FEMA: FUBAR for Everyone Meaning Always?

Downtown farmer's market in Cedar Rapids Sept. 18, 2010. The city is a nice place, but still hasn't recovered many key pieces since flooding wiped a big part of downtown out in 2008. And FEMA is making recent decision that seem very, deeply, in the words of a Project Runway designer Valerie "cray cray."

I like the post below because I got so ballistic, but see note at end, there has been a change ….

OK, it’s easy to beat FEMA up. But do they have to make it so easy?

When you wonder why Americans have such an oddly bad attitude about the government of the people, for the people—consider the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s actions in recent days as it “aids” Cedar Rapids’ flood recovery:

  • FEMA says the new boilers to be installed in the Veteran’s Memorial Building, located on an island in the Cedar River, must be in the basement, because taking away any space on the (unused) stage area of the auditorium violates the building’s historic character. This delays city governments return to its home, and is prima facia bizarre decision making. Story here.
  • FEMA says building a new main library at what is called the “True North” site, just east of Green Square Park in downtown Cedar Rapids, would cost too much. Instead, build it again at its current site. Right across the street from the Cedar River, and just one foot taller than before, even though 6 feet of water flooded the library in 2008. So when we finally get a main library back in our city, it will be pretty much as vulnerable to floods as before, but FEMA says it will insure it. That’s makes sense. NOT.  Story here.
  • FEMA says that an ugly 1960s era parking garage, crumbling and falling apart, will have its demolition delayed due to its historic character. Apparently, if you form concrete into a spiral, it’s not just an exit ramp, it’s a historic exit ramp. Lots of irony here, and not just rusting rebar irony. The offending parking ramp was part of one of the most bone-headed decisions in Cedar Rapids history—the razing of a historic train depot. That was a tragedy, the loss of an architectural treasure. Preserving the parking ramp? Huh? Story here.
  • FEMA says all citizens of Cedar Rapids must now wear their underwear on the outside.  Opps, old joke from the Woody Allen movie “Bananas.”  Somehow, it seems to fit.

Yeah, the straw man sets himself up. It gives me plenty of sympathy for the experience New Orleans has had and that Nashville Tennessee will be going through. Watch out world, FEMA is here to “help.”

Two years after flooding devastated downtown Cedar Rapids and 20 percent of the housing in this nice little city, some federal bureaucrats are making decision that invite whatever pejorative, strong adjective you want to choose. Based on the triple play of  boneheadedness, FEMA must be:
• Crazy.
• Arrogant.
• Out of touch.
• Drunk with power.
• Stupid.

You name it.

Now, folks, I’m a Democrat. I don’t hate the government, and am glad that so much help available when disaster strikes. And  I wish that Americans considered government service to be the honorable way of life it actually is, for the most part.

But can’t federal help be delivered in a way that isn’t so fraught with delay or so messed up, slow, hamstrung with paperwork and crazy when it arrives?

I am also primed to dislike arbitrary federal FEMA decisions because new flood control maps oddly identify my house, untouched in every deluge that has befallen the city and, frankly, untouchable in anything but a Noahetic flood wiping out the entire state—as needing flood insurance. A corner of our yard may get damp when we get over 9 inches of rain. To the feds, that makes us flood prone. To any other carbon-based sentient life in the Milky Way, on the other hand, Joe’s house would be a safe place to stay in a flood.

Politicians, in this election year: Can’t you light a fire under FEMA? President Obama—FEMA became a symbol for the Bush administration’s penchant for incompetence when it totally botched Hurricane Katrina.

You seem like a smarter president. You were elected to fix government, which granted is a big job that takes time, but … As Shirley Sherrod and how FEMA show, you’re leading a government today that often doesn’t seem to “get it.”

FEMA, you work for us. Your decisions and thinking need to reflect our reality on the ground, not so much your own arbitrary internal rules. And we the citizens of Cedar Rapids are ready to give you, as our employees, your performance review.

You suck.

Strong words, I know, but really. Put the boilers in the basement? Rebuild the library in the flood plain? Preserve an ugly slab of cement because it has a spiral exit?

Wow. There’s some kind of crazy in the air.

Update: City officials were obviosuly a bit miffed at FEMA and called for a meeting with retional honchose.  As the Gazette reported Sept. 23, and as its columnist Todd Dorman notes, FEMA hasn’t exactly totally backed down (no boilers on the stage, for now), but has changed its tune. Well, good.  Must have been all that anger in the blogosphere, those 20 outgrated readers of my post.  It still rankles, a bit, that the original triple-play of crazy was announced, however. 


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