In fullÂ harmony with the wreckless abandon that led to two northeast Iowa communities getting a combined total $100,000 in relief money for weather related damage that never happened to them, news that Cedar Rapids residents who need relief are going to take second place to other community projects.
There are some great Des Moines Register reader comments at the story site above.Â Many questions, most pointed being “What is being done to ensure the next flood doesn’t cause this kind of damage?”, are being asked.Â And while I can certainly agree that when rebuilding from the ground up one would want to start afresh instead of just rebuilding the same structure in the same location, one can also rebuild in phases, designing facilitities to ensure that basic services and features are available while leaving additional work for later years or donations to provide additional space.
And that is all well and good for things like the Library.Â Museums can wait a bit.Â I would go so far as to say that Iowans as a whole, as generous as they are, would rather see any money going to building homes, levies, drainage systems, etc. instead of non-essentials (though desirable)Â such as a museum.Â
Also, in rethinking the Libraries that need to be rebuilt, I can undestand needing to provide additional space for internet workstations.Â But with all of the content that available digitally, how much paper-based primary sources for research are really needed?Â I can see liesure reading material as important, but there should be a lot of content that can be left for internet access these days, it seems.Â
All that said, this topic should be about priorities and limits.Â Identify the things that truly need to be fixed or replaced (like peoples homes, especially if they are living in FEMA housing), but I don’t agree with spending state money, during such hard times economically, on non-essentials.Â Let the private donors solve that for now, and wait for better times to fund more cultural projects.
But government won’t change their direction just because I say they should.Â Or even if the majority of Iowans say they should.Â That is, until those Iowans show up at the voting booth and find better leaders.
More evidence that we need to put better controls on our government.Â And before you discard this discussion as “more of the same government stupidity” that we’ve become accustomed to writing off as just “how the system works”, stop and read through this.Â And really think about it.
I am loath to speculate on what specifically happened here, that is, how Rebuild Iowa managed to send $100,000 out to the towns of Dunkerton and Fairbank despite the lack of need or request for the money.Â The story makes it sound like they just, well, used National Weather Service information.Â
But I can’t wait to hear what the Governor’s office has to say about it.Â If anything.
As you may know, Rebuild Iowa is a state project to coordinate spending the money allocated by the Legislature to help Iowa communities recover from the weather-relatedÂ damage of 2008.Â From the Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier story:
Tina Potthoff, a spokesperson for Rebuild Iowa, said the Iowa Legislature approved the funds with no application process and with Gov. Chet Culver’s blessing. The money came from the state’s general fund.
“Since it’s state money, it comes with less restrictions than federal money,” Potthoff said.Â
I am certainly glad that we were able to provide necessary funds to helpÂ the tornado and flood ravagedÂ communities to recover, but there is an operational principle at work here that is a key to the gutting of our state’s financial resources:
IfÂ government money has been allocated, it needs to be spent on something, anything, quickly before someone decides to take it back.
After all, it’s free money, right?
The only problem is that it’s not free.Â We are getting a superb opportunity to see how the state government, from the Legislature to the Governor to the folks that have been carelessly given free reign to just spend a huge chunk of money as they see fit (and feel compelled to spend every bit of it), and the folks who are recipients of our state’s enourmous generosity.
I don’t blame the leaders in Fairbank and Dunkerton.Â The money is likely to be put to good use and may even help prevent loss of life in the future.Â They may, however, becomeÂ unwitting villains in a story they had no hand in writing.Â I hope, for the sake of our state finances, that they decide to return the money to the state and await an appropriate opportunity to finance what things they truly need.Â But I also wouldn’t blame them one bit if they kept the money and used it as they saw fit.
The State of Iowa, however, needs better accountability.Â We already know that the current leadership of the General Assembly has become drunk with power and the unfettered ability to spend our state into oblivian.Â The Governor is the author of what can, at best,Â be described as a constitutionally unauthorized bond measure that will keep the state in debt for decades.Â And the Legislature puts no real constraints on the Governor appointed boards who are authorized to spend millions in tax dollars, in some cases for good cause, but in no case with appropriate public accountability.Â
The spending needs to stop, or we will pay for it, either through higher taxes or other increased costs.
We, as the citizens and taxpayers of Iowa, are the ultimate holders of accountability.Â We have lost the opportunity to address the legislation that led to this chaos.Â We must voice, and continue to voice, our objections to the feckless manner in which our Legislature and Governor have brought us here, and take whatever appropriate action we can, including writing, phoning, and emailing them to voice those objects.Â And then vote them out of office.
I would even advocate recall elections.Â At this point I have no idea what that involves or what it would cost the state.Â The question becomes whether the financial cost of such electionsÂ would be outweighed by the continued impact of another year with these folks in power.
Unless of course you actually like this.