Showing posts with label Hurricane Sandy. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Hurricane Sandy. Show all posts

Saturday, December 08, 2012

Sanitary District 2: Will the Politics of Destruction Trump Honesty?

 [NEWS UPDATE 10:54 pm, 12/12/2012:  Final vote to Dissolve the local district was 1682 yes, 4597 no.  Local residents crushed the out-of-town political nonsese by almost 3:1!  Congratulations to Baldwin, Baldwin Harbor, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt!!!]

I was raised for the first 24 years of my life in Baldwin Harbor, on Long Island’s south shore.  Born into – and living among – other blue-collar, working class families, I was a Republican for most of my life.  

 But, as happens to many of us, time and experience change us, and I have since become an advocate for largely liberal and progressive causes.  As I eye eventually returning to Long Island in my retirement, I have looked at the political party structure in New York, and found myself drawn to the Working Families Party, a recent addition to the NY electoral scene with stridently liberal views.  Sustainable development, energy sanity, environmental stewardship, and election reform all make more sense to me than ever before.

How disheartening, then, to discover that, like the major parties who use the money and muscle of Super PACS to do their dirty work,  the Working Families Party is no different.  Operating under the parallel name of the “Long Island Progressive Coalition,” and, most recently, by the fly-by-night invented group, “RESD” (Residents for Efficient Special Districts), these so-called progressives are anything but progressive, good-government advocates; rather, they have become as nasty, dishonest, and destructive as the  Republican and Democratic SuperPACS.

The current battle – to be settled at the polls in a few days (December 12), is an effort to dismantle a special sanitary district – “Sani 2” – serving 55,000 people in the communities of Baldwin, South Hempstead, and Roosevelt on Long Island.  The stated purpose for the drive to dismantle the district is ‘cost savings,’ though no credible figures have been supplied yet.

Let's cut to the chase: the entire circus is an invention of a failed candidate for Sanitation Commissioner who, in a fit of super sour grapes, has decided that if she can’t rule the district, she will ruin it.

In 2005, Laura Mallay ran for election as a Commissioner against incumbent Gerard Brown. Apparently, at the time, she felt the special district was important enough to ask voters to give her some responsibility in managing it.

But Mallay didn’t quite understand that Long Island voters do not simply ‘award’ politicians with an office simply because that politician wakes up one day with a brilliant idea and expects applause.  Mallay was trounced in the election, losing by a margin of more than 20 points.

So, rather than consider why voters rejected her, she invented a group, “RESD,” annointed herself as its Executive Director, and began a campaign to force a vote to dissolve Sanitary District 2, and to have 55,000 residents' garbage, recycling, and hazardous materials handled by some other as-of-yet unspecified entity.

"The District," claims Mallay, “is not economically sustainable.”

This, of course, flies in the face of the reality of the District’s existence for some 85 years, and the fact that the District’s annual budget increases for the last five years have been less than the annual rate of inflation...meaning that the District actually continues to more with less, and becomes more efficient each year.

Mallay has compared Sani 2's costs with other districts, and found them to be higher.  But Mallay’s calculations conveniently neglect to mention that Sanitary District 2 engages in additional, non-mandated activities that improve life for its residents, increase environmental quality and awareness, and which are not carried out by other ‘cheaper’ services.

Sanitary District 2 purchases bulk oil contracts for other area services, saving the local fire departments, school districts, and, therefore, taxpayers -   thousands of dollars annually.  Unlike other sanitation departments, they sponsor community cleanups, waterways cleanups (the picture above is from the recent Milburn Creek cleanup), graffiti removal efforts, and greening/planting projects. The value added to the community by this community-run district is enormous.

But that means nothing to Mallay, RESD, and the LI Progressive Coalition. Rule or Ruin is the battle cry.

Flyers promoting district dissolution fail to reference any credible  sources for their secret financial information. As an Economist, I see this as a highly troubling - and disingenuous - aspect of their campaign.

Letters delivered door-to-door this weekend failed to even contain a single signature assigning responsibility for their tirades. And in fact, almost 100% of the effort to destroy the district is coming not from within the district, but from paid campaign operatives who live nowhere near Baldwin or Roosevelt.

Meanwhile, the workers at Sani2, while understandably concerned about being tossed to the curb themselves if the vote to dismantle the district passes…have become heroes to those who know them best.
 One month ago, Hurricane Sandy slammed Baldwin Harbor with unprecedented fury. Neighborhoods that never saw water found themselves under several feet. Rugs, furniture, soaked sheetrock, and personal belongings of every kind were heaped in traumatized residents front yards. When destruction like this takes place in an area several square miles large, how do you even begin to deal with the clean-up?

The employees of Sani2 – all of whom are working-class, home-town local community members – worked round the clock for weeks to help homeowners sort through the wreckage of this storm.  While Mallay was safely ensconced in her dry home and political headquarters elsewhere in the state, the working men of Sani2 whose jobs are on the line performed Herculean tasks to clean up their community and share the heartbreak and burden with their own neighbors.

 If sanity prevails, the voters of Baldwin, Roosevelt, and South Hempstead will see this charade for what it is, and soundly defeat the effort to dismantle an 85-year old community institution.

And if the Working Families Party has any sense, they will distance themselves from the loose cannons that have taken control of their Long Island apparatus. 


Sunday, November 04, 2012

3 Political Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

 In the wake of Hurricane Sandy, several "gut feelings" I have been experiencing have crystallized. If I have bee known for plain-speaking in the past, this post should take the cake.

Yes, I have one foot in the wild-eyed Progressive Camp and one in the hard-core Libertarian Camp.  And this disaster has merely confirmed my eternal position stuck between these two camps.
1) It’s time to stop fighting about Global Climate Change, and time to start DOING something about it.  We can not go on trying to survive “100-Year Storms” every year by fighting about whether its caused by humankind or a natural phenomenon. It is REAL.  It is DESTRUCTIVE.  It has been confirmed by Science. And we must begin to take responsibility for our futures.

For conservatives, it means an end to worshipping at the altar of Big Oil, Corporate Gas, Coal, and cheap gasoline.  The answer is not to expand ‘domestic’ drilling to be energy ‘independent;’ the answer is to adopt European architectural standards that consider buildings that draw more energy than they create to be ‘a design flaw.’  
 For liberals, it means an honest end to “NIMBY” protectionism.  Sure, Martha’s Vineyard liberals are all about a green future – unless it's the Cape Wind Project.  Sure, western Massachusetts liberals are all in favor of green energy…unless it’s a windmill on their favorite mountain summit.  Organized efforts against “Solar Farms” and “Industrial Wind” are in full operation in one of the most liberal areas of the country, based on tortured semantic gymnastics that boil down to nothing more than , “Not In My Backyard.”  

Under the US Constitution, Congress and Congress alone is granted the power to regulate Interstate Commerce.  There is hardly a good or service that more readily crosses state borders than the nation’s electric grid.  It is time for Congress to prohibit local statutes frustrating green energy development. It is time for Congress to end Oil Company subsidies. It is time to Prohibit fracking and require energy-neutral building. NOW.

 2) It’s time to stop engaging in a subservient obedience because “Government Knows Better.”

Government does NOT know better. My neighbor did not become omniscient and omnipotent by virtue of being employed as a contractor on Monday, and hired as a Government bureaucrat on Tuesday.

Throughout this disaster, we have been mislead and mismanaged by political offices. From NYC Mayor Micheal Bloomberg, who insisted that this was not a big deal of a storm, to the National Hurricane Center, which refused to issue hurricane warnings for New York and New Jersey, we have been failed by Government. In spite of that, like sheep to the slaughter, we have simply ‘obeyed’ government in waiting for rescue after disaster struck.
Private citizens - willing, able and desirous of helping – have been turned away. Turned away from storm-ravaged neighborhoods in the Rockaways, on Fire Island, on Staten Island.  Incredulously, the Federal Emergency Management Agency – “FEMA” – is asking Fire Island homeowners to file for disaster relief online if their homes were damaged.  But at the same time, the Suffolk County NY County Executive has ordered the arrest of anyone seeking access to Fire Island…leaving homeowners who are familiar with every square inch of the island’s landscape unable to judge the damage,  make repairs, or file FEMA claims - all while off-island government ‘experts’ decide how to assess that very same damage in places where they have never stepped a foot.

When a tree falls across the road, we have been all-too-well trained to ‘call someone” to remove it.  In another day, we would have simply gotten out our chain saw and taken care of it.

But today, citizens can not bring goods and comfort to the Rockaways, or Long Beach, or Kismet, or parts of Staten Island, as residents freeze and starve in filth and debris for the sixth night in a row – because the Police won’t let them. After all, the ‘authorities’ supposedly know better, and what they know is that citizens can’t be ‘trusted’ to help fellow citizens.

We need to return to the day when it is acceptable for citizens to engage in self-help, to apply their expertise and knowledge and sweat and tears without being pre-licensed and approved by government bureaucracies seeking to limit their own liability and “control” the repairs.

If I have ever had a Libertarian streak - here it is.
 3) We need to completely rethink our strategies as to the very purpose of our military – and even more so, our National Guard.

Today, over 132,000 Americans are stationed abroad in military operations.  How much more could they be used here at home!

We do not need troops in Europe, or rebuilding Afghanistan, or engaged in exercises off the coast of Australia.  We do not need our National Guard shipped around the world in secret missions in Jordan and Pakistan.

We need a military, and a national guard, that can respond to threats at home.  That can rebuild the United States.  That can apply their prowess and provide their skills to the suffering HERE.

Rather than being the orphaned step-child of the US military, consigned to trapping boats carrying pot and immigrants - The United States Coast Guard should be the Vanguard of our forces; they and they alone are actually guarding our shores, while the Commander-in-Chief and the Pentagon spend 95% of our military budget in Germany and Afghanistan.

Yes, I am outraged…tired of bureaucracy, tired of government arrogance, tired of the assumption that ‘the people’ are expendable, incapable, and controllable.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

National Weather Service Blows it on NYC area Warnings re: Sandy

 In  direct contrast with the urgings of The Weather Channel, the announcements of the United States Coast Guard, and its own predictions, the National Hurricane Center of the National Weather Service  has stubbornly refused to issue Hurricane watches or warnings, or even tropical storm watches and warnings, for the US Northeast ahead of Hurricane Sandy. The decisions is being criticized by most other weather professionals and first responders.

A flabbergasted Jim Cantore, reporting from Battery Park in Manhattan for The Weather Channel, questioned the wisdom of the decision and urged NOAA to change its mind, while TWC Tropical Weather expert Dr. Greg Postel referred to the NWS decision as "not good judgement" on his national broadcast.

Meanwhile, the United States Coast Guard issued “Port Condition X-Ray” warnings for New York Harbor, the last stage before boats are required to tie up securely or leave. Port Condition X-Ray, by Coast Guard standards, is issued 48 hours prior to expected landfall of a hurricane.

As renowned weather blogger Mike Smith wrote,

“…Meteorologists, as a group, get hung up on technicalities. Even though the storm, until dissipation, will always be the swirl of clouds known as Sandy at its center, over time the storm may transition from having a warm core (classic hurricane) to a cold core (hybrid) two miles above the ground. Other than meteorologists, who cares?

Everyone knows a hurricane is really bad -- and we believe this storm will be really bad. So, a hurricane warning would have told everyone what they needed to know.

Non-mariners don't know the definition of "gale force winds" (FYI: 39 to 54 mph). Disregarding that using hurricane warnings would be clearer, the NWS is going to get hung up on "gale, storm, high wind, inland high wind" and their alphabet soup of warning types with Sandy. Plus, with each individual NWS office having warning responsibility, rather than the National Hurricane Center, inconsistencies may develop. This occasionally occurs with Nor'easters and similar storms.

I believe this is an unfortunate decision by the NWS.”
The National Weather Service itself acknowledges on their site that the storm is a hurricane, and may even intensify prior to landfall:

In spite of this, and in spite of expected storm surges of eight feet along Long Island's south shore, the NWS has refused to issue the normal warnings. Stung by criticism from all other weather sources, the NWS issued a statement just a few minutes ago explaining their actions:


("Highly Disruptive?"  For who?  For their web designer who would have to change the page?)

Yet, as of 3:17 pm today, no such warnings had been issued for anywhere in NY or NJ!

In the meantime, officials in New Jersey and New York are attempting to encourage evacuations of vulnerable coastal areas, without the added ‘encouragement’ of the NWS.  Fire Island (NY) ferries have been ordered shut down Sunday mid-day, and the barrier beaches of New Jersey are now under mandatory evacuation orders. This afternoon’s high tide in New York was already one foot higher than predicted, and current predictions are for five-and-a-half-foot surge on top of a five foot astronomical high tide. Computer models at RMS, a company used by the Insurance industry to predict losses from weather events, have suggested that Sandy will be more destructive than Irene, and could cause more property damage (in dollars) than Katrina.

Still, the National Weather Service steadfastly refuses to issue warnings of any type for the NY area.