Since the flood, temporary has become the new permanent in Cedar Rapids. So we might as well have a temporary city slogan, too.
In case you missed it, the deciders who make these sort of calls have temporarily replaced our familiar “City of the Five Seasons” slogan with “The Fifth Season of Progress.”
In 30 days, the original “five seasons” returns to its regularly scheduled confounding of newcomers.
“We are making significant progress toward our city’s vision of ‘building a greater community for the next generation,’” said Mayor Kay Halloran. “Now is the time to commemorate the anniversary of the flood and track our progress up to this point.”
The new slogan, which is emblazoned on a billboard along I-380 near downtown, is supposed to remind us that, with lots of local grit and volunteer help, progress has been made since the Cedar River invaded a year ago. True enough.
Still, it’s easy to get whiplash trying to pin down Cedar Rapids’ brand image these days.
There’s the travel writer who claims we smell so bad people should stay away. But then there’s the Wisconsin outfit that says we’re the fourth-best small city in America for young professionals.
There’s a new public relations offensive determined to remind national media that Cedar Rapids still “looks like a disaster area.” But hey, we’re also in our fifth season of progress.
All of this underscores the perpetual folly of trying to boil down the identity of a complex place such as a city to fit on a bumper sticker or a billboard. There’s nothing wrong with trying, and lord knows everybody’s doing it. But really, every community’s slogan is “The Home of Some Stuff You Like and Some Stuff You Don’t.”
Which Cedar Rapids brand is accurate? Try all of the above. Struggling and improving. Appealing, yet aromatic.
But in this case, I think “The Fifth Season of Progress” is appropriate.
This summer will, indeed, be the fifth season since the flood. And in many ways, it will be a critical period.
The federal bureaucracy may actually get around to coughing up stacks of dollars promised by Congress. That would allow some major recovery steps, including housing buyouts, to begin in earnest, finally.
Cleanup efforts are kicking back into gear so that next year, community events like the Ellis Harbor fireworks display can be held without safety worries. Redevelopment plans, both public and private, should gain momentum this summer.
But if the fifth season lapses into autumn without major progress, we won’t be able to print what people think of the sixth season on billboards.
A season of progress? Heaven help us if it’s not.