Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Response to Deputy Mayor Brightbill about flood map series

At the Monday, April 21st meeting of the Middletown Committee, Deputy Mayor Pamela Brightbill made a passing reference to this newspaper’s current storyline about the new FEMA flood maps.

It was my choice to deal with every aspect of this issue’s relevance to the Middletown area, and among those aspects are partisan points of view — told equally.

At the meeting, Deputy Mayor Brightbill said she was “shocked and amazed” that a local paper would “…want to comment on a local level about the FEMA flood maps.” She went on to say that the flood maps are “…certainly not a political issue…”

Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger echoed these sentiments and also noted that the “forum” held by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin, R-Monmouth, had addressed the matter adequately. So, I am left wondering, if it is his assertion that the assemblywoman’s forum was the whole thing, everything that anyone in Northern Monmouth County ever needs to know about the FEMA flood maps?

The fact is that this year’s election contest is a vital one in Northern Monmouth County, and this flood issue is an all-important one to area residents. These residents deserve to know what potential elected office holders plan to do about this issue, as flood insurance rates have wide-ranging effects on thousands of Middletown residents. Let’s not forget that the real-estate business could be better.

When the parties contribute to the discussion, and the facts of what is ongoing about this issue are presented alongside these positions, the hope is that residents benefit by knowing what is going on with their community, and the intent of those who are seeking or currently possess leadership in that community.

To say that the government, organized under anyone, is the final word about anything in the United States is a bold assumption that amounts to hubris. Metaphorically speaking, my belief is that government wakes up in the morning, has its coffee, and seldom fails to disappoint. In fact, government only seems to work appropriately when it is questioned, and this is especially true in Monmouth County: doubly so in Middletown.

Deputy Mayor Brightbill is a candidate this year, along with Anthony Fiore, for two seats on the Middletown Committee, representing the GOP. The candidates for the Middletown Committee from the Democratic Party are James Grenafege and Patricia Walsh. Since the flood map issue is going to impact more than 2,000 Middletown homes, I hope that all these folks have considered just what they would do about it should they get the voters’ nod to raise their right hand for an oath in January.

Middletown’s government has been deceptive, on many levels, in the past about many things. It’s a way of doing business in the township. Consequently, in benefit to all candidates concerned, it was the intention of this paper to survey the stand that various candidates have taken so as to give greater accessibility to the thought processes of the town’s leaders and proposed leaders.

Of course, this series will also deal with real-estate values, insurance companies, FEMA, neighboring Bayshore towns, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the opinions and thoughts of Bayshore residents and other municipal governments.

The idea of the series, being written by Staff Writer Melissa Gaffney, is to provide a total picture, as best as possible, for the everyday Bayshore resident. I believe that the forum was not all that helpful for many things where it involves residents.

Partisanship is a part of life in Monmouth County, like it or not. I think that Assemblywoman Handlin’s proposed policy, which as stated is essentially to blame Rep. Frank Pallone, D-Monmouth, falls short of helpful information. Meanwhile, I do hope that Rep. Pallone’s solution to this crisis is better than simply noting that Bayshore flood remediation efforts, which were put on this year’s Federal Budget and removed by the administration as a “Christmas tree item” -- and it was -- is better than just blaming President Bush. Let’s face it: To date, partisanship has marked this process.

However, I believe the most dynamic questions are going to relate to the disparity between the estimations of FEMA and the Army Corps of Engineers’ assessments about the berms, which were removed.

In the meantime, politics is a part of this stew, and if someone is under the impression that politics is devoid from this issue it would be either incredibly egotistical or simply naïve.

The Middletown Committee is conferring with its paid Washington DC lobbyists. The township is putting out 1,800 leaflets to Bayshore residents. I suggest that politics is thick in Middletown, and what might best serve residents is simply getting all the facts straight from all sides of the matter.

If the candidates in Monmouth’s largest municipality have something to say about the real estate and insurance destinies of thousands of residents, I opine that now (when it is wanted) is a good time to let people know what they think.

‘Business as usual’ is not going to save one resident $1. Like it or not, there are points of view to be listened to about this matter. As for Courier commenting, I will explain for the benefit of Deputy Mayor Brightbill (who noted this during her comments): Editorials are things where individuals comment. What is going on right now is a series, written as news. There is no comment in news other than those offered by those interviewed. Actually, I, for one, have no position on this yet. Then again, I am not the one who is proposing to either hold office or is currently holding office, as the fine folks up at the dais in Middletown are.

Information about this issue needs to be broad and as comprehensive as possible. If Deputy Mayor Brightbill and Mr. Fiore do not wish to comment about this then that is their prerogative. But, to say that no one else should comment about this in their community is just ridiculous. If anyone wants to say anything about this issue, from any perspective, then Courier wants to print it.

Click on the headline to go to Ms. Gaffney's story.

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