Gov. Chet Culver told The Gazette’s editorial board today that state officials ate determined to stay ahead of a possible H1N1 flu outbreak, even if it doesn’t turn out to be severe.
“I learned this at new governor’s school,” Culver said, referring to the training meeting for newly-elected governors. Culver went to school after his 2006 victory. “You’d better be prepared for any emergency.”
Culver is trying to walk a thin line. On one hand, he declared a dire-sounding “public health disaster” after the first flu case was confirmed over the weekend. One large school district, Marshalltown, has cancelled classes for a week at the urging of state and federal officials.
He said Monday that another school district weighed closure but decided to stay open for now. He didn’t name the district.
He also says Iowans shouldn’t be worried.
“There’s no alarm here. There’s no reason for families or individuals to be scared or concerned about this situation,” Culver said.
Declaring a disaster, he said, helps the state get its hands on antiviral drug supplies and other federal assistance. It also gives the state the power to quarantine patients, even if they object to being isolated. Culver says he’s taking a “hands-on” role in all flu-related decisions.
“With the new flu, we’re being very aggressive,” Culver said, likening the state’s response to the illness with it’s response to last spring’s devastating flooding.
(I know he’s probably referring to the initial emergency response, but telling folks around these parts that the government will respond to the flu just like it did to the flood is not likely to inspire broad confidence. Just a thought.)
It’s pretty early to judge Culver’s flu response. But so far it seems to be following that new governor’s textbook.
Culver was asked about Lt. Gov. Patty Judge’s unplanned appearance last week on “Late Night with David Letterman.” Judge’s coughing fit during a flu briefing drew yucks here and across the country. Culver can be seen behind Judge, urging aides to get her a glass of water.
Culver smiled when he was asked about it. But all kidding aside…
“This is a very serious situation that our country is dealing with,” said Culver, who added it that it would be wrong to “make light” of the outbreak.
On other subjects, Culver touted the Legislature’s record on flood recovery, which was his No.1 priority entering the 2009 session. He spoke of hundreds of millions of dollars in flood-related spending approved by lawmakers and several other policy measure aimed at aiding recovery.
Culver made his pitch, although The Gazette already praised those accomplishments in a Saturday editorial.
Culver said lawmakers likely will be asked to approve another package of flood aid next year, especially if the federal government continues to drag its feet on assistance.
“We need to continue to keep it (the flood) on the front burner,” Culver said.
After the jump – The press release Culver sent out from his CR visit highlighting legisltive efforts:
GOVERNOR CULVER: IOWA IS MOVING FORWARD TO REBUILD CEDAR RAPIDS
I-JOBS, two dozen bills help flood recovery, prevention efforts
CEDAR RAPIDS – Standing in front of the public library in downtown Cedar Rapids, Governor Chet Culver today said the creation of I-JOBS and the passage of two dozen disaster-related bills during the 2009 legislative session is evidence that Iowa continues to move forward in the effort to rebuild flood-damaged communities. Governor Culver made his comments while travelling across the state to discuss accomplishments of this year’s legislative session.
“This year, we took control of our own destiny with big ideas and bold leadership to benefit all of Iowa. That’s because we have confidence in Iowa, faith as Iowans, and hope for our future,” Governor Culver said when the legislative session adjourned last week. “From homeowners and small businesses to local governments and school districts, our work continues to not only return life to normal but in the process build a smarter, safer and stronger Iowa.”
I-JOBS, an $830 million initiative to rebuild Iowa’s infrastructure, create jobs and stimulate the economy, was Governor Culver’s top legislative priority this year. In addition to providing support to transportation, water, housing, technology and other infrastructure needs, the program invests $165 million in flood recovery and rebuilding efforts. Several major projects in Cedar Rapids will receive direct support from I-JOBS, including:
• National Czech & Slovak Museum: $10 million
• Human Services Resource Replacement Center: $10 million
• Cedar Rapids Public Library: $5 million
• Cedar Rapids Public Works Building: $5 million
• Options of Linn County: $5 million
• Paramount Theater: $5 million
• Steam energy matching funds: $5 million
Governor Culver also pointed to the progress he and the legislature have made to implement all twelve recommendations of the Rebuild Iowa Advisory Commission. RIAC, chaired by General Ron Dardis, was created by the Governor last year to develop advice and recommendations that would support and improve the state’s recovery and rebuilding process. The final recommendations presented by RIAC to the Governor included:
• 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
A total of two dozen pieces of legislation were passed to implement the RIAC recommendations. Those bills included:
• HF64: Disaster Assistance Bill
• HF414: Appropriation and De-appropriation Bill
• HF705: Weather Safe Rooms Bill
• HF756: Floodplain Management Task Force Bill
• HF809: Administration and Regulation Appropriations Bill
• HF811: Health and Human Services Appropriations
• HF820: Federal and Stimulus Appropriations
• HF822: Infrastructure Appropriations
• SF44: Local Option Sales Tax Bill
• SF81: School District Disaster Recovery Bill
• SF114: Historic Preservation Grants Bill
• SF280: Disaster Emergency Assistance Immunity Bill
• SF289: Loan Forgiveness for Jumpstart Housing Assistance Program Bill
• SF336: Optional Waiver of Local and Private Match Requirement Bill
• SF344: Economic Development Programs Bill
• SF376: I-JOBS Bonding Bill
• SF377: Prescription Drug Donation Bill
• SF415: City Acquisition of Disaster-affected Abandoned Property Bill
• SF441: Modifying Statewide Mutual Aid Compact Bill
• SF457: Financing Options for Cities and Counties After Disaster Bill
• SF474: Regents Bonding Bill
• SF478: Standing Appropriations Bill
• SF481: Historic Preservation Tax Credits
• SF482: Iowa Summer Youth Corps and Iowa Green Corps Programs