The Rebuild Iowa Office has been open a month and is already touted as a success story by state officials, but government watch dogs warn an extra layer of bureaucracy could hamper the effort to rebuild after this spring’s flooding and tornadoes.
Ed Failor, Junior, of "Iowans for Tax Relief" says his group is keeping an eye on the budget for the Rebuild Iowa Office. "In this environment it is all too easy to, you know, tack on costs because everyone wants to make this better. We do and everyone does," Failor says, "but we just have to be real careful that decisions are made logically and not from emotion."
The state has reassigned about 40 state employees to work in the Rebuild Iowa Office and they work in office space in a suburban business park about 15 miles from the statehouse. The rent for that is $5,800 a month.
Dave Roederer was chief of staff for former Governor Terry Branstad back in 1993 when much of the state suffered through devastating floods. Roederer says while current Governor Chet Culver’s intentions are good, adding another layer of bureaucracy could actually slow the state’s response time.
"The other thing you always need to caution about is whether it ever stops and as we know in government, once you get something started it’s pretty hard to stop," Roederer says. "Bureaucracies seems to find something to do even if there isn’t something to do."
The Rebuild Iowa Commission will hold another series of "listening sessions" this week in Red Oak, Fort Dodge and Johnston, where Roederer’s wife is mayor. "I’ve been talking to people throughout the state and they want assistance and they want assistance now," Roederer says. "…While it’s fine to have listening sessions –and those are always good to get input from people — but in the end, somebody has to make a decision."
Lyle Asell of the Iowa Department of Natural Resources was less than a month away from retirement from state government when he was asked to work in the Rebuild Iowa Office for 90 days. At first, when the office had no computers or phones, Asell questioned his decision to delay his retirement, but he’s changed his tune. "Quite frankly, this is either a disaster or it’s not," Asell says. "If we’re not willing to devote the resources — including the time and attention — to address it, then let’s not do it at all."
Failor, the Iowans for Tax Relief spokesman, says his group isn’t saying the office should be closed, just that taxdollars should be spent wisely. "We just want to be certain that there’s a place at the table for the taxpayers of Iowa when the decisions get made of how they’re going to fund the expenditures that obviously need to be made," Failor says.