Tuesday, May 20, 2008

FEMA flood map issue should not be about town politics


The FEMA flood map crisis in the Bayshore is a serious thing, which requires a bipartisan effort to help area residents avoid paying unnecessary costs for flood insurance.

By mid-June, FEMA will announce the new flood maps for the Bayshore, and the moratorium that Rep. Frank Pallone has introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives is the only thing that can stop it. His legislation would, if approved, mandate that the new flood maps would not go into effect yet.

Frankly, the Middletown Township Committee may have missed the boat in supporting essential federal legislation that could assist every single taxpayer in the impacted areas of Middletown. The committee failed to adopt a resolution doing so at its May 19 meeting.

I suggest that the committee should weigh in on this vital issue for the area to not only Rep. Pallone, but also New Jersey’s two U.S. senators, Frank Lautenberg and Bob Menendez. Such a resolution would do a great deal more good than simply posturing and grumbling about the unfairness of it all. FEMA has already made it abundantly clear it will not, in word and deed, change its mind because of any amount of petitioning. Mr. Pallone’s bill is the only game in town for this area and its residents, in a practical sense.

Every other Bayshore town in the areas impacted by the flood maps have banded together to support this legislation for the singular reason of bringing relief to residents. And then…there’s Middletown.

Committeemen Sean Byrnes and Patrick Short moved to adopt the resolution, while Mayor Gerard Scharfenberger moved to table it until the next meeting. Committeeman Thomas Wilkens seconded the mayor’s motion. Just how much time do these folks believe there is until mid-June. This is a matter of weeks.

While politics is good theater in Northern Monmouth, the notion of playing politics at the expense of the township’s residents is ridiculous. It is my opinion that this committee simply does not want to adopt a resolution that supports a bill by Rep. Pallone because he is not a Republican.

The petition drive by Assemblywoman Amy Handlin has sought to create an environment for change, though the reality is that FEMA has already stated it will not do anything about this process at all, short of a congressional order. Sen. Joe Kyrillos’s State Senate resolution amounts to the same thing: Registering disapproval without any practical work. The fact is that the only actual piece of legislation that could assist in this matter is the one currently proposed by Rep. Pallone, and that is because his measure would cease the issuance of new maps on an agency-wide basis. Accordingly, this would give the Bayshore enough time to potentially change the ruling by that agency.

I think it is clear that if this committee majority is unable to get past partisan politics, it has no right running this municipality anymore. Should these FEMA maps be issued without the Middletown Committee lending its voice to the Bayshore’s in defense of residents then the committee majority invites criticism of its motivations and actions, or lack thereof.

While political parties are all well and good, how the representatives from these parties conduct themselves in office is far more important than how candidates part their hair or what lapel pins they wear. This is a simple matter actually, which involves nothing more than doing what is right and what the Middletown Committee was elected to do in the first place.

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