Forest View residents reach out to City Council for support

Marcela Hurtado addresses Forest View residents and supporters -- photo by Cassandra Santiago
Marcela Hurtado addresses Forest View residents and supporters — photo by Cassandra Santiago

The sounds of shuffling feet, murmurs in Spanish and English, and bent paper signs unfolding filled the atmosphere of Monday’s City Council meeting. Residents of Forest View and community supporters, including former and current Rose Oaks tenants, gathered in the back of Harvat Hall after strategizing their message outside. The first to speak to the council was l2-year Forest View tenant Marcela Hurtado. Hurtado had received an eviction notice without stated reasoning in late May. Since then the former President of the Center for Worker Justice of Eastern Iowa has called for a stop to what she believes are intimidation tactics by Forest View owners, Eddie and Cheri Cole. But the possibility of being without a home when her 60-day move out period is up isn’t slowing down the community organizer.

“I’m going to continue organizing and helping the people,” Hurtado said. “I’m still figuring out what I’m going to do in regards to the eviction notice.”

The council heard passionate testimonies from multiple Forest View tenants while supporters held signs reading “Representation for Residents” and “Communication NOT Intimidation” in the background. Eight-year Forest View tenant Margarita Baltazar told of receiving a threat from the owners’ daughter while she was handing out informational leaflets last Friday.

“[The owner’s daughter] said ‘I need to see that paper’,” said Baltazar. “I gave her the paper and she told me ‘this is a lie and you’re in trouble. I’m going the call the police on you.’ I said ‘if you’re going to call the police I’m going to be at my trailer…”

Baltazar’s witty response to the threat garnered some laughs from around the room. But the humor soon died and the narratives reverted to residents asking the council to put a stop to the harassment and help them gain a voice at the table with the land developers and the city.

In addition to transparency about the residential and commercial redevelopment, residents have demanded to know what will happen to their homes. Spokesman for North Dubuque LLC and Blackbird Investments Chris Diebel told KCRG-TV9 that “plans to evict tenants due to the Forest View redevelopment project are false” and that “providing enhanced housing options for existing residents at no additional cost has always been the cornerstone of this project.” But residents like Hurtado remain unconvinced that moving about 150 trailers 200 feet south of the land will actually happen, especially for free, and given the old age of most of the mobile homes there are some concerns as to whether or not their homes will survive the move.

Some of the Forest View community took their five minutes at the podium to detail the lives they’ve built in this predominantly immoveable community. Joshua Hurtado, son of Marcela Hurtado, highlighted how development would effect his childhood home and memories.

“I just came here to tell you that I think it’s unfair that you guys are kicking out my family, oh I mean the Coles are,” Joshua Hurtado said. “I’ve been living there for 12 years and that’s the only place I can actually call home.”

The room had completely silenced as the young resident continued.

“Special events have happened there like when I was jumping on the bed and hit my head or when my sister or brother were born and that trailer has a lot of memories…I think you guys should talk to the Coles and say ‘think about families first and then think about your money,” he said.

Forest View tenants received a notice Saturday of a community meeting with the Coles on June 11th.