Pragmatic Polarization

This year the residents of District 14 should approach the May 20th vote on the school budget from a different perspective. It appears that it is necessary to vote down the budget in order to get the Board of Education and District Administration to develop what I call pragmatic prioritization.
Last June I attended a meeting of the Board of Education as I often do. At that meeting I provided the members and district administration with a copy of an article that appeared in the New York Times on June 2nd, 2013 entitled “Schools Are Not Cool” by Sara Mosle, an educator, author and journalist.
In that article she pointed out what is obvious to most people who grew up in years past with public education. Those times of the school year where temperatures rise into the 80’s and 90’s with increasing levels of humidity present major difficulties and obstacles for those attempting to teach and those trying to learn in non-air conditioned situations. Mosle points out how those in air conditioning have the distinct advantage with regard to the learning process and ultimately with assessment results.
I have reminded the Board that we have two schools out of five without air conditioned classrooms and that conditions in those buildings are sometimes reminiscent of a sauna. It is particularly unfortunate that students in those buildings are the most vulnerable. They are the youngest with the least amount of control over their environment during the school day. They cannot control their locations for even brief periods of time such as going out to lunch.
These students attend the Franklin Early Childhood Center (FEEC) and the Hewlett Elementary School (HES). The children attend FECC for three years and HES for four. A child, who goes to FECC and HES, will spend about 50% of their educational career in climatic conditions significantly more difficult and physically more challenging than students in the Ogden Elementary School and the other two schools. Students at Ogden will have endured FECC but at Ogden, where they will face the Core Curriculum and State Assessments, they will have the benefit of air conditioned classrooms for learning and test preparation. That is not the case at HES. The youngest children at FECC have to endure the same conditions found at HES. Those attending FECC and Ogden will spend 20% of their time in public schools in non- air conditioned classrooms.
Over the years the Board has been reminded of the lack of air conditioning at FECC and HES but there has been little change in the classrooms of those buildings. This lack of change has continued although air conditioning at the district offices (Woodmere Education Center, a former elementary school of similar design and vintage as FECC and HES) has been upgraded along with a newly designed and equipped parking lot. Other parking lots and offices have been upgraded and improved as well while classrooms at FECC and HES remain without air conditioning.
When I met with district officials, they presented me with a host of reasons why change now and in the immediate future ranges from difficult to improbable. However, my forty plus years of experience in public education on Long Island makes me reject those arguments in favor of the exigent need to protect our youngest and most vulnerable students and to level the playing field for their learning and assessment results. In my career I have seen districts accomplish remarkable things in remarkable periods of time in the interest of education.
I strongly disagree with the district’s prioritization of district requirements. After attending budget forums in the district and seeing the budget being presented to residents on May 20th, I have come to the conclusion that the Board and Administration are not prepared to approach the need for air conditioning at FECC and HES with the importance it warrants. I now believe that the Board and Administration can only be moved to a different position if the budget is not approved on May 20th. This is not an easy decision for me and is contrary to my decisions in prior years. However, the Board and District Administration are taking their position while sitting in their air conditioned offices. I believe their priorities are not in touch with the needs and reality of our youngest children.
I urge all of my fellow residents to vote NO on the proposed budget and NO on a contingency budget should that be necessary if such budgets do not make air conditioning of FECC and HES a budget provision. If budgets continue to be passed without such air conditioning, two things will became even more true every year and that is that the suffering of our youngest students will continue and my statements will be increasingly accurate.
If the district proposes a bond issue, please remember that it requires passage by the community and is a long term proposition. I believe that the budget should NOW include monies to resolve the lack of air conditioning at FECC and HES. Do not be swayed by those who should say that failure to pass a budget is the end of the world. It is not the end of the world and it will provide an incentive for what I call pragmatic prioritization.
Joseph Margolin
Retired Teacher and Attorney
Active and Concerned Grandparent, Dist 14

USE YOUR VOTE to SEND a MESSAGE

Recently, residents of the FEMA designated “AE” flood zone in Gibson were informed through newspaper articles and statements by some government officials, that legislation has been passed and enacted preserving the preferred rate of approximately $400.00 per year for Gibson homeowners, who are required to purchase flood insurance beyond the December 31st, 2012 deadline. The legislation forestalls the enactment of insurance rates, which could have gone to $3000.00 per year, for an indefinite period of time contemporaneous with  a mandate for FEMA to develop new maps for select areas of Nassau County.  Local officials urged FEMA to take the suggested acts, as aforesaid, to avoid severe economic hardship on the owners of “AE” designated properties and to avoid economic chaos in affected communities.

The recent action taken by the federal government is understandable and appreciated by the “victims” of FEMA’s grotesque “AE” designations implemented three years ago.  That process began when FEMA used maps created and based upon the geography and topography of the eastern end of Long Island and applied them to Nassau County.  The implementation of those maps included FEMA changing the elevation requirement for exemption from “AE” (high risk) flood zone status from 8 feet to 11 feet  4 inches. At 8 feet almost all of Gibson was exempt. Eleven feet four inches was just beyond the elevation of almost all Gibson properties and hence Gibson, without any history of flooding, became an “AE” high risk flood zone area mandated to pay exorbitant flood insurance rates. There was and  is no scientific knowledge or historical evidence to justify the change in the elevation requirement. Those who were in Gibson last August when three events (a hurricane, an earthquake and a day with an 11 inch rainfall) saw Gibson’s present was consistent with its past.  Gibson had no floods, no earthquake damage and no power outages. Gibson barely had mud puddles. It is ironic that the citizens of Gibson were urged to evacuate during the hurricane to north of Sunrise Highway.  That area experienced flooding while Gibson did not. Those events accentuate and highlight the despicable and insensitive nature of FEMA’s designation of Gibson as an “AE” flood zone.

I urge all Gibson residents to avoid being lulled by the recent legislation into a false sense of complacency. Nothing has really changed.

1-FEMA HAS NOT RESTORED THE 8 FEET EXEMPTION LEVEL WHICH WOULD IMMEDIATELY CORRECT THE NIGHTMARE THEY CREATED.

2-FEMA HAS NOT DEVELOPED MAPS CONSISTENT WITH GIBSON”S GEOGRAPHY, TOPOGRAPHY AND HISTORY.  IN FACT, THE PROCESS AND APPROACH BEING TAKEN BY FEMA REMAINS A MYSTERY.

3-THEY HAVE MADE NO PROVISION OR EXPRESSED ANY DESIRE TO MAKE PROVISIONS FOR THOSE HOMEOWNERS WHO HAVE PAID MANDATED FLOOD INSURANCE PREMIUMS THAT SHOULD NEVER HAVE BEEN ENACTED, OR LOST OR LEFT THEIR HOMES BECAUSE OF THE INABILITY TO PAY THOSE REPUGNANT AND REPREHENSIBLE FLOOD INSURANCE PREMIUMS.

However, also not to be ignored is the fact that three years ago local government officials had an opportunity to object to FEMA’s maps and chose not to do so. At that time the problem might have been nipped in the bud so to speak. Now local officials want us to revel in this recent legislation, although this legislation has not corrected the problem and more importantly HAS NOT RESTORED OUR PROPERTY VALUES.  And yet these same officials are coming to us in this election year seeking our votes. They do that believing that we are either stupid or politically impotent. I would urge all Gibson residents on Election Day to do the following:

Do not vote for any of the candidates for U.S. Representative. Representative McCarthy has had three years to CORRECT this problem. For the first two years of the FEMA problem her party controlled the Congress and the Executive Branch of the government. With the stroke of a pen the President could have issued an executive order restoring the 8 ft. level and Rep. McCarthy could have made more than 600 daily speeches urging that.

Mr. Becker had the same amount of time to fight and achieve the enactment of local county legislation giving tax relief to the victims of FEMA in Gibson. After all, how do you assess the value of a house that cannot be sold??

Then there is Mr. Scaturro. He came to a meeting of the Valley Stream Community Association where he heard an expert totally discredit FEMA’s flood maps and the designations created by those maps. I have not read any statement by him indicating that a priority for him would be the elimination of the “AE” designation of Gibson by FEMA.

In my brief political adventure a year and a half ago I learned one basic postulate.  Politicians and government officials count votes and respond to vote counts. I would strongly suggest that all of my fellow Gibson residents  consider  the following:

1- Instead of voting for any of the listed candidates for  U.S Representative, write in a name. IT CAN BE YOUR NAME OR THE NAME OF ANY ELIGIBLE  RESIDENT OF our district. If we withhold our votes for that office in this election, two years from now we will be considered a united voting bloc and candidates will seek the Gibson vote and begin to take concrete steps to obtain that vote. Remember, you have an absolute right to write in your choice for Congress.

2-Do not vote for President Obama. He has had the power to correct the FEMA problem from its inception. When the former director of FEMA messed up the Katrina situation in New Orleans, Pres. Bush replaced him. The President has failed Gibson.

Remember, if you vote for a candidate, you send a message of approval to that candidate. Do you really want to send such a message to Mrs. McCarthy, Mr. Becker, Mr. Scaturro and President Obama??  By the way, do not forget not to vote for Sen.Gillibrand. I have found Sen. Gillibrand to be the least responsive to our requests for assistance.

The flood insurance problem has not been solved. Do not waste the opportunity to use this chance to send a message to the government officials who have had three years to right a terrible wrong.

PERHAPS REP. McCARTHY YOU SHOULD MOVE TO GIBSON

A letter that I recently received from Rep. Carolyn
McCarthy, combined with her letter in the May 17th, 2012 edition of
the Valley Stream Herald, have convinced me that, after three years, she either does not understand the true nature of the problem with FEMA flood maps as they relate to Gibson, or that she does not want to confront the actual cause and solution to this situation. In the past, I have made efforts to explain this issue in writing to her and members of her staff. This letter represents my last attempt to bring this problem and the solution to her doorstep.

Rep. McCarthy, when FEMA created and implemented
flood zones pursuant to its “revised” maps of 2009, they changed the designation for Gibson to “AE”. They raised the elevation requirements for exemption from that designation from 8’ to 11.4’.  In spite
of the fact that Gibson did not experience flooding or related damages at 8’, FEMA raised the exemption level over three feet. They raised it to a level just beyond the elevation level of most of Gibson.
This had the effect of placing most of Gibson in the high risk “AE”
flood zone where it had never been before.

Please note that if Gibson did not experience flooding and storm surges at the lower 8’ level, it is extremely improbable that flooding would occur at an elevation significantly higher than eight feet. In fact, the hurricane, earthquake and torrential rain of 11 inches in August confirmed Gibson’s history.  Gibson barely had some mud puddles and experienced no power outages or flooding.  Ironically, residents during the hurricane
were urged to evacuate and go north of Sunrise Highway in Valley Stream. Those who made the journey experienced two things that those who remained in Gibson did not experience- flooding and power outages.

Why then Rep. McCarthy was the elevation level increased for Gibson and why has FEMA been allowed to avoid direct responsive answers
to that question?  When FEMA was at a public meeting at Valley Stream Central High School, their maps were completely discredited and they refused to show me the historical evidence of flooding in
Gibson in response to my questions.  Could it be that FEMA was looking to place an area in the high risk “AE” zone for the purpose of collecting huge flood insurance premiums with next to no chance of
payouts on potential claims?  Could it be that Gibson has been designated to be a cash cow by FEMA to help pay its
gigantic debt?

Rep. McCarthy, if you really want to help the FEMA
“victims” of Gibson, then you might want to consider the following. You are part of the Congress which oversees agencies like FEMA. Why don’t you go to the committee that oversees FEMA and demand that it meet and subpoena the Director of FEMA? Then, why don’t you ask him one simple question. WHAT HISTORICAL OR ENGINEERING EVIDENCE, DIRECTLY RELATED TO THE GEOGRAPHY AND SPECIFIC LOCATION OF GIBSON, JUSTIFIED AND REQUIRED ITS DESIGNATION TO BE CHANGED TO “AE”?  IN OTHER WORDS, WHY WAS THE ELEVATION REQUIREMENT CHANGED?

Of course you might want to ask the related question,
“Why is Gibson’s elevation requirement 11.4’ while Long Beach, which is a barrier island, has a 9’ requirement? The answers to these questions are much more relevant and important than trying to develop a way for lessening the pain of paying for exorbitant flood insurance premiums that have been wrongfully  placed on the citizens of Gibson. Your approach also does nothing to correct FEMA’s effect on the marketability of homes in Gibson.  The people of Gibson deserve the same treatment as the people of Hyde Park (south Los Angeles) who   were victimized by
FEMA in the same manner. Their flood maps were rescinded for the same reason   ours should be.

WHEN GOVERNMENT FAILS

This past Thursday, March 8th, I attended what was labeled an important community forum and hearing of the Nassau County Legislature’s Towns, Villages and Cities Committee being conducted by Legislator Francis X. Becker, Jr. to discuss the impact of the new FEMA flood maps implemented in September, 2009.   It did interest me that Mr. Becker waited two years, since being made aware of the FEMA map problem, to initiate this kind of action. I personally wonder if it bears any relationship to a recent newspaper article announcing that Mr. Becker
is commencing another attempt for the seat in Congress presently held by Representative McCarthy. For those of us adversely affected by the FEMA map problem, it is not an issue for political advancement. It is a major cause for despair, frustration and anxiety.

Those in the audience on March 8th, witnessed a young mother from Gibson standing in tears at the audience podium and telling how FEMA is the straw that has broken her family’s back. She told how she and her children have lived their lives in Gibson. They love their neighbors, community and their schools. She then in total despair informed
those present, including some local officials from various parts of the county that the additional burden of flood insurance and the overwhelming increase in homeowner’s insurance, is forcing her to dispose of her house or face foreclosure; she does not want to leave Gibson but FEMA has given her no choice.

It is notable that local officials present at the meeting did not include the Mayor and Trustees of Valley Stream where Gibson, and perhaps the highest concentration of FEMA “victims”, is located. It is true that Mr. Becker is providing free copies of the meeting’s transcript to those
requesting same.  However, that transcript will not convey the emotions and atmosphere present in the room that night. At the very least, the total absence of that lady’s governmental representatives from Valley Stream gives an appearance of disinterest, indifference and lack of concern.

At a Village meeting this past autumn the Mayor of Valley Stream announced that one of the trustees was being designated as deputy
mayor and liaison with regard to the FEMA issue. I am surprised that such an individual would not attend a community forum on the FEMA problem to either offer or obtain information with reference to his activities as liaison. His absence, and that of his colleagues, was made more notable by the fact that, although this was a county- wide meeting, the overwhelming number of speakers going to the microphone was from Valley Stream, and not just from Gibson I might add.

I am not surprised by the absence of the Valley Stream officials and I am not convinced of Mr. Becker’s genuine concern; however, I am
concerned that the media has decided to make short shrift of the conduct of those officials and the actions they could have taken to lessen the pain being endured by their constituents. After, all, it was the various arms of local government  that could have so come forward two years ago to protest and reject FEMA’s maps. They did not and here we are today.

I would hope that local media would begin a detailed evaluation of the performance of local government in this regard. They might caption their reports with Edmund Burke’s famous and often quoted statement:

“All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to stand and   do nothing”.

 

 

FRAN DISCOVERS FEMA AGAIN

Well! Well! It is Election Year 2012 and who would one
imagine would emerge into the sunlight? It is Fran Becker. In the last two
years, I have had two occasions to speak directly to Legislator Becker. One instance was in his campaign office during his unsuccessful attempt to unseat Representative McCarthy. The other was in a telephone call I received about a year ago from Mr. Becker. In both instances he was seeking information about the flood insurance problem facing many of his constituents.

Of course, Mr. Becker already knew something about the problem, as he attended a community meeting at Valley Stream Central High
School when FEMA representatives were present. Of course, it was an election year back then and like other of nature’s entities, that arise at certain calendrical times, election years can count on the emergence of Fran Becker.

In the past, I and others opposing FEMA and its horrendous attack on homeowners in south Nassau, have explained our complaints against
FEMA. I went one step further and even mentioned suggestions in letters to the local press. I have suggested in the past that Legislator Becker propose tax relief for the “Victims” of FEMA’s onerous rules and regulations. FEMA’s acts of labeling properties as part of the “AE” flood zone have decimated the marketability of those properties and encumbered them with mandatory flood insurance costs on homes that have outstanding liens or acquire such liens in the event that are somehow sold to other’s. AND STILL THE COUNTY’S TAX ASSESSMENT CRITERIA DO NOT RECOGNIZE THE DAMAGE DONE TO THE VALUE OF THOSE PROPERTIES IN FORMULATING ITS ANNUAL TAX ASSESSMENTS. THE COUNTY CONTINUES TO COLLECT TAXES ON THOSE PROPERTIES AS THOUGH NOTHING HAS INTERVENED TO ADVERSELY AFFECT THE VALUE OF THOSE PROPERTIES. THE COUNTY CONTINUES TO REAP THE BENEFITS OF PROPERTIES THAT NO LONGER HAVE ANYWHERE NEAR THE VALUE AND MARKETABILITY USED BY THE COUNTY FOR THE COLLECTION OF TAX REVENUES.

My suggestions to Becker and other local officials to take remedial action with local taxes to ameliorate the extraordinary, unfair financial burden placed on the victims of FEMA have gone ignored.

However, it is election year again and here comes Becker. I understand that he is going to conduct a legislative hearing on this issue.
Generally, this is done to gather information to ascertain a course of action. Of course, Mr. Becker over two years have elapsed since this issue was brought to your doorstep. I, for one, am no longer interested in ascertaining facts and proposing courses of action. I would suggest to Mr. Becker’s constituents that if he really wants our consideration for his political aspirations or our appreciation for his performance in his present elective position, he should take the following suggestion seriously. Mr. Becker, it is nine months until election time and it is just after the election that FEMA’s two year freeze of flood insurance rates will expire with the expectation that those rates will resume at phenomenally high levels.

Mr. Becker, if you want me to take you seriously, you have nine months to enact meaningful tax relief for the “victims” of FEMA. Meaningful tax relief would at least attempt to restore the marketability of properties victimized by FEMA flood designations and would offer some assistance
to those facing heavy financial burdens created by those flood designations. Otherwise, I will just continue to view you, as I currently do, and that is with respect to Fran Becker, beneath the tinsel is the real tinsel.

 

HELLO BOYS, I’M BACK

While at home recuperating from surgery, I recently took a walk with my home health attendant to Barrett Park which is very close to my home. When we arrived, we were overwhelmed by the inundation of the grounds and walkways with goose excrement.  It was virtually impossible to walk.  The fields where children play soccer and other sports were also covered with the same excrement.  While there, I made a couple young children playing there aware of what they were actually walking in.

After my walk to the park I dread to think about children playing at the park and rolling around on the grounds.

Last year, I raised this very issue in the mayoral campaign. I think for the most part it was downplayed by the public and press. Well, the campaign is long over and the new administration has had a year to begin instituting its programs. As most people know, the skate park and roller rink have been portrayed as a major accomplishment of the current administration. After I left the park I decided to go over to the rink and look at  this pillar of accomplishment for the administration.  Interestingly enough, on a sunny, relatively warm February day on which the schools were closed, there was no one at this facility besides me. However, I would like to note that the facility  and the grounds around it were pristine and feces free. I do not know how the administration does that but perhaps they can extend that accomplishment to Barrett Park where there were young children attempting to use the facilities.

My recent adventure to Barrett Park inspired me to look at the events and accomplishments of this first year of the present administration, particularly as two of the incumbents are uncontested for reelection. So what is it that they have or have not done?

Well, they are seeking to revitalize and beautify the Rockaway Avenue business district although there is no physical change indicating this.  Their construction projects on Sunrise Highway appear to be progressing at a speed reminiscent of that of the ancient pyramids. Actually, I think the pyramids made more visible progress.

Of course, the Village’s programs exclude any visible progress with respect to Gibson Blvd. where a row of many decaying buildings continues to be boarded up.  I remember at a meeting of the Village Government in early autumn when the new Village Clerk told me that we would see progress there in a relatively short period of time. If we really want to see progress there, I would suggest that the present Village Hall be sold and that those buildings on Gibson Blvd. become the new seat of the entire Village Government.

Of course, last but not least is the administration’s empathy for the resident of the ”AE” flood zone who are within nine months of a potential economic “earthquake”.  We were told by the administration several months ago that they are sympathetic to the plight of the flood zone residents and that they even wrote letters to FEMA. Well, although I am sure that effort may have exhausted them, they might have tried the following:

1)      Join the National Conference of Mayors and bring the issue to the door of the President while developing alliances with other communities nationwide similarly situated.

2)      Conduct public hearings in the Village to determine who might be making financial windfalls on the local level with regard to FEMA flood insurance requirements (particularly after the freeze on rates expires on December 31, 2012)

Although the upcoming Village election results are inevitable with two uncontested candidates for trustee positions, I might make a suggestion. I am voting and writing in a name not on the ballot (By the way, it will not be my name).  There is no chance that my selection will win but it is my way of sending a message. Imagine if a thousand people in Valley Stream did this. It might inspire some soul to come forward in three years to clean up a mess that is symbolized by vacant buildings, empty lots, and infinite amounts of goose excrement.

Well, I have to continue my recuperation. Perhaps we will bump into each other at one of the local recreation facilities. Just be careful of where you walk.

Joseph Margolin

P.S.- By the way boys, I am back.

TWELVE MONTHS and the CLOCK is TICKING

On Tuesday, November 29th, the Valley Stream Community Association had its inaugural meeting. Although I believe the weather kept the attendance lower than anticipated, the meeting was highly productive. Those in attendance had an opportunity to hear and see a presentation by two attorneys who specialize in local tax law with respect to assessments based upon real estate.  The elements of tax assessments, the procedures for review and appeals were discussed and clarified by the speakers.  Issues related to homeowners, who find themselves in the high risk AE flood zone,  were covered by the presenters at the meeting.

 I directed the attention of those present to a situation in Los Angeles which appeared on NBC-TV News with Brian Williams that focused on problems resulting from the implementation of the new FEMA flood maps in an area with no history of coastal flooding.

 Other information and organizational objectives were provided to those present by Carol Crupi, President of the Valley Stream Community Association.

 Kudos to Dena Biondo on her preparations and planning of the   inaugural meeting. With the meeting now behind us and future meetings being planned, it is time for the community to realize that FEMA has planned economic havoc for southern Valley Stream beginning in the second half of 2012. That is when mandatory flood insurance renewals will be mailed out with anticipated premiums that jeopardize the stability of the entire community.

 I am regularly asked by residents what they can do to prevent this economic cataclysm. I would strongly suggest the following:

 1- Become actively involved in the Valley Stream Community Association

 2- Vote in all elections (local, state and federal) and vote against ALL incumbents as there are no incumbents that have brought substantial relief to FEMA AE flood zone residents. Local and state officials could have introduced and obtained legislation giving AE residents tax relief and adjusted real estate assessments based upon flood zone designation. THEY HAVE NOT. Local and state officials will do nothing as long as they believe they have the flood zone vote in their pocket

In the upcoming federal elections in 2012, vote against ALL incumbents. In spite of promises and legislative bills that have gone nowhere, these federal officials have not done the one thing they could have done all along. Senators Schumer and Gillibrand and Representative McCarthy are all Democrats. They could have met with the President and publically requested that the President issue an executive order rescinding the 2009 FEMA flood maps. Unless these flood maps are rescinded by November of 2012, DO NOT VOTE FOR OBAMA, GILLIBRAND AND McCARTHY. 

 3- Begin a regimen of telephoning each of the following EACH WEEK and state that you believe the 2009 FEMA flood zone maps for Nassau County have no scientific and historical basis in fact, and that the officials you are calling should use their offices to have the maps rescinded. Contact numbers are as follows:

Sen. Charles Schumer (212) 486- 4430

Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (212) 688- 6262

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy (516) 739- 3008

Pres. Barack Obama: (202) 456-1111

 Even if you are told that some type of assistance is pending, or is about to begin, continue calling. We are beyond “pending” at this point. Results are required NOW.

 I am often reminded of the following quote by Edmund Burke when I see government officials sitting with their hands in their pockets, talking but doing nothing. 

 All that is necessary for evil to succeed is for good men to stand and do nothing.

 This is Joe Margolin from deep in FEMA’s purported tsunami zone wishing everyone a Happy Holiday and a Happy and Healthy New Year.

GOING FORWARD WHILE GOING BACKWARDS

Well, the 2011 local elections in Nassau County and the Town of Hempstead on Long Island have come and gone with a fraction of the eligible voters overwhelmingly making their preferences known. They have decided for the most part that they want the people, who have been in office for years and have brought us to the state we are in today, to continue with the reasonable expectation that they will give us more of the same.

 What does this mean? Well it means that the incumbents, who signed off on the 2009 revised FEMA flood maps, can stay around and observe how their efforts will tragically and catastrophically affect their constituents. The can reasonably be expected to continue NOT to reform the criteria for  tax assessments which they have the power to do and which reform could be designed to include relief for their constituents who are the victims of the FEMA flood maps.

 As these officials have power to change local taxes and haven’t, we can expect more of the same. The elections have enabled many incumbents to have front row seats to observe  the return to pre-2011 mandatory annual flood insurance rates in  twelve months in the thousands of dollars per annum per homeowner. This may drive constituent families into financial chaos and worse. Unfortunately, there is no reason to expect our reelected officials to do anything more or helpful in the years ahead. Well, as a resident of the high risk AE flood zone, this is what the voters wanted for me and my fellow victims.

 The reelection of the incumbents makes more difficult the task of challenging FEMA and obtaining a recision  of the scientifically and historically indefensible food maps implemented in 2009. It makes it more difficult but not impossible. The Valley Stream Community Association is going forward with a variety of efforts on different fronts to assist the flood map victims of FEMA. 

 On November 29th, 2011, a meeting will be held at Valley Stream Central High School at 7:00 p.m. to inform members of the community how we are proceeding and to enlist support for our efforts. Attendees will be provided with information on seeking tax relief under the current criteria and procedures. The use of the judicial process to obtain changes in the tax criteria will be discussed.

 The one thing that will not happen is that should local government officials be present THEY WILL NOT BE SPEAKING. This meeting will not be used for a political forum. If they wish to express themselves, they can do so by going back to their governmental entities and securing substantive relief for FEMA flood map victims. If they want credibility with flood map victims, they are going to have to produce.

 In the months ahead this blog will focus on positive and proactive actions being taken by the Valley Stream Community Association and federal officials to assist flood map victims. There will be little or no attention devoted to local officials as this will be consistent with their lack of proactive assistance to flood map victims.

 As Thanksgiving approaches I am thankful for many things including the fact that we have course of action available to us other than total reliance upon local politicos.

 From deep in the heart of the tsunami belt, this is Joe Margolin wishing  all a Happy Thanksgiving.

Voting for the Incumbents in Nassau County is a Giant Step Backwards

Now, after more than seven months have elapsed and on the eve of another critical local election, I believe that it is appropriate and helpful that I offer some reflections and views based upon my experience.  As many are aware, my first and last foray into politics was unsuccessful but extremely educational. I entered the arena with two of my colleagues with the hope of advancing and furthering our attack on FEMA’s unjustified map incursion into Valley Stream. We also advocated and brought with us an agenda that would have improved the quality of life for Valley Stream and political integrity in the Village. However, the voters expressed themselves and everyone involved in the election process has gone forward.  I continue to oppose FEMA’s flood maps and zone designations.

In any case, I did learn a great deal from the campaign. Although the political process occurred during the brutally cold weather of this past winter, I did get to meet many people in the community throughout the length and breadth of the Village. I also had the chance to say “Good Morning” to hundreds of early morning commuters at the three LIRR stations in Valley Stream.

What disturbed and concerned me most was the nature of questions and comments directed to me along the campaign trails. These were asked more than once and included the following:  1) Are you a Christian?  2) What are your views on abortion and birth control?  3) Are you a Democrat?  4) What kind of name is Margolin? [Unlike my adversaries in the elections, I did not think it was appropriate or relevant to place the name of my house of worship, if any, on my campaign literature.]

As I traveled around the community during last March’s election campaign, I noticed homes with the signs supporting incumbent candidates.  I was puzzled and did not understand why residents would support officials who created the very problems and issues plaguing the community.  I feel the same as I travel around Valley Stream now just prior to the major local election on November 8th.

I have come to certain conclusions.  My election experience in Valley Stream has taught me the following:   1- There are many registered voters who do not vote or know the issues and positions of the specific candidates.  2- There are voters who don’t care what the positions of the respective candidates are because they vote based upon their religion, prejudices, and party affiliation or loyalty.  3- There are voters who vote because of their own specific economic situations and not the merit of political arguments or the integrity of specific candidates.

There are those residents who are well-informed about the candidates and issues. Unfortunately, not enough of them vote. They rely on the judgment of their neighbors who proceed to reelect incumbents who have had a part in causing or facilitating the problems facing the Village, like taxes based upon questionable assessment criteria, and the implementation of highly questionable flood zone designations.

Unfortunately, as I travel around Valley Stream now, I see March being repeated. I cannot understand why an individual would support and vote for an incumbent who has been part of the problem and has not actively been a part of the solution. To answer those who wondered about my political affiliation, I am neither a Democrat nor Republican. I examine candidate positions and the issues and do not vote for incumbents who have led us to where we are today.  In this instance, the devil I do not know MAY be better than the devil I do know.  My experience last March has reinforced my views that Valley Stream, the Town of Hempstead, and Nassau County, are in need of a giant breath of fresh air.

*Note: This year’s local election focuses on incumbent candidates common to the Five Towns and the Village of Valley Stream. Significant parts of North Woodmere (Town of Hempstead) are part of the Incorporated Village of Valley Stream including Hungry Harbor Road and the three block area adjacent to the  southern part of Hungry Harbor Road.

Sweet Dreams Fran

In his article last week entitled, “The Day of Reckoning”, appearing in the Sept. 30, 2011 edition of The South Shore Standard, Nassau County Legislator Francis Becker wrote regarding recent and prospective layoffs of county employees resulting from county economic difficulties, the following:

I have had many sleepless nights feeling the anxiety of families knowing that they were going to lose their jobs and wondering how they were going to be able to put food on their tables and pay their mortgages.

I am overwhelmed at Mr. Becker’s compassion for economic trials and tribulations being faced by county employees because of the policies and conduct of local government. However, I am still waiting to hear if Mr. Becker loses sleep over his concern for the destiny waiting for thousands of his constituents when the temporary reprieve limiting mandatory FEMA flood insurance premiums expires in just over fourteen months.

FEMA’s flood insurance victims already pay about $400.00 a year for mandatory coverage (if they have outstanding mortgages or a home equity line of credit) with the prospect of premiums rising to $3,000.00 per year by January of 2013.  Mr. Becker did not directly cause the FEMA problem but where were he and his colleagues when they had an opportunity to voice their objections prior to implementation of the revised flood zone designation maps in 2009? Where is Mr. Becker when he has the opportunity to propose and seek the enactment of local tax assessment relief for FEMA “victims” when he knows that the assessed value of their property does not take into account AE flood zone designations and the decimated marketability of their property?  Does Mr. Becker lose sleep from the prospect of people losing their property from foreclosure and going hungry from mandated FEMA insurance premiums that were never contemplated when his constituents bought their homes?

 What is most egregious in this scenario is that “compassionate” Mr. Becker also knows that the events of recent months and the revelation of facts concerning the creation of FEMA’s food maps have destroyed the credibility of FEMA’s revised maps, compounding and reinforcing the horrendous injustice perpetrated against residents of the AE flood zone south of Sunrise Highway. Those FEMA “victims” can be found in the Five Towns and Gibson (the Lawrence and Hewlett-Woodmere School Districts). These areas are among the most highly taxed in the nation. Now they can add mandatory flood insurance, which serves as a tax and not a protection, as many parts of this geographic zone have never and likely never will never see a tidal surge (tsunami). These areas are cash cows for FEMA and insurance companies. The FEMA “victims” will in all probability never collect from the insurance protection foisted upon them. Does Mr. Becker lose sleep at night from this prospect?  His most recent mailing on property taxes does not mention the unfair local tax burden being borne by thousands of his constituents who are FEMA “victims”. It does not make any reference to a contemplated course of action being taken by him in this regard.  I urge all of my fellow FEMA “victims” to join with me and ensure Mr. Becker  peace of mind and fewer sleepless nights in the future by voting for his opponent and allowing him the peace of retirement. It is hard to imagine his successor doing less than he has to bring tax relief to his FEMA “victim” constituents.

Sweet dreams Mr. Becker  From deep in the heart of the tsunami flood zone.