Insurance Companies Holding Local Municipalities Responsible for failing to prepare for flooding


Good Night Irene 013 - Copy According to May’s Christian Monitor,

“Farmers Insurance filed class action lawsuit last month against nearly 200 communities in the Chicago area for failing to prepare for flooding. The suits argue towns should have known climate change would produce more flooding.”

The premise being that insurance companies want to push cities to invest in prevention as a way to avoid future lawsuits and ultimately future payouts to policy holders.

What do you think ?

36 thoughts on “Insurance Companies Holding Local Municipalities Responsible for failing to prepare for flooding

  1. barbara iannucci

    I see this as a wake up call and a fair warning for older towns in managing their budgets responsibly. According to FEMA reps after Sandy this is what they consider true emergency management – not just evacuation and post crisis response. What’s interesting is that with these types of infrastructure failures you don’t necessarily have to be in a flood plain for damages to occur.

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  2. NoLonerNew

    It doesn’t matter. The “little people” will pay for it either way. We either pay the taxes to fix the infrastructure now, we wait and possibly pay the settlement of the lawsuit, and/or we pay higher insurance premiums. If there is a lawsuit we also pay the attorneys fees.

    Yes, I know insurance would probably cover the settlement if the town lost, but that means higher insurance rates which leads to higher property taxes.

    BOHICA

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  3. duncan mcleod

    nolongernew is right on! insurance companies suing towns? seriously??? not to mention we went from “global warming” to “climate change” all the theories of which are based on very questionable science!!

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    1. sick&tired

      Questionable science or not, it is still the towns responsibility to be prepared. While we will never know what the future holds, that does not give us or the town a pass from not learning from what has happened and what they failed to do.

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  4. Seven Stars

    I work for an insurance company (not Farmers). If you choose to write business in an area, you should be pricing policies in accordance with the level of risk. You can’t put it solely back on the town and give your actuaries a free pass. I agree with NoLongerNew that this just means the insured taxpayer is paying an insurance premium plus other costs if this type of suit becomes the norm. Of course I support town mitigation, but if someone happens to live in a town where his/her council people don’t, should he/she as a resident be punished? I don’t think that’s fair.

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    1. sick&tired

      I dont believe the law suit is the answer and it is unjust. I was referring more to the towns leadership and its failure to do the proper things like being prepared, having insurance on its buildings, providing guidance, getting federal help, anything. I only use this as an example where we as society don’t learn from the past and continue to gamble with the future.

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    2. Seven Stars

      Sick&tired, my post wasn’t a reply to yours; I should have made that clearer. I do agree that towns should try and be prepared.

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  5. duncan mcleod

    ok… but heres the deal…. for towns to “prepare” wheres the money coming from… local …state… or federal taxes.. the tax payer will be f ed in the a ….. no matter what. and reall what preparations can really be made? nature will have its way in the end. just look at the structures on sandy hook. water is the most powerful force on earth. good luck beating it!!

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    1. NoLonerNew

      What preparations can be made? How about making sure every single check valve works and immediately fixing/replacing those that don’t?

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  6. barbara iannucci

    Well Duncan …I’d start with our whole pump system that is in total disrepair and non-functional. What do we have about 48 pumps? Let’s stop the flooding from a basic rainstorm. As for the money … there are grants out there which we pay as taxpayers either on the federal or state level no matter what … so I’d rather pay for projects done in my home town than for some other town. Highlands has to get in line and make it happen.

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  7. sick&tired

    You are right Duncan, lets all sit back, give up and do nothing and watch the town wash away. That mentality is what is wrong with town. Familiarity breeds a kind of complacency. A complacency that will continue to bring the town down. Perhaps you are too familiar with the town leadership and you are complacent to do nothing as they are. I believe better days are ahead for Highlands but we have to be the change we want to see. It will take time, hard work and the right attitude. Im all in.

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  8. View from the Bat Cave

    It is not one little town that is unprepared for disaster. It is America. It is not the infrastructure in one little town that is in dire need of repair/replacement. It is America. It’s not the actuaries working for insurance company’s job to err on the side of “we the people”. Insurance companies are mega business. They reinvest and reinsure. Their business is profit.

    All we hear are complaints about taxes going up, yet we all want “everything”. Just how was Highlands expected to replace its infrastructure? Stem the flooding? Even the big cities can’t do this. Even with grants, FEMA and other prospects, it is going to take years.

    No matter who puts up the money, grants, loans, taxes, it is “we the people” who will pay in the long run.

    America is not prepared for any disaster, natural or man made; from tornado to earthquake to hurricane to another 911. I doubt anyplace on earth is.

    Guess it’s happy hunting for the insurance industry, and Highlands “getting in line” or Council member who can leap tall buildings isn’t going to change a thing. No political duct tape big enough this time.

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  9. barbara iannucci

    batcave … forget the disaster scenario. We can’t even handle a basic rainstorm. Highlands is responsible for maintaining its infrastructure. It’s that simple. The fact that our past officials have NOT done so requires every Highlander to leap tall buildings when downtown floods just from rain! As for political duct tape … it obviously won’t fix “America’s” mistakes …. but it just may be useful for gagging.

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  10. View from the Bat Cave

    Can’t forget the disaster scenario, especially when we can’t even handle a basic rainstorm. We never could handle a “basic rainstorm”.

    The election is over so forget the rhetoric and hyperbole and face the hard ugly facts. Just how many grants can one small town receive? We are not the only town in this untenable position. Are there any grants out there that cover 100% of costs? Higher property taxes….egads, not that!!!. Then there are those pesky things called laws, rule and regulations that even a municipality must follow. With the government, all things move at a snail’s pace. Almost a decade after Hurricane Katrina, Louisiana is still in the recovery stage.

    To blame Councils, past and present, in a town that’s always been hanging on by its teeth, is not only unconscionable but makes patsies out of the very people that devote their time and efforts to bring some semblance of order to a town literally under water.

    In his interview on the John Schneider radio talk show, Councilman elect Card made a couple of references to Highland’s blight. We shall see how he “fixes” that when faced with something far worse than duct tape…… it’s called red tape

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    1. Seven Stars

      Shouldn’t we at least try to apply for grants and things? As the saying goes, you have to be in it to win it. Sea Bright won that Benjamin Moore contest and their town looks awesome with just a fresh coat of paint (which I am certain will bring businesses in). Throwing our hands up and surrendering isn’t going to get us anywhere.

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    2. sick&tired

      View, I dont understand why you think its unconscionable to blame Councils, Mayor any town leadership, past or present for their ability to just hang on. It should be unconscionable that we don’t expect more of them and have the town thriving and not just surviving. They were voted upon to represent the people and do what is best for the town. If you already think this is the best the town and its leadership can do, then you have nothing to complain about.

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    3. sick&tired

      They are not patsies or the fall guy, if they did not perform as they are expected to do. And you are the sucker if you think that is the best we can do as a town.

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  11. View from the Bat Cave

    Well, we sure missed a great opportunity when we didn’t consider Benjamin Moore’s paint contest. We could have painted our Borough Hall, or better yet, that great purple building on Bay Ave. What were we thinking? I think we need a bit more than a band aid. Sea Bright floods during storms that don’t effect most of its surrounding towns, including Highlands. Sea Bright also has a myriad of beach clubs paying into their coffers. I have read on this blog what a disgrace it is to have our police station still working out of a trailer yet Sea Bright still has their fire trucks parked in Highlands old Fire House; but, what the heck, they won a new coat of paint.

    Ms. Iannucci stated “it’s a wake up call”. And, yes it is. And, what we are all waking up to is the lack of funds. And, yes, grants have been applied for and received. Grants are great, even if “we the people” eventually pay for them with our taxes. Grants are for specific purposes and without funds to complete a project, of what value a grant that you lose? Money, money, money.

    To place blame for our problems on Borough Councils past and present is extremely short sighted. Since the end of its hay day in the early 20th century, Highlands has been a struggling community. It’s like somebody living week to week on a pay check.

    From the rebuilding and new building we see going on in this town, I think it will eventually make a “come back”. But perhaps not the one we hope for. With all the developers looking at the abandoned properties it will be a boon. With the rebuilding of our infrastructure, the taxes will be so high that it will out price most of our current residents.

    As for the FYI re Katrina corruption charges, I was quite aware of that fact. So, FYI, let’s not blame our Councils. Place blame where blame is due. Remember, they don’t call New Jersey the Soprano State for nothing. After all, if you didn’t shut the barn door in time, it’s always somebody’s fault.

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    1. Seven Stars

      Why belittle Sea Bright’s success? If you drive down their main drag, you see a town that looks great and businesses filling in empty buildings. That attracts people and money. It isn’t a band aid; it’s part of a long-term strategy to improve the community. And it’s clearly working for them.

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    2. NoLonerNew

      To place blame for our problems on Borough Councils past and present is extremely short sighted. Since the end of its hay day in the early 20th century, Highlands has been a struggling community. It’s like somebody living week to week on a pay check.

      I’d like to address that. If this town has been living “paycheck to paycheck” for decades, why hasn’t our council, past and present, done anything about it? We absolutely should hold them accountable. No, they are no responsible for Highlands’ decline, but they are accountable for not moving Highlands in the right direction and they are responsible for for continuing to live “paycheck to paycheck.”

      When times are tight I stop spending on the things I want (new cars) and focus on the things I need (home repairs). It’s not that outlandish to ask the same of our council.

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  12. Rockemsockem

    Just curious who we do hold responsible when bad economy, no jobs, no growth, etc as a country, state or town?

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  13. View from the Bat Cave

    Well, Seven, I certainly wasn’t belittling Sea Bright’s success. My remarks were not meant to belittle anyone. They were a response to the inanity of the suggestion that a “coat of paint” would be an integral part of any recovery attempt. Pure sarcasm. To compare Sea Bright’s situation with Highlands is like the old idiom, comparing “apples and oranges”. For Highlands, the situation is like construction: the paint is the final step.

    And, Rockem, If I knew who to hold responsible for the bad economy, I’d run for President. The US is 7 trillion dollars in debt, low wages plus the fact that 2 part time employees, without benefits, take the place of a full time employee, the fact that many big businesses are being headquartered in Zug, thus avoiding US taxes. The huge income gap is a deterrent to the economy. All this equals a widespread drop of consumer spending.

    An article of interest in today’s APP. State is holding up Senior and Disabled property tax rebates due to lack of funds. Wonder if our Governor’s “special election” had a bit of an effect on this problem? The critics of our local government and its lack of money didn’t seem concerned about “special election” cost. Another old idiom, “the end justifies the means”..

    So, who to blame? Let’s keep on tossing those brickbats at the people on the bottom of the political totem pole, our local Council people; after all, they’re easy prey.

    I notice that less than a half dozen or so people on this blog that continually throw brickbats at our leaders. So, instead of yelling foul at every turn, perhaps they should step up to bat. Put their money where their mouth is so to speak. I could only guess their only courage comes from hiding behind an online alias. Of course a half dozen critics out of a population of approx. 5,000. ain’t bad.

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    1. Seven Stars

      View, I don’t think Sea Bright and Highlands are so different, except perhaps in each town’s response to the Sandy recovery challenge. And you missed my point completely about making an effort– I wasn’t simply talking paint.

      No one is hiding behind anything, as we’ve discussed before.

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    2. NoLonerNew

      Some of the council were concerned about a $7,000 election cost but had no problem spending $20k extra so that a project would look nicer than the plain option.

      I stand firm that our “paycheck to paycheck” status is the fault of the council and our CFOs. I will hold De Blasio just as accountable as Pfeffer until De Blasio starts telling the council where they can cut spending.

      Yes, I’m one of those half-dozen critics because I want to see change in this town. Some people, like you, don’t want change otherwise you’d offer up your own suggestions instead of shooting the messenger. I, and others, most certainly do NOT want another 10% property tax increase but at the rate this council is going, you better expect it.

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  14. sick&tired

    Well view, as a responsible voting citizen who cares about the town, it is well within my right to question and criticize the leadership of this town when they don’t perform. Can you say, they have a done a good job? Honestly? While there maybe only a few critics on this board, i have never seen or heard anyone on this board or in town, say “Hey our town leadership is doing a great job” or “look at all of these improvements”.

    As I said before, we are all in this together and need to be the change we want, but from your statements, you imply you don’t want change or you are ok with waiting around for something to happen or you don think anything will happen because you are used to the leadership, not doing anything. That is your right and you can take that route.

    And don’t worry, I attack all levels of the political scale with the same moxy when they don’t perform or do what is in the best interest of the people they represent. The only difference is when I write letters to state and national leaders, i get a response. When i continually write letters to our town officials, it goes into a black hole. Their inability to hold a dialogue with the people of this town is absurd. Start there and tell me, they do a good job.

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  15. View from the Bat Cave

    It is rare that I ever miss a point, Seven. Paint as a metaphor. But that purple building could use a coat. Sea Bright and Highlands are in no way comparable. Sea Bright is a destination, a resort, an ocean side town, Sea Bright has resources that Highlands will never have…It’s all about location, not people. Highlands may be a gem, but it is a sadly overlooked gem. We are the ferry gateway to NYC. No way do these riders stop and shop in Highlands. Our great restaurants attract customers. These diners do not amble down Bay Ave window shopping, they do not linger after closing time.

    Tell me sick&tired, when you write letters to these other governmental entities, do you sign your real name? Oh, and I do believe every citizen has the right to question their civic leaders just as I believe in getting true facts before sounding off. How can it be verified that you “continually” write to our town officials only to have your letters go into a black hole? I can assure you that no official in their right mind would respond to any thing written under an alias on this or any blog. I suggest that the next time you write to Borough Hall you copy us on here so that we may follow the process and verify your allegations.

    Our sitting Council is perhaps the most hard working and intelligent Council Highlands has ever had. They are hard working and dedicated. I know for a fact that certain members respond to all questions and problems of a serious nature.

    It’s all a matter of resources, sir.

    Unlike Don Quixote, make sure your windmills are real before you start to tilt at them.

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    1. NoLonerNew

      Yet another “shoot the messenger” post. You say Highlands is an overlooked gem. So what are your ideas on how to fix that? How do we get diners to amble down Bay Ave?

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    2. Seven Stars

      View, there are hardly any shops here for them to visit, so they don’t have the option to do those things. Since capitalizing on our waterfront location and proximity to Sandy Hook were voted top priorities in the FEMA meetings, it does seem a large number of Highlands residents think we could be a “destination”, as you put it. I agree with those voters. What is your suggestion as to how we can get people to spend more time and money here?

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    3. Rockemsockem

      Our hard working council needs to stop spending hard earned taxpayers money on non essentials and all council members should recuse themselves for voting to spend money that directly benefits family and friends. That goes for Mayor too. Time to get to work no excuses!!!!

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  16. sick&tired

    I do sign my name to these letters I write and I do not expect a town official to reply to a blog post. I would be mistaken to presume they would answer a blog, but I do expect an answer when i spend a months writing a letter a week regarding a lack of code enforcement that effects the quality of living standards. The burden is on not me to prove that I write to town officials, the burden is on them to reply and do something, which they do not. But like you said, I know for a fact, I wrote those letters. You don’t have to take my word for it. But perhaps you can provide proof that they respond to all questions and concerns of a serious nature. I would like to track and verify this communication you speak of. Since it is a fact you claim.

    You have missed many points here View and your facts don’t line up. You praise the town leadership but for what? If you can point to one great thing the town officials have done to the betterment of the town and all of its people, please let me know. I asked earlier and I am still waiting. Hard work and dedication does not always garner results.

    But you do throw out an excuse. Its all a matter of resources, you say. Well you must not be a business minded individual because that is an excuse that will get you fired. Everyone company, volunteer organization, town, state can use more resources but they are still required to get the job done. If you cant then you pay the price. Please stop with your feeble excuses and attempts to save face for your town official friends.

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  17. Rockemsockem

    So everyone but local governments are to be held accountable . You campaign for a job and promise to fix flooding, code enforcement etc etc etc you get the job and it’s everyone else’s fault when you never actually do what you were entrusted to do? Sorry but that is not how the real world works and perhaps it might have been mindset in past but it just can’t be anymore. I think it’s pretty sad if council members feel they aren’t accountable to the people who they have the honor to serve.

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  18. View from the Bat Cave

    Well Seven, you’re comment about the lack of stores to window shop completely missed the point. Could be a sign of non-comprehension? It was in response to your comment about Sea Bright and Highlands not being so different. Hope Sea Bright didn’t read that.

    My head aches from batting against people who refuse to acknowledge reality so I will concede that even though the State is in fiscal distress, the county is in fiscal distress, it is the Borough of Highlands Council and Mayor who are responsible for all the woes we face.

    But, fear not concerned citizens, a new dawn is rising for our Borough. July 1st is only weeks away. There is hope on the horizon. A new star has appeared.. One, who while telling us that Highlands is a blight, promises to (gasp) communicate.

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    1. highlandsblog Post author

      “My head aches from batting against people who refuse to acknowledge reality” – YOUR head hurts?? poor Sick n Tired, Seven Stars, Rockem, NLN & Barb tried to reason with someone who put a twig on their head and insists shes a tree…

      You’re done here..

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