Gov. Chet Culver was in town at midday for the special “A Season of Hope” event at St. Wenceslaus Catholic Church.
The event drew lots of city and county leaders, state lawmakers and other movers and shakers. But all those best and brightest were out-shined by the old church itself, which is clearly beautiful any time but is particularly stunning decked out for Christmas.
Light streamed in through the stained glass and the choir sang carols, led off by “Good King Wenceslaus,” of course. The sanctuary was probably three-quarters full. It was my first visit. I was impressed.
Mayor Kay Halloran and County Supervisor Linda Langston spoke. There was a flood video and stirring songs. Culver was the main draw.
He thanked just about everyone except the architects who designed the church,its builders and old Wenseslaus himself. He praised local leaders for what he called “an outstanding display of leadership.” He quoted scripture, “to everything there is a season.” Yep, the flood happened in “spring” and this is “winter.”
“Faith heals,” Culver said. “Hope can mend the hearts of so many who have suffered so much.”
He brought “good news.”
“The good news is we are communicating. We are partnering,” Culver said, describing “around the clock” efforts to work with local leaders on flood relief. He said he’s working to get federal waivers to make it easier for folks to get Jumpstart funds, but we’ve heard that before. Frustrated people are still getting a cold bureaucratic shoulder.
“To those who are just about at the end of their rope, my message is a hopeful one,” Culver said.
Hope. Got it. So what about money?
Culver said he’s meeting with local officials this afternoon to hear their pitch for legislative help, a pitch that will include pleas for what Culver called “flexibility” when it comes to raising local revenue.
I asked Culver afterwards if he had any flexibility ideas of his own, but he said he is simply here to listen and bring local concerns back to legislative leaders. They’re putting together what he called a “flood relief package” that will include “direct financial assistance” and measures “empowering local city and county leaders to do more.”
He gave no details on what that means.
He also expressed more hope that a change in administration in Washington D.C. will help Iowa make its case.
He pointed to his his good relationships with new our old pal Ag Sec. Tom Vilsack, Tom Daschle, who will run human services, incoming Commerce Sec. Bill Richardson, who campaigned for Chet back in 2006, and fellow Gov. Janet Napolitano of Arizona, who will run Homeland Security, including FEMA. All control pots of dollars that could help us.
Oh, and the new president and vice president spent quite a bit of time around these parts.
“They care passionately about the people of Iowa,” Culver said.
So, to recap, keep hope alive, watch for a legislative aid package to take shape and wait for our pals to take over Washington.
“I’m confident that we will recover,” Culver said.