Some Random Thoughts on Today’s Sandy Hearing

The Senate Budget Committee convened today in Toms River, to hear about the impact of and the recovery efforts due to Hurricane Sandy. State, county, and local officials briefed Senator Paul Sarlo and his committee on the events, the impact, and the massive remediation and recovery costs that this “storm of the century” has thrust upon the fiscally fragile state economy.

Chairman Sarlo opened the hearings by announcing that the panel would talk about recovery and remediation efforts, but would not be discussing budget issues. (If you didn’t follow the @bluejersey twitter feed, you can find more on the meeting by clicking here.) Sarlo rightfully prioritized the effort to find temporary housing and quickly move to more permanent housing for those who lost everything. He said they would discuss infrastructure improvements and smart rebuilding efforts.

All of this is necessary. But it is not sufficient. While we can’t prevent 100-year storms (which scientists say will now occur with greater frequency), we can do a lot as a state and a nation to mitigate the severity of these storms.

First, we need to have a serious discussion about how we rebuild the shore towns and the areas within flood plains – a discussion that was given only lip service today. It’s very difficult for people to lose their homes, especially those who have lived in them for decades. But does it make sense to rebuild the same way only to go through the same trauma a few years from now? Is it more cost-effective if we bite the bullet now and put our power distribution lines underground?  That would be more expensive in the short term, but cheaper in the long run. Should we allow wealthy shore homeowners to dictate how the barrier islands are protected?

And we can’t ignore the long term while we spend the next few years rebuilding. Reputable scientists say that the severity of Sandy and the frequency of similar storms are a direct result of man-made global climate change. Yet Governor Christie has unilaterally pulled our state out of the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative (this having been done shortly after he met with the Koch Brothers), thus weakening efforts to control the amount of carbon in our atmosphere, which directly results in the oceans melting and providing the energy for super storms. With all of the bipartisan kumbaya displayed at today’s hearing, there should be a call for action to override the governor’s RGGI withdrawal.

On September 11, 2001 – one of the worst days in American history – after getting over the initial shock and anger, I predicted to one of my colleagues that that event would guarantee the re-election of George W. Bush, who was well on his way to become the worst president in my lifetime. The same thing is true on a smaller scale. Governor Christie filed papers today for his re-election bid, saying he wanted to continue his leadership in the Sandy recovery efforts. People look to their leaders in a disaster, and it gives them almost unlimited political capital.

The Governor learned his lesson from his absence during Snowmageddon in 2010. His leadership in the Sandy recovery efforts has been the reason his popularity has soared. Yet all of us (especially the mainstream media) have to have a serious discussion on his dismal record on promoting growth at the expense of the environment. Continuing down the same path will only ensure more severe storms and heartbreak down the road.

So let’s not hesitate to help our neighbors. Many towns lost a significant portion of their ratable tax base, and while Senators Lautenberg and Menendez are working to get more federal aid, much of the burden will be on the shoulders of New Jersey’s residents. It’s time to re-instate the millionaire’s tax and stop subsidizing ineffective non-public education that enriches the coffers of the education-industrial complex. At the same time we need to provide opportunities for the least fortunate New Jerseyans – not only in the Sandy battle zone, but in Camden, Newark, and throughout the state. If we do, that will demonstrate true governmental leadership.

Comments (2)

  1. deciminyan (Post author)

    There will certainly be long term effects from Sandy, like there are from 9/11. Without proper treatment of their homes, some people will suffer the health effects of mold years down the road. One thing that I learned today is that if you have underground wiring and it is subject to salt water flooding, it’s a fire hazard and should be replaced. Hopefully reputable inspectors will recognize this hazard so it can be remediated now, not when the surviving houses are sold years from now.

  2. deciminyan (Post author)

    Below is the Twitter feed from the meeting, in chronological order.

    #NJSenate #Sandy hearings in Toms River have started. We’ll be live tweeting.

    Chairman Sarlo opens by praising @GovChristie at #Sandy hearing.

    “Todays #NJSenate budget hearing will not cover revenues, etc per Chairman Sarlo.”

    #NJ Senate leaders Sweeney and Kean are in the audience. #Sandy

    Following the NJ Senate hearing on Hurricane Sandy on Twitter? Here’s a little about what you’re watching.

    “@bluejersey And the live VIDEO of today’s #Sandy hearing, again, is here:

    First to testify at #NJSenate are Toms River municipal officials. #Sandy

    #njsenate Committee Chair Sarlo calls for patience in #Sandy rebuilding.

    #NJSenate #Sandy hearings are being live steamed on the Toms River municipal web side.

    Toms River police chief states #Sandy was a lot worse than he anticipated. #NJSenate

    “Toms River police chief says barrier island damage was expected, but didn’t anticipate extent of mainland damage from #sandy. #njsenate”

    TR Police chief says communication network needs to be improved for future #Sandy storms. #NJSenate

    About 5000 Toms River residents are out of their homes. #Sandy #NJSenate

    “Miraculously, no Toms River residents were killed or seriously injured by #Sandy. #NJSenate”

    Senator Ruiz points out that 100 year storms are occurring more often and towns need appropriate rescue equipment. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Toms River Business Administrator testifies 30% of ratable properties are damaged by #Sandy. #NJSenate

    Toms River administrator calls for hearings on response to #Sandy by electric utilities.

    Toms River (pop 100K) needs $35 million in #Sandy cleanup funds. #NJSenate

    “In Toms River, most cell service went out due to #Sandy. #NJSenate”

    Now testifying: @NJSP commander Fuentes. #NJSenate #Sandy

    @NJSP Col. Fuentes delivers a frightening litany of #Sandy’s impact. #NJSenate

    Col Fuentes says some ground level winds were recorded at 90 mph during #Sandy. #NJSenate

    10000 gallons of diesel fuel spilled into the Arthur Kill during #Sandy per Col Fuentes. #NJSenate

    “Although LBI was devastated by #Sandy, damage to the northern barrier islands was worse – @NJSP Col Fuentes. #NJSenate”

    Col Fuentes says lessons learned from #Irene helped with #Sandy response. #NJSenate

    Sen O’Toole asks about crime during #Sandy. #NJSenate. Col Fuentes says looting minimized due to police visibility.

    Col Fuentes discusses evacuation & re-entry process during #Sandy. Says public cooperation was generally good. #NJSenate

    Special Needs Assistance Program to start in Jan. will help in future evacuations in #Sandy-like storms. #NJSenate

    Retweeted by BlueJersey

    “On Sandy hearing by NJ Senate: No big questions on rebuilding task, just tiny bits on emergency response. Are senators here just to posture?”

    26 Nov tom moran ?@tomamoran

    Col Fuentes commends BPU president Hanna for his work during #Sandy. #NJSenate

    Sen Beck thanks @NJSP for their work in Monmouth County. Says 25000 boats were destroyed. #NJSenate #Sandy

    @MaryAnnSpoto piece on ongoing #Sandy hearing… …

    @NJSP Col Fuentes gets a round of applause on completion of his #NJSenate #Sandy testimony.

    Brick Twp mayor says #Sandy cleanup alone will cost his town $18 million. #NJSenate

    Mayor Acropolis of Brick would like FEMA $$ advance so he doesn’t have to borrow. Wants permitting relief. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Mayor Acropolis calls for backup generators at all cell towers. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Mayor Acropolis says sending his police officers to #Katrina gave them invaluable experience. #NJSenate #Sandy

    Mayor Acropolis says JCP&L did not know where power needed fixing during #Sandy. #NJSenate

    Brick Mayor Acropolis says underground wiring needs replacement after salt water flooding. Expects a rash of house fires. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Mayor Acropolis says local towns don’t all have the equipment for debris removal of this magnitude #NJSenate #Sandy

    Belmar Mayor Matt Doherty is testifying now. #Sandy #NJSenate

    60% of Belmar was flooded by #Sandy. #NJSenate

    200 Belmar families were rescued by responders whose own homes were destroyed by #Sandy. #NJSenate

    Bronze mayor says debris cleanup will be completed this week. #NJSenate #Sandy

    “Damn you spell checker. That should be “”Brick mayor”””

    FEMA will pay 75% of reconstruction of Belmar boardwalk destroyed by #Sandy. #NJSenate

    Sen Beck is concerned on how to transition folks back to permanent homes when insurance coverage is inadequate. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Up next: Walter Kierce Jersey City Homeland Security manager. #NJSenate #Sandy

    Kierce: JC experienced winds greater than 80mph. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Kierce: JC had to remove 8000 tons of debris from #Sandy . #NJSenate

    “Finally after 2.5 hours of #Sandy testimony, someone (Kierce) states the need for prevention activities. #NJSenate”

    “Kierce: Power companies not knowing where power is out is “”unfathomable”” #NJSenate #Sandy”

    JC lost 4 fire trucks due to #Sandy flooding. #NJSenate

    Ocean Country administrators and freeholders are now testifying about debris removal. #NJSenate #Sandy

    Ocean Country is dipping into its surplus (!) for #Sandy debris removal. #NJSenate

    “In Ocean County, the barrier islands were not. #Sandy #NJSenate”

    OC freeholder asks #NJSenate to allow counties to retain realty transfer fees to help with #Sandy recovery. #NJSenate

    “Sen Sarlo points out that as assessed value of properties post-#Sandy goes down, school budgets will be affected. #NJSenate”

    JCP&L is taking a lot of flack at #NJSenate #Sandy hearing. Sounds like they were acluistic during the storm.

    OLS budget guru David Rosen is at the #NJSenate #Sandy hearing.

    OC Administrator suggests improving voting process during unanticipated events like #Sandy for first responders from out of state. #NJSenate

    Next up: Monmouth County Tax Administrator Matthew Clark. #Sandy #NJSenate

    Next up: Union Beach OEM coordinator. First one with props. Map shows entire town underwater. #NJSenate #Sandy

    62 homes in Union Beach can’t be found. Another 100 totally destroyed. Using 5 borrowed police cars. Renting 1st responder vehicles #Sandy

    “For comparison, population of Union Beach is 6600. #NJSenate #Sandy”

    [FEMA] trailers are the only options for Union Beach residents otherwise they will leave and that will be devistating. #NJSenate #Sandy

    #NJSenate #Sandy hearing adjourns. Follow  and @deciminyan for up to date news & opinion.


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