It’s been a while since a column has drawn the response that I got from Sunday’s column (Saturday’s blog post) on Chet Culver’s refusal to call the Iowa Legislature into special session. In the interest of giving my critics their due, I will start with the only critical email. (I should note that my emailers are not bashful about being critical; columns about The Gazette possibly leaving AP or dropping “For Better or For Worse” drew plenty of criticism.)
Floyd Sandford of Cedar Rapids tipped off his view in the subject line of his email, referring to my “nasty piece of journalism.” He elaborated: “What a missed opportunity, insinuating that all the blame for lack of response to a natural disaster over which any single mere mortal has any control or responsibility [unlike a manmade disaster such as the shambles left by the most bumbling, incompetent, tunnel-visioned president in the history of our country] is the fault of Iowa’s govenor. Was this your revenge at getting yelled at in public forum? One would have hoped for a less petty and sarcastic piece of partisanship from someone on the Gazette’s Editorial Staff. Hopefully, Culver will rise above your personal attack and not view Cedar Rapidians from the perspective of the nasty, whining tone you established in your forgettable article.”
Every other message I received (and some tweets as well) told me that Culver has not earned much respect in these parts with his response to the flood.
“What part of ‘NO’ don’t we all understand?” asked Sue Bailey, echoing Culver’s response to me in September when I pushed him for a better explanation of his refusal to call a special session. Bailey has two daughters affected by the flood, one who will be bought out and one who is rebuilding, and she liked my “Barelystart” reference to Culver’s “Jumpstart” program. “Each has gone through hoops with the jumpstart and SBA, not to mention the city,” Bailey wrote.
Kristi Murdock shared my reaction to Culver’s boast that he was working to provide aid “as quickly as possible.” “Too little too late from ol’ Chet,” she responded.
City Council member Chuck Wieneke, who stressed that he was not speaking for the whole council, wrote: “I could not agree with you more on the fact that the Governor’s words have not been backed up by his actions. In my opinion the fact that we did not have a special session of the legislature called to take action on the greatest disaster this state has ever faced is nothing less that moral cowardice on his part. I have been very outspoken on this issue and have hoped on many occasions that both the Gazette and local media would have been much more active in promoting the calling of such a session to deal with the challenges we are facing. Since we have been forced to wait for the Legislature to meet in normal session I would hope that all local media will stay on top of the legislature, calling for immediate action to assist in flood recovery issues and not just put it on the rear burner to deal with the other issues facing the state which the Governor has finally become so interested in. Thanks again for a good column, I only wish more individuals were willing to call it like it is. Politics were the sole reason, in my opinion, that we didn’t have a special session and I believe that is inexcusable.”
Another local official, County Supervisor Brent Oleson, agreed on Twitter that the criticism of Culver “was spot on.”
B.J. Smith, an active Twitterer, affirmed my view that a similar disaster in Des Moines would have received a more vigorous state response.
Barry Boyer, an employee owner of Van Meter Industrial, responded to the column: “I think the state government response led by Culver is pathetic. How do we lead a revolution here in CR to really put pressure on these guys? I am ready to throw some elbows.”
Doug Schumacher of A1 Rental and the Cedar Rapids Small Business Recovery Group responded: “What you failed to mention was how much of the $100 million is in people’s hands today (very little), or the fact that several of us sat in Des Moines in July telling the Rebuild Iowa Task Force that we needed “IMMEDIATE CASH ASSISTANCE”.
Greg Q. ArBuckle had nothing but disgust for the state and city in their response to the disaster: “I don’t think you could have said it better! Between the Chet and Kay, I left Cedar Rapids. I could not get any help and the city was fighting me at every turn. I was not asking for free ride, just help to get things rolling. They said I would have to replace my boiler rather than repair it. The boiler was shut down for the summer and had not electric or gas going to it. For about $6,000 I could have it all cleaned and all the outside gauges replaced, it would have been like new! A far cry from the $23,000 quoted to replace it. The city said no. This is just one of the battles I butted heads with them. So I sold my buildings and moved to Jesup, Iowa. I bought a motel and will build onto it. Here I was welcomed with open arms.” ArBuckle added, “I was a life resident of Cedar Rapids. Now the name leaves a sour taste in my mouth!”
I’m not saying that just because some people agree with me that I was particularly insightful (if I did, I’d have to admit I was off-target when the reaction goes the other way). But I think the reaction shows that Culver has a problem here in Cedar Rapids, and it’s going to take more than talk to address the problem.