CEDAR RAPIDS — On a day when Cedar Rapids was returning to normal after a major flood threat last week, Monica Vernon said she’s running for Congress on her record of rebuilding the city after historic 2008 flooding.
“This is my hometown. It’s where I grew up,” she told the Cedar Rapids Downtown Rotary Club Monday. “I worked really hard to improve this community. To build it and then rebuild it.”
Vernon, a former business owner who served on the Cedar Rapids City Council in the aftermath of the 2008 flooding, is challenging GOP 1st District Rep. Rod Blum, a Dubuque business owner seeking a second term.
“I’m running for Congress on that record of building and rebuilding,” Vernon said, “because I think this district, this area deserves a member of Congress who is active, who is engaged, who is interested in helping the people around her.”
The lessons learned in helping the city recover from flooding and from working with state and federal agencies to get assistance for rebuilding will help her achieve priorities such as a flood protection system, Vernon said in a 20-minute speech.
“The city had to reset the table to make our city work again” and attract private investment, she said.
“It’s working,” she said. “It’s a model we can take to Washington.”
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However, recovery and flood protection is unfinished and Vernon promised to “never stop working until we get those federal dollars in here to build that flood protection system … (because) we can’t truly prosper with this threat (of flooding) hanging over our heads.”
The city has proposed a $600 million flood protection project. It has committed local funds and secured state funds. Although Congress has authorized $73 million in federal funds, no money has been appropriated and the Army Corps of Engineers has given the project a low priority based on a cost-to-benefit analysis.
Iowa’s congressional delegation — including Blum — has written letters calling for the Corps to expedite its review of the Cedar Rapids project and is suggesting the agency should review its funding formula.
Still, Vernon said, “After some recent political maneuvering, there are no dollars.”
“If I’m fortunate enough to be your member of Congress, when this city or any of our cities need my help, I will take action,” she said. “It’s not enough to write a few letters. You have to get moving and set up meetings and conferences and more meetings. You call everyone you can and then you call them again.”
Blum has been invited to speak to the Rotary Oct. 17.