PSL Presidential candidate Gloria La Riva in Iowa Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Assisting residents, condemning government negligence, calling for immediate action
Unprecedented flood levels have left hundreds of thousands of people in Iowa, Illinois and Missouri devastated - and the destruction is not over. While George W. Bush has been traveling to Paris and London, the people are left to their own devices, their homes devastated, many who have lost their jobs, and 17 percent of the region’s crops damaged.
Party for Socialism and Liberation Presidential candidate Gloria La Riva, Illinois State Assembly candidate John Beacham and PSL Chicago organizer Stefanie Fisher visited the flood-devastated areas of Iowa to help in emergency-sandbagging efforts to try to keep the rising Mississippi River from engulfing more towns, and to express solidarity with the affected communities.
The delegation is carrying out on-the-spot fact-finding, and issuing reports for PSLweb.org and Liberation Newspaper; showing solidarity with the people there who are suffering from the floods; and beginning a political campaign to demand real action by the government. Report from the flood-hit areas of Iowa FEMA is leaving people stranded ... again
By Gloria La Riva, John Beacham and Stefanie Fisher
PSL presidential candidate Gloria La Riva, with PSL organizer Stefanie Fisher, filling sandbags at the Mississippi River near Mediapolia, Iowa.
House belongings ruined by the flooding of Cedar River in Cedar Rapids, Iowa.
Today we met with Iowans in Cedar Rapids, Des Moines, Waterloo, Cedar Falls and Burlington. From our conversations with flood survivors it is clear that the federal government is not providing the needed assistance, and is instead leaving people to their own individual efforts, much like what happened in New Orleans and the Gulf Coast after the Katrina disaster.
In Cedar Rapids, over 1,300 city blocks were wiped out by the Cedar River when it crested to record levels. There the waters rose to 31 feet, 19 feet above the flood level. In an area considered a “500-year flood level” we saw street after street of houses completely gutted by the waters. With the water receding, residents were piling their ruined belongings on the street. Everything the water touched is beyond recovery or repair.
David Lester, auto mechanic, was with several friends at his workplace, H&H Auto, where they had finished emptying the inside of the shop. Lester, visibly angry, said: “I called FEMA and we are not eligible for aid because we aren’t a residence. But my boss who is 80 years old lives here in the shop. This is his home. We were told we can apply for a small-business loan, but how is a loan going to help us?”
Lester’s friends came together and worked all day, hauling out the ruined motors, shop tools and other belongings. He said: “All I know is that it is people helping each other out. That’s all we have.”
In Cedar Rapids, an older couple was still in shock, with their home still under water. The woman told us: “FEMA just told us we are only possibly eligible for a maximum of $28,500. That will cover only a small part of what we lost. They told us some things are luxuries, like my garage. I worked for 50 years, a garage and my home are not a luxury.”
As we headed to the Missouri border, the Mississippi River was cresting as the waters accumulate southward. Hundreds of volunteers were filling sandbags at Nelson’s Quarry near Mediapolis. We joined for several hours in shoveling sand, and filling and tying bags to line the river’s banks.
We spoke with many people about the PSL campaign’s demand for immediate federal grants to all those affected by the flood and aftermath. The response was unanimously positive. The people welcomed our support and solidarity. Despite the terrible and widespread destruction, and the obvious exhaustion of many, people’s spirits were undaunted. As one woman told us: “I just feel for others who are worse off. We’re still alive.” All active news articles