Rebuild Iowa Reports – Updated

Today, from the desk of The Honorable Chester Culver, governor:

GOVERNOR CULVER, LT. GOVERNOR JUDGE RECEIVE FINAL “REBUILD IOWA COMMISSION” REPORT

Calls for investment in infrastructure to rebuild Iowa, create jobs

DES MOINES – Governor Chet Culver and Lt. Governor Patty Judge were presented with the 120-day report of the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission, which provides a long-term vision for both the recovery and rebuilding of Iowa communities. The Commission, chaired by Major General Ron Dardis, was created by Governor Culver to develop and recommend policy proposals for recovery efforts statewide. This report represents the final recommendations by the Commission.

“As Governor, I asked all citizens to join together in our common goal to rebuild Iowa,” said Governor Culver. “I am profoundly grateful for the service of these 15 dedicated Iowans who served as Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commissioners. Their hard work is a testament to the seriousness of the task before us, and I thank them for their service.”

“With the submission of this 120-Day Report, the second major responsibility of the Commission has been met,” said General Dardis. “In many ways, this report carries some mandates for Iowa’s recovery. We cannot rest until we learn the lessons of this disaster and take the necessary steps to keep disasters from devastating our people, our communities, our land and our economy. The Commission is pleased and confident that the state’s leaders will proceed aggressively to ensure Iowa rebuilds stronger and better for its future.”

The Commission’s report outlined 12 recommendations for Iowa’s long-term recovery, including:

• Provide individual services and guidance
• Make housing a priority
• Provide incentives for Iowa’s struggling small businesses, micro-enterprises, and non-profits
• Invest in infrastructure
• Create sustainable funding options for local and state rebuilding efforts
• Invest in local emergency management agencies for the central coordination function and work in all areas of emergency management
• Enact policies to make communities sustainable and protect Iowa’s quality of life and cultural heritage
• Lead and support integrated, regional recovery planning
• Enact policy to address floodplain and watershed management
• Complete floodplain mapping for the entire state
• Formalize the Rebuild Iowa Office and recovery responsibilities
• Lead communications efforts to educate Iowans on recovery efforts and planning for future potential disasters

Governor Culver said he is looking forward to working with the legislature on addressing these issues, and commended leaders in the Iowa House and Senate for creating new “Rebuild Iowa” committees to give careful consideration of these recommendations.

Governor Culver also reiterated a call for state and national investment in infrastructure as key to rebuilding efforts and job creation statewide.

“As we rebuild, we must be mindful of the infrastructure needs of communities, not just in flood-affected areas, but statewide,” added Governor Culver. “This is not a question of just bricks and mortar, but one of quality of life for all Iowans.”

The Rebuild Iowa Office and the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission were established by the Governor’s Executive Order Seven on June 27 following the storms, tornadoes and flooding of 2008. The RIAC is a 15-person, bipartisan commission whose members chair nine task forces focused on specific issues that will develop further recommendations to support the state’s strategic recovery and rebuilding process.

A complete copy of the report is available for download at www.governor.iowa.gov and http://www.rio.iowa.gov/assets/RIO_120_DAY_REPORT.pdf

The actual report is much thicker than this overview, and I have yet to wade through it.

The whole works will be handed over to those legislative committees, which will undoubtedly form subcommittees. All of that will have to wait until January when lawmakers return to the Statehouse.  And first, of course, we’ll have to wait to find out who will be appointed by legislative leaders to serve on those committees. These things take time.

But clearly, the skids are now greased. Things will really start happening, in a couple of months. Maybe. What’s your hurry?

UPDATE — There are a few interesting nuggets tucked among dozens of recommendations, especially for local governments, including:

Create a statewide disaster contingency fund available to cities, counties, and public educational institutions as a gap funding source for future disasters, i.e., an Evergreen Fund. An alternative to creating a new fund would be to allow access to the “Rainy Day Fund” for these same purposes.

Raise the current bond cap for local governments.

Allow local bond referendum vote percentages for passage to be 50% plus 1 for affected areas in a declared Presidential Disaster Area.

At the state level, lead an effort with county and city leaders to develop a set of local contingency options to provide flexibility for local governments that would be activated in affected areas upon receiving a Presidential Disaster Declaration and an order for activation from the Governor. Any state or local policy and rule exceptions, waivers, and adjustments should be evaluated and established during non-disaster times so the assistance programs are ready to launch when activated. These options would be available to all affected local jurisdictions, with the decision to implement any of the options resting with each local jurisdiction.

The commission doesn’t say how big the fund should be, or how it would be filled. That last one could mean anything. The sky’s the limit when it comes to “options.”

There are also recommendations for waiving sales taxes for small businesses and “microenterprises” as they try to recover and for handing incentives to developers. One long section details how the state should get more involved in managing watersheds and development in floodplains. Another says more should be done to sustain historic and cultural assets.

All in all, a lot of it is very broad stuff, much of it aimed at convincing the state to better prepare for the next time nature smacks us. Hard to be against it, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy to pay for or implement.

There also are photos of our leaders in action. Page 8 features a big, obligatory pic of Gov. Culver, in full bomber jacket, comforting an elderly woman. His Lugness also graces page 24.

But the report does suffer from a bad case of govspeak. We must “incent” some “stakeholders” etc. Just try and decode this recommendation:

Convene stakeholders in the many services and supports provided by case management to provide input and assistance to the RIO in its planning for a system and infrastructure to maintain and improve case management through disaster and non-disaster times.

The only victim here is English.

But, seriously, I give this commission much credit for stepping up in tough spot to serve their state and deliver some good, and in many cases, thoughtful ideas. They deserve our thanks.

Now it’s up to the politicians to follow through. We’ll be watching.

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1 Comment

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One response to “Rebuild Iowa Reports – Updated

  1. Nice writing. You are on my RSS reader now so I can read more from you down the road.

    Allen Taylor

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