Democracy Inaction: Video of Seawall Stonewall

Whether or not you’ve been following the story of the downtown Stevens Point seawall, this video is instructive.  I’ve argued that there was a clear mandate from citizens attending the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting about this issue, and the video below is a very accurate  summary of how things went.

(Mike Richards video)

As I’ve noted before, not a soul who spoke — and there were a dozen — thought this was a fair assessment, including those who don’t live in the former floodplain and aren’t being assessed. Continue reading

Stevens Pointless: A message from your so-called leaders

blah blah blah

This might be the most-circulated of all Gary Larson cartoons on the internet (search Google Images for “larson blah blah” — it’s astounding). But maybe that’s because this so aptly summarizes so many situations, including Monday’s common council meeting.

Participating in the July 20 Stevens Point Common Council meeting as a citizen was like trying to swim from the downstream side of Hoover Dam to the upstream side. Even if you’re strong enough to go against the current down at the base, you’re not going to get past the dam shaft.

I’ve watched many Point council meetings on video, but I’d never attended one until Monday.  What I saw convinced me that, at least for now, many of our so-called local leaders are great at pinching pennies but don’t recognize good sense.

They still couldn’t figure out how to help the residents of Edgewater Manor.  They also rubber-stamped an opportunistic shafting of more than 200 homeowners in the former FEMA flood plain, who are being required to pay for seawall improvement near downtown Stevens Point.

The council’s peformance could be described in many ways. I may have a lot more to say about this, and perhaps other council issues, in the future. For now, I’ll just say that the council and the city of Stevens Point only seem to hear what they want to hear.

This was particularly true on the flood-control assessment issue. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a decision-making body get such a clear and unanimous mandate from its constituents, yet seem to care less about what any citizen said.  The homeowners stuck with the bill made their hardship clear; other citizens strongly affirmed their willingness to share the cost as a city and thought the rest of the city would be willing, too. The consensus was as solid as a concrete seawall. Continue reading

Insult to injury: Long-suffering Stevens Point property owners being forced to bail the city’s boat

Wait a minute.  So those are my trucks behind that seawall?  (Photo courtesy of Mike Richards)

Wait a minute. So those are my trucks behind that seawall? (Photo courtesy of Mike Richards)

Want to anger your neighbors? Invite them all to a party, then send the entire bill to just a few of them after the party is over, telling them they took two appetizers over the limit.

Now let’s take a step back and talk about flood insurance.

Unless it’s the IRS, there’s probably no federal agency more vilified than the Federal Emergency Management Agency — none I’d less like to work for, none that gets a worse rap, none that’s as underappreciated.  That’s unfair to FEMA, but it’s also fair to say that none deserves our money less, as federal flood insurance is a boondoggle of the highest order.

About 200 Stevens Point property owners are finally going to be out from under the yoke of a program that encourages those with money to build stuff where they shouldn’t, where floods destroy it and then let all of us pay for rebuilding it.   Except that I get to pay a whole lot more than most people do.

It’s a despicable political outcome to a well-intentioned but poorly executed effort, and as one of those unfortunate Point property owners, I say good riddance to the 100-year flood zone and its attendant insurance costs.

The city’s attempt to portray a few property owners as the sole beneficiaries of the seawall is a disingenous breach of trust and a violation of the most basic precepts of community.

For my family, the cost was scheduled to be more than $1,900 in 2015-16.  The City of Stevens Point apparently feels that, because I and my fellow residents east of downtown had to flush that money down the toilet for all these years, we should happily accept an assessment to pay for buildup of a seawall that has removed us from this burden.

Essentially, because we had to live with a problem of someone else’s creation for many years, we shouldn’t be angry about having to pay for work in someone else’s backyard that finally gets rid of the problem and brings a number of other community benefits along with it. Continue reading