CHANGING LIVES/HELPING FAMILIES – FEMA HAZARD MITIGATION ASSISTANCE PROGRAM

24 03 2018

A recent James Andreassi article appearing in the Stuart (FL) News on March 23, 2018, incorrectly titled, “FEMA paid $5 million to raise 27 flood-prone buildings along Treasure Coast waterfronts,” describes a program that has helped 25 Treasure Coast families and 1 business recover from and avoid future flood damage.

While focusing upon a $5,000,000 expenditure over a 12-year period, it fails to take into consideration key elements.  Andreassi provided 2 examples, the Davis family that experienced flooding 5 times before subscribing to the program that pays to have homes elevated above potential flood levels, and the Chontos family that regretted program participation because of the personal inconvenience, red tape, and increased insurance premiums and property-tax bills that resulted:

  • Based upon current property values, a 30% loss on the Davis home would have resulted in a $46,230 payout from the National Flood Insurance program. Multiplied by 5 (claims), the Davis family would have received $231,000+.  If the loss was closer to 50% (not unusual), the total payout would have been $385,000+.  The average cost for elevating each of 4 homes in that area:  $160,000.
  • The average benefit received by residents in the Chontos family neighborhood was $387,500. If they sustained a 40% loss, based upon current property values the insurance reimbursement would have been $117,232. Reimbursement for a total loss would have been less than $300,000.  The financial benefit for the Chontos family ranges from $87,500 to $270,000+.

Yes, there is a “forever” participation in the National Flood Insurance Program requirement that keeps the program viable by enhancing loss ratios, but that obligation would continue if the property wasn’t elevated so it cannot be considered an additional expense.

Andreassi failed to touch on the real value, the importance of this government program.  Those who have never experienced a flood need only look at images of people leaving homes in Houston or New Orleans from 2nd story windows by boat – people sitting on roofs next to gaping holes desperately hacked out to avoid agonizing death by drowning.

Early Florida settlers owned one-story cinder block homes with terrazzo floors and aluminum/plastic furnishings.  There were no valuables housed in walnut display cases, no original art hanging on the walls.  Photo albums were stored on the top shelf in the closet.  They understood the risk and prepared as best they could for the day when the water rose.  We have evolved.

The FEMA Hazard Mitigation Assistance Program is a cost-effective government attempt to help people in need at minimal taxpayer expense.  The $416,667 spent per year for the past 12 years has helped 25 families and 1 business avoid the pain, suffering, emotional trauma, and financial loss that comes with flooding.

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>>> PERSONAL PERSPECTIVE – OUR PRESIDENT <<<

17 03 2018

Our president is so polarizing people publicly issue profane vitriol that friends and family find disturbing, confusing – depressing.  While part of the blame can be laid at the feet of a president who uses his ability to incite anger as a bargaining chip, the proliferation of uncontrolled diatribes can be traced to the ease of access to a public platform and measurement of the response.

When my grandson could barely walk, he would crawl, climb, and teeter on the highest spot in the room.  His competitive spirit would drive him to stand on a piece of paper if it would make him (almost) taller than everyone else.  Our competitive spirit is ingrained and drives our actions from birth.

The newfound world of Social Media thrives on competition.  We measure Facebook “Likes,” LinkedIn “Connections,” etc.  We closely monitor how many “views” or “comments” our posts receive and compare our performance with various benchmarks.

The comments our parents and grandparents made to “raise Fred’s dander” while playing pinochle at the dining room table or “annoy Uncle Jim” at a family gathering never travelled further than the walls of their home.  Just the same, responses – a grin, a chuckle, a wink of the eye, or even eyes widened in indignation – were carefully measured and recorded.  Dinner conversation the following day often included, “Did you see Anne’s face when so-and-so said…”

Comments now broadcast to hundreds of friends bring joy with every like, smiley face, thumbs up (or down) reaction.  A “share” is the gold standard.  When a comment becomes a “thread” with dozens of comments and responses, hearts pound fast.

Like that proverbial tree in the woods, this personal perspective will be meaningless until someone reacts.





>>> A PAINFUL REALITY <<<

21 02 2018

Reverend Graham’s passing is a stark and painful reminder of just how far we have strayed from the world of our youth.  May those memories be a lasting final gift and a beacon of hope in a troubled world from this man who placed his faith above all else.

The question that begs an answer:  Did the world change, or did we change?

After World War II, there has been a global shift toward prosperity fueled by advancements in all sectors:  Manufacturing, Technology, Medicine, Business, etc.  Some have suggested we are living in the “real” Renaissance, the previous 30 years being the “real” Dark Ages.

While many are experiencing a crescendo of achievement and unheard-of success, there are underlying factors that remain unchanged or have even gotten worse: poverty, disease, violence, etc.

The reality is that we have changed.  We were born with an innocence that our parents protected and fostered.  Having struggled through the darkness of the Depression, dishonest and immoral leaders, and war, our parents tried to protect us from the realities of a difficult life.  The most common parental expression was, “I want you to have a better life than I had.”

They wouldn’t let us wear sneakers or jeans to school.  There were kids we weren’t allowed to associate with.  Their authority was well-established through a difficult and challenging system of punishments for even minor infractions of rules carved in stone.  “Children don’t speak unless spoken to!”  “Go to your room!”  “You’re grounded!” “Bring me the paddle!”

On the positive side, there was Boy/Girl Scouts, Brownies/Cub Scouts, Sunday School, Youth Fellowship, and Dancing School.  School included Band, Choir, Student Council, etc.

Parents tried to shelter us from the vagaries of a violent and sometimes evil world.  We were devastated when tragic deaths stole classmates and friends from us.  Death was anathema to us, our only prior exposure being comedic representations in Farmer Gray and Ben and Jerry cartoons.  There was no way to equate Wiley Coyote’s murderous pastime with the reality of our lives.

There is no innocence in today’s world.  Children from the earliest imaginable age are just one click away from the most sordid, evil, violent sides of life.  Video games strive to deliver the most realistic depictions of violence and mayhem.  Information of all types is delivered unfiltered to the masses.  Who knew anything about presidential promiscuity when you were growing up?  Posted by students, live videos of the Parkland massacre spread throughout the Internet like wildfire.

There is a pervasive thought that evil only exists in the minds of naïve, backwards thinking, people who are out-of-touch with the world.  The concept of “good vs. bad” has been supplanted with “better and best.”  Win or lose, everyone gets a trophy.  Away with negativity.  Reinforce positive behavior.  Downplay all else.

The result is a world where “morality” has become an outdated cliché.  We have failed to introduce balance in the human value proposition.  Without a guide, compass, or beacon, young people do not comprehend the concept of a “path through life.”  They are scattered, distracted, and lost with thoughts and emotions that are beyond their understanding yet nurtured by unlimited resources.  In today’s world, if a person chooses to worship chocolate bunnies, there probably exists a myriad of sources supporting the importance – the value of that endeavor.

Having allowed that world to evolve, grow, and consume our youth, we as parents and grandparents have no choice but to watch the devastation and death foisted upon us by youthful miscreants devoid of values and lost in their self-centered world.

We changed the world, and now we must suffer the pain of our permissiveness.  Let us pray that someone with clarity and purpose, with the strength of conviction, will rise and speak in a voice that will carry a message of hope to the world.

It happened – once.





WHICH WINE WOULD YOU BUY?

6 02 2018

CHARDONNAY #1

“The fruit for this wine comes from vineyards in the Carneros region owned by the family and select growers…

Sustainable farming practices throughout the growing season were tailored to each block with the assistance of aerial photos produced using NDVI (Normalized Difference Vegetation Index) technology. The fruit was hand-picked at night and sorted in the vineyard.

The grapes were gently whole-cluster pressed while the fruit was still cool. The juice was pumped to tank to cold-settle overnight before it was racked to barrel for primary and malolactic fermentation.”

CHARDONNAY #2

“Enticing aromas of vanilla, melon and mango are layered with apricot, creme brulee, butter and a slight minerality. Those scents are echoed as flavors on the creamy, rich palate, along with peach, pie crust and baking spices. The long, smooth finish is marked by mouthwatering acidity.”





>>> TRUMP BASHING: A BAD HABIT <<<

3 02 2018

Carl Hiaasen, a columnist with The Miami Herald for 33 years and author of a series of novels, observed in his column on February 2, 2018, that:

FBI agents are more courageous than Trump will ever acknowledge

Hiaasen went on to describe in painstaking detail as only he can, the violent deaths of agents Benjamin P. Grogan and Jerry L. Dove, an event that touched him deeply.  The emotional reflection upon this event, however, drew Hiaasen away from his Trump-bashing theme.

There is no question that the President has been extremely hard on the FBI, and not without cause.  Without listing the litany of FBI missteps here, even CNN acknowledges that “Trump is right about the FBI” in a story released on 12/30/17.

The story confirms that “The FBI has traditionally enjoyed a highly favorable reputation among a majority of the nation’s citizens,” and not without reason.  In its 109 year history, 67 agents have “lost their lives in the performance of their duty.”  36, including Grogan and Dove, have been designated as “Service Martyrs,” having been “killed in the line of duty as the result of a direct adversarial force or at or by the hand of an adversary.”

There have been 20 FBI directors with 8 of those serving as acting directors.  Few realize that 8 FBI directors and 1 acting director have been implicated in a variety of questionable and even criminal acts resulting in forced resignations and terminations for two:  William S. Sessions and James B. Comey.

While J. Edgar Hoover was by far the most controversial, here is a partial list of others:

Louis J. Freeh Judicial Watch pointed to a ‘legacy of corruption’ at the FBI under Freeh, listing the espionage scandal at Los Alamos National Laboratories, as well as “Filegate, Waco, the Ruby Ridge cover-up, the Olympic bombing frame-up of Richard Jewell, [and] falsification of evidence concerning the Oklahoma City bombing.
Clarence M. Kelley Kelley misleadingly (though apparently unwittingly) claimed the FBI had stopped conducting illegal break-ins in the mid-’60s. (They’d continued into the ’70s.) On top of this, there was the affair of the valances (as it was called at the time): It is not the job of the FBI to install window drapes in the home of its director, but they did for Kelley at his house in Bethesda, Maryland, and he got caught out.
L. Patrick Gray L. Patrick Gray stepped in to replace Hoover as acting director and was nominated by Nixon to serve as the permanent director. He soon withdrew his nomination, however, and resigned as acting director in April 1973, after admitting to destroying Watergate-related files.
William J. Burns Burns “dispatched agents to dig up dirt on Sen. (Burton) Wheeler (who uncovered the Teapot Dome scandal). Not finding any, he and (Attorney General Harry) Daugherty concocted baseless corruption charges against Wheeler that only backfired.”
Alexander B. Bielaski During Bielaski’s tenure, Congress investigated mass federal enforcement of the Selective Service Act. The FBI rounded up and illegally detained Americans until those who were detained could prove they had registered for the draft. Ultimately, Bielaski was forced to resign in February 1919 for his handling of the raids.
Stanley W. Finch Congress finally took its revenge on Finch in 1913 by starving his specialist anti-prostitution unit of funds, once again charging financial irregularity — and forcing his retirement.

 

The following is an excerpt from a CBS News story published on February 19,2004:

“An internal FBI report kept under wraps for three years details dozens of cases of agents fired for egregious misconduct and crimes, including drug trafficking, attempted murder, theft, misuse of informants and consorting with prostitutes.

The report, released Wednesday by Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, found that about one in 1,000 agents was dismissed for serious misconduct or criminal offenses by the FBI during the period examined, from 1986 to 1999. The average was between eight and nine per year.”

Is Hiaasen’s reverence for FBI agents misplaced?  ABSOLUTELY NOT!!  The agency’s accomplishments far, far outweigh its shortcomings.  Our country would be an entirely different, lawless place without the dedication and diligence of FBI personnel at all levels.  Consider the sordid past of Phenix City, Alabama.

Is President Trump’s criticism of the FBI wrong?  DEFINITELY NOT!  Bad apples appear on every tree.  The owner of the orchard is obligated to demand and oversee their removal before someone becomes ill from contact with poison fruit.





Can Palm Beach County ERM learn from its mistakes?

27 11 2012

According to a Palm Beach Post article dated June 19, 2012 (“Jupiter’s DuBois Park earns national design award”), Palm Beach County spent $6.2 million  to restore, redevelop, and add new features to DuBois Park.  One of those features is a “1-acre snorkeling area and artificial reef.”

Less than 6 months later the Post, reporting on damage from Superstorm Sandy noted, “At Dubois Park in Jupiter, erosion along the shoreline exposed irrigation lines.  The damage totaled at least $200,000, officials said.”

There is an explanation for this damage.  An engineering solution called a “perched beach,” was improperly applied.  Unless the Palm Beach County Environmental Resources Management Department (ERM) reexamines its plans for beach stabilization at the Jupiter Inlet Lighthouse Outstanding Natural Area (JILONA), Cato’s Bridge Beach is destined to endure a similar fate.

A limestone breakwater, was built parallel to the beach to provide a snorkeling area and stabilize the beach at DuBois Park. Work was completed in March 2012.

An aerial image taken from an April 2012 ERM document depicts steps taken in Phase II (Shoreline Stabilization & Recreational Amenities).  A wall of stone with small openings was installed to protect the beach area and provide a snorkel lagoon. This design is so closely similar to the JILONA design plan that ERM made the comparison in a presentation to the Jupiter Town Council in 2011.

Proposed breakwater design for the eastern JILONA boundary extending south from Cato’s Bridge.

Recent storm damage at DuBois Park will require $200,000 to repair

Look at pictures of DuBois Park taken 2 weeks after Superstorm Sandy.  Note the severe erosion to the beach area.  Clearly, ERM’s beach stabilization is a dismal failure with a $200,000 price tag to repair.  If a similar situation occurs at JILONA, the damages could include destruction of the historic lighthouse.  We cannot allow this to happen.





A Nation Grieves

11 09 2012

10 years ago today my close friend, Lee, and I were driving from Wisconsin where we had taken ownership of an old Chris-Craft Holiday, to our homes in Florida.  The radio stations saturated the airwaves with patriotic music as we sliced through our nation’s heartland.  Every overpass on I-65 had an American Flag suspended from it’s railing.  On some, people proudly waved flags back and forth for everyone to see.  Cars and trucks passing below saluted their support with enthusiastic hand and arm gestures and sharp horn blasts.

Tears came to our eyes as we reflected on the tragedy of a year earlier – tragedy that touched the lives of every American in the most horrific way.  Our country came together on that day to honor and glorify the memory of those who paid the supreme sacrifice for being Americans.  Our chests swelled with pride as we saw that we were surrounded with people we didn’t know, people we would never encounter again, people who joined together in defiance of terrorism,

The fervor has cooled. The expressions of patriotism are more controlled.  While that exuberance has passed, the deep sense of loss remains.  We all lost something dear to us on that day eleven years ago.  Perhaps it was our innocence… our naïveté.  Had we put up a psychological wall to shield ourselves from the pain, no one would have been surprised.  No one would have criticized us for compensating by turning cold-hearted.

That’s not what Americans do!  We cried.  We beat our chests in sorrow.  Then, our nation buckled down and faced the task at hand with intensity and conviction. Individually, we rose to the occasion.  We mustered a drive from deep inside that enabled us to push through the pain and move forward in a positive direction.  The struggle has been long and hard.  The human sacrifices continue to mount, but progress can be found every day.

Will our world return to a pre-9/11 blindness?  Never!  We stand prepared to join together to defend our homeland, to prove to the world once again that we will protect the American way of life!