filled with displaced-persons camps housing hundreds of thousands. Royal Oasis belongs to a Haitian investment group (SCIOP SA) and will be managed by the Spanish chain Occidental Hotels & Resorts.
AP reported in April that funds raised by the former US Presidents to help the neediest Haitians are now being used to build a hotel for "rich foreigners" including tourists as well many foreign Non-Governmental Organizations (NGOs) "aid workers" currently in Haiti. (Daniel Trenton, AP: New hotels arise amid ruins in Haitian capital, Clinton Bush Haiti Fund, April 29, 2012)
It is worth noting that Western governments have insisted that aid money for Haiti be given to NGOs and foundations rather than to the Haitian government, which they consider to be "corrupt".
In the aftermath of the January 2010 earthquake, people in the US, Canada and the EU, who made donations to those humanitarian organizations and NGOs did not realize that their contribution to Haiti's reconstruction would be channeled towards the building of five star hotels to house foreign businessmen. Their expectation was that the money would be used to provide food and housing for the Haitian people.
Royal Oasis hotel. More pictures at http://www.oasishaiti.com/
Royal Oasis Infomercial
The Royal Oasis as well as other hotel projects totalling over $100 million are, according to AP, raising hopes that thousands of [foreign] investors will soon fill their air-conditioned rooms looking to build factories and tourist infrastructure (emphasis added)
The 10-story building [...] will include an art gallery, three restaurants, a commercial bank and high-end shops. Construction on the Royal Oasis began before the earthquake and is expected to finish by the end of the year. The earthquake was therefore a blessing for the hotel promoter and contractors, bringing $2 million dollars originally raised to go directly to supplying these material needs [food, water, shelter, first-aid supplies] (see add below). Among the companies involved in the construction of the Royal Oasis two are Haitian, one is Canadian (Montreal) and the other American (Miami).
Foreign Aid: Who Benefits?
Foreign aid often benefits NGOs of the donor country as well as the local business elites in the recipient country. The Council on Hemispheric Affairs has blamed both Bill Clinton as well previous U.S. presidents for having maintained Haiti in conditions of "endemic poverty through a self-serving U.S. rice export policy [...] By 2003, approximately 80% of all rice consumed in Haiti was imported from the United States. (Leah Chavla, Bill Clintons Heavy Hand on Haitis Vulnerable Agricultural Economy: The American Rice Scandal, Council on Hemispheric Affairs, April 13, 2010.)
To all interested citizens; The front page Cedar Rapids Gazette story "Exceptions to the Rule" on Sunday June 24 is about the City Government's request for Federal and State authorities to change public policy to allow real estate developers to build in the 100 year flood plain. This issue involves a question of basic fairness. Many flooded homeowners in the 100 year flood plain were denied City building permits. These same flooded property owners were then locked out of “Jumpstart” funding administered by Four Oaks/Affordable Housing Network. Now, after City State and Federal taxpayer funds were used to acquire and demolish such flooded property, the City wants to change federal and state rules to award those same properties to “preferred developers”. We have already seen the City Government give away hundreds of lots where flooded houses were demolished to "preferred developers" such as Skogman Builders Iowa State Senator Jack Hatch. The purpose of flood recovery fun