Flood 2008


Seems like the police are really paying attention to curfew violations lately.

Last week, when I wrote a story about people protecting their flooded property, cops had only written seven citations in total to people walking around in the flood zone after 8 p.m. — the curfew set in those areas until further notice. But when I looked at the arrest log today, I saw eight people were arrested on curfew violation charges from the early morning Tuesday to early this morning. Wow!

Three of them were kids between 18 and 20 years old who didn’t live near where they were found in the 1800 block of B Street SW. Two others were found near the intersection of 12th Avenue and Fourth Street SE. A 36-year-old man from Rock Island got a drug charge at the same time he was arrested in the 200 block of 12th Avenue SE. None of them had any reason but a bad one to be there. Police said if there had been proof they were stealing things, those charges would have been filed, too.

“We’ve warned people long enough,” said Cedar Rapids police Lt. Kenneth Washburn. Hopefully this effort cuts down on burglaries and vandalism in those areas, which are both still happening.

These are the fine folks of Cedar Rapids who apparently couldn’t manage to play nice in the aftermath of the worst disaster this city has ever known:

Misha Williams gave Red Cross workers an address that would have been in the flood zone, if it existed. Howard and Morris claimed their home received flood damage when it didn’t. The last three are accused of using false IDs showing addresses in the flood zone to get aid from the Red Cross. Sad face!

These people have ripped off nearly $5,000 in flood assistance. And more of them will probably be added later. Another sad face.

After Trish Mehaffey’s story earlier this month on how inmates felt the Linn County Jail flood evacuation went awry, I received a packet of letters from Bruce M. Braggs complaining about the treatment of Linn County inmates who are now staying at the Anamosa State Penetentiary. I sort of see one of his many points — why should he and other transferred inmates be denied phone access to call their relatives and let them know where they are? But there is an underlying assumption in his complaints that I can’t quite stomach: That he isn’t a prisoner at Anamosa and shouldn’t be treated like one.

Well, now he is. It depends on where you are being jailed on what amenities you do or don’t receive, how long you get to be out of your cell, what you eat, etc. Honestly, the Linn County Jail is comparable to a college dorm, only all the students wear orange jumpsuits. The inmates there had it pretty good. Heck, they could buy checkers games and underwear, and eat pretty good food! So I can understand why Braggs and others would be a little ticked that they can’t receive their newspapers or watch TV as extensively as they used to, or have access to a law library. He even referred to the living conditions as “torture.” Although, his complaint that Anamosa won’t give them chicken on the bone instead of chicken patties made me question that assertion.

Anamosa is a state penitentiary, a place for mostly serious criminals. The rules will be a little different. So I also understand why Linn County Sheriff’s officials maintain the line that Linn County inmates are going to have to follow their rules while they’re there. That includes strip searches to and from visits. I can also understand this comment I’ve heard from several sheriff’s deputies: “Maybe seeing what it’s like hanging with the big boys in state prison will help them clean up their act so they don’t end up there, too.”

Just so you know who sent the letter, Braggs is awaiting an Oct. 20 trial for charges of first-degree burglary and second-degree sexual abuse in connection with the rape of a Kirkwood student last year. Since 1996, he has been charged with domestic abuse three times, willful injury once, attempted murder twice and first-degree burglary twice. He wasn’t convicted on any of those charges, records show. In the same amount of time, he has been convicted of controlled substance violation, illegal game/betting, domestic assaults, disorderly conduct and assaults.

I set out Thursday afternoon to tell the story of the thousands of people who are being paid $10 an hour (some maybe more, many much less) to clean out all the nasty, smelly crap left behind after the flood. The most obvious gathering place for day laborers was the parking lot behind Wells Fargo Bank, where Able Body Labor has its big brown motorhome parked, so I started there. Many of those workers coming downtown are parking in the lots underneath the Interstate 380 bridge, where a few who have come from far away are still sleeping in their vehicles. Those lots are filthy because the rain hasn’t washed away all the muck, and garbage bags are hanging from some of the parking meters to hold the overflowing amount of trash. Some trash is still not making it into the bags, though. And to think there was a veritable village of day laborers sleeping on mattresses and cardboard on the ground there…

I met Nancy Martinez of Dobson, N.C., who told me of her experience on camera (video will be back after editing):

But to get the full effect of what it is like to be a day laborer (for one day, at least), I got up at 4:30 a.m. to go down and watch how the selection process is done. I wanted to see if there was any curious activity (i.e. under the table labor), and we ran into a woman running such an operation out of a van underneath Interstate 380. Her workers, all Latino, were already awake and ready to go by 5:30 a.m., hard hats on and plastic bags over their bodies to keep out the hammering rain. She told us she was from Florida, but wouldn’t provide any other details. I’m hoping those workers are getting paid well, but probably not.

Able Body’s selection process was much more above board. They had new workers filling out applications and providing Social Security cards, and provided everyone with sanitized cleaning gear. They pay their employees $10 an hour, minus taxes, by check every day.

These are the workers who are cleaning out Quaker, Penford Products, the Paramount Theatre, the Linn County Jail. These are the workers who are working hard 10- to 12-hour days for our community so we can rebuild.

When your city is experiencing a huge flood, and everyone is just worried about keeping their water supply intact or starting their lives over. That’s when. As a matter of fact, it’s the ONLY Cedar Rapids murder that hasn’t made The Gazette’s front page, ever.

Aubrey Young, 35, was found shot to death between two cars in the 200 block of 16th Street SE. Hardly anyone has come forward with information, and no one has been able to give us a photo of him. Fifty ducks were killed in Bever Park about the same time, and no one has any info on that, either. But people have rallied to raise $3,685 in reward money to catch the creeps who attacked the ducks, and two other organizations are offering an additional $5,500. Who is rallying to find Young’s killer? Where is his reward?

“It’s sad that people put a higher price on an animal’s life than they do on a human life,” said Cedar Rapids police Sgt. Cristy Hamblin said to me yesterday. “Abused animals always get stories written about them, they get TV coverage, but what about all the abused children we see every day? No one seems to care.”

It’s true. And it’s everyone’s fault. Including mine.

If anyone saw anything suspicious between 2 and 2:15 a.m. June 15 near the 200 block of 16th Street SE, please call Crime Stoppers at 1-800-CR-CRIME. You may get a reward if your info leads to an arrest.

“The story is all wrong,” former FEMA housing inspector Vince Koley called yesterday to tell me. “Tom Kramer is not what he’s cracked up to be. He’s lying.”

Vince Koley

Koley, 74, is accused of hitting Kramer, a Penford Products employee, with a golf club during an argument last Thursday and trying to run him over with his vehicle. He takes the most umbrage at the police reporting he actually told Kramer “I don’t have to slow down, I’m with FEMA” during their confrontation at the 10th Avenue SW crosswalk outside the plant. “I never said that,” he said.

But the golf club, well, that happened. “He was coming toward me, not walking away,” Koley said.

Two messages he left me yesterday morning, though…interesting. “Ran into somebody, laugh for the day, he said to me ‘Are you that famous FEMA inspector? You should be on the David Letterman show.’ I said, ‘No, I don’t like David Letterman. I want to be on the Jay Leno show.’ You may not think that’s funny but that’s my type of humor.”

“Any way you could do an article on me like a Barbara Walters interview? … Listen, I had a thought. If we just put it on the Internet and not in the local paper, we can explain what really happened, like what really happened from the horse’s mouth, some catchy title we can put on. We can charge for each hit, to pay for some of the damages I’m suffering.” It’s true, Koley did lose his job over the incident.

I feel for the guy, but we’re not Dateline NBC. We couldn’t afford to pay people to talk to us if we wanted to. Yet they still talk.

Kramer hasn’t returned my phone messages yet.

(P.S. — This pic was snapped on the go by the Cedar Rapids PD. Since our jail is closed here, we haven’t had access to mug shots. How sad.)

Two flags, one Marine Corps and one American, flew from Don King III’s porch during the flood that claimed the basement and first floors of his home. Until the flood receded, King, a Marine who served during the Vietnam era, used the flags as a landmark to find his home at 820 Eighth Ave. SW. He saw them as a sign of defiance, of strength in adversity. The water rose only high enough to graze their seams, King said.

Late last week, King noticed his Marine Corps flag was missing.

“How low can people get?” he asked. “Of all things, they stole my damn flag. It’s only worth $20, but it meant a lot to me … There are some real cretins out there.”

But King, 53, didn’t let it dampen his resolve. He’s still cleaning up, currently knocking out the drywall in his home. And he bought a new flag to fly.

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