Thursday, September 21, 2006

Administration: The dog ate my homework


Illustration: Flood zones as seen in Spring 2006 DPW mailer.

High-resolution image here -- warning: 1/2 meg file.

Bottom line: The dog ate it.

That's about what the Administration's answers to questions about the
MC2006-30, the Flood Prevention Insurance Ordinance last night amounted to.

The Mayor was not on the field. City Administrator Carlton McGee Hail Mary'ed to Jenny Wenson-Maier.

Wenson-Maier, under repeated questioning, admitted FEMA had been in touch with the City at least six months ago, and that she and the City Engineer, Carl Turner, "never knew" that Council action by an ordinance was needed, thinking they only -- as employees -- could sign off on the new flood maps, OR that there was a deadline.

This is the best the Administration could come up with after it was clear from Monday's agenda-setting session that the Council was clearly not happy with the situation?

Let's look at Wenson-Maier's argument more closely.

"We didn't know Council action was required." -- NOT CREDIBLE. Wenson-Maier, in case you have forgotten, is City Council President in Rahway. Rahway, in case you have forgotten, was devastated a few years back by a flood which destroyed its Public Library as well as a bunch of other properties.

It took Rahway years to get back to normal, including building a brand-new Public Library. Rahway has had no dealings with FEMA over flood maps? And flood insurance for its property owners? And the Rahway City Council has not had to take any action?

Secondly, would Wenson-Maier, as Council President in Rahway, sit idly by and let a MERE EMPLOYEE think that they are going to bind the City with the EMPLOYEE'S SIGN-OFF? Not very likely.

So why would that song sing well in Plainfield? Because we're gullible?

And no one thought to include Bill Nierstedt, the City's Planning Director and in-house expert on land-use issues, in the conversations?

Thirdly, no one had a notion that DEADLINES were involved? If you were involved in a process that impacted people's ability to get or claim on flood insurance, it would never occur to you to ask whether there was a deadline?

Fourthly, the Mayor hands off to the Administrator, who hands off to a Department head, who hands off to the Engineer, and there is NO FOLLOWUP? No ACCOUNTABILITY?

If it had not been for a resident calling Bill Nierstedt in early September -- as Bernice pointed out -- any solution to the dilemma that McGee and Wenson-Maier may have been cooking up would have been deficient, no?

C'mon, folks. This is Administration 101. This is NOT rocket science.

"Challenging the flood maps..." -- Wenson-Maier made a great fuss about property owners' being able to challenge FEMA's flood maps which the City's ordinance memorializes. That might be important to a DEVELOPER if there were plans to develop in a flood zone -- and Wenson-Maier mentioned implications for developers. (By the way, another indication she is more savvy than she was letting on -- can you make a sentence including the words: Rahway, developers, flood zones?)

Hmmmmmmmmm... Now just where would DEVELOPMENT and FLOOD ZONES coincide in Plainfield?

UNSPOKEN throughout this whole mess has been the real nuts-and-bolts effect on the 95% of Plainfielders affected by the FEMA flood zone maps -- homeowner taxpayers.

Without the ordinance in place, homeowners in flood zones would be unable to get flood insurance. That is bad enough.

The kicker is that HOME BUYERS would also not be able to obtain the insurance -- and their deals would be run off the rails as LENDERS WILL NOT ISSUE MORTGAGES IN FLOOD ZONES WITHOUT PROOF OF FLOOD INSURANCE POLICIES BEING IN PLACE.

Uh oh. Voters impacted? Deep doodoo.

Trouble is, PT thinks VOTERS are the last thing on this Administration's minds.

Lastly, was PT having a paranoid moment last night, or did it seem the McGee/Wenson-Maier axis of administration was preparing to throw City Engineer Carl Turner under the bus?

Tsk, tsk. Remember Harry Truman, the buck stops AT THE TOP.

PT's grade: An 'F' for this assignment.

who's keeping track of the DROPPING SHOES? Can you let me know how many this makes?

-- Dan Damon

From the Dept. of Unsolicited Suggestions, to the Council: Next time the Corporation Counsel wants you to TAKE HIS WORD FOR IT on some action requested of the Council without the proper due diligence, GET IT IN WRITING.

From the Dept. of Apologies & Rectifications: My crack about 9-to-5er top dogs of a few days ago is hereby amended. Public Safety Director Marty Hellwig was indeed at the Hispanic Heritage opening night event. He came in a bit after things got started. And PT learned he is preparing to make himself a Plainfield RESIDENT. Nice news, huh? I told you he is a stand-up guy.

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