Obama Administration Looking To Divert Billions in Sandy Funds Away From New Jersey and New York

By Art Gallagher, artvg@aol.com

repost-us-image-10549927The Obama Administration is considering holding a contest for areas impacted by disasters other than Superstorm Sandy.  The “winners” would get between $1 billion and $2 billion of the remaining $3.6 billion is Sandy relief dollars being doled out by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD), according to a story first reported by the Wall Street Journal

The Record reports that New Jersey Congressmen Bill Pascrell Jr., D-Paterson; Albio Sires, D-West New York; and Frank Pallone, D-Long Branch, and Sen. Bob Menendez are urging HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan not to divert federal aid to projects in other parts of the country.  Members of the New York Congressional Delegation are making similar pleas.

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Bookerism of the Day

Where’s Senator Cory Booker?  He’s proselytizing on twitter. 

Sires told The Record that the entire New Jersey delegation could join together in opposition to a nationwide contest for the money.  That would be great!  Sires should lead the Democrats in the delegation in ending the partisanship that has been dominating the discourse over Sandy recovery and sign the letter to Donovan and Michael Boots, the Acting Chair of the White House Council on Environmental Quality that Congressman Chris Smith invited him, and all members of the delegation to sign requesting a meeting to hash out the multitude of issues New Jersey residents are having with the HUD relief process.

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Posted: April 24th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, Cory Booker, Hurricane Sandy, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Beach Replenishment Project Completed In Belmar

Resident Engineer Paul Jalowski with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, discusses how the elevation of a wide beach berm reduces coastal risks to communities behind them at the site of the Belmar to Manasquan beach renourishment project with U.S. Representative Chris Smith and local officials in Manasquan, N.J. Nov 7, 2013

Resident Engineer Paul Jalowski with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, New York District, discusses how the elevation of a wide beach berm reduces coastal risks to communities behind them at the site of the Belmar to Manasquan beach renourishment project with U.S. Representative Chris Smith and local officials in Manasquan, N.J. Nov 7, 2013

Congressman Chris Smith announced this afternoon that the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers has completed a $25 million Southern Monmouth County beach replenishment project in Belmar.  The five mile stretch of beach including Manasquan, Spring Lake, Sea Girt and Belmar was severely eroded by Superstorm Sandy.  The project, which started in November 7, 2013 nourished the beaches to better conditions than existed pre-Sandy.

“I stood on what was left of the beaches in the days after Superstorm Sandy and the immense scope of the damage was a hard to take in,” said Smith, who worked to obtain Sandy recovery funding and hosted a groundbreaking in Manasquan Nov. 7. “The beaches and dunes which offered protection to the shore communities were washed away—leaving the towns vulnerable to future storms. Thankfully, the Army Corps of Engineers has now rebuilt the beaches in Belmar, Sea Girt, Spring Lake and Manasquan to continue the protections they provide for homes and lives.”

The project is funded 100 percent by the federal government through the Army Corps’ Flood Control and Coastal Emergencies (FCCE) account. The project pumped an estimated 1.3 million cubic yards of sand onto the shoreline.

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Posted: April 23rd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Army Corp of Engineers, Chris Smith, Monmouth County, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Powerful, sobering remarks from Congressman Chris Smith

Rep_Chris_Smith_addressing_House_subcommittee (800x508)Congressman Chris Smith (R-NJ-4), Dean of the New Jersey Congressional Delegation will address the NJ Chamber of Commerce’s Annual Walk to Washington Dinner this evening.  His remarks as prepared for delivery are as follows:

On a myriad of fronts, the number of seemingly insurmountable challenges facing America today demands sober, serious and sustained problem solving by Congress, the President and stakeholders of every stripe.

Thankfully we have highly motivated and informed experts from the private sector including and especially the Chamber of Commerce showing the way forward.

Like you, I’m a big fan of principled bipartisanship.  Working across the aisle for important causes and goals often yields positive results.

However, in both Washington and Trenton, healthy partisanship has a place as well.  A benign adversarial system—with an emphasis on benign—ought to produce well-vetted policies that serve the public.  At least that’s the theory.

But we live in an age of the perpetual political campaign where truth and the common interest often take a hit. Enabled in part by distortion, surface appeal argument,  the 24/7 cable news cycle  and an increase in negative political advertising, the public is increasingly ill served and tackling tough issues with good faith compromise has become more elusive than ever.

On the national debt, the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) a few weeks ago cautioned with understated alarm that our massive current-day debt of $17.5 trillion will skyrocket to $27 trillion in just ten years.  The interest payment alone will be $876 billion in 2024—an amount greater than the combined budgets  this year for Homeland Security, HUD, Justice, Transportation, Agriculture,  all discretionary spending for HHS including the National Institutes of Health, Science agencies and the Department of Defense.

Ballooning annual interest payments as far as the eye can see are unconscionable.

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Posted: April 22nd, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith | Tags: , , | 2 Comments »

The Politics Of Disaster Relief

By Art Gallagher, artvg@aol.com

When disaster hits, natural or man made, Americans put aside their differences and come together to handle the emergency.

We saw it with 9-11. Most recently in New Jersey we saw it with Superstorm Sandy.

Once the emergency is over and the federal money is flowing, the politics…partisanship and patronage starts.  We saw it with 9-11. We’re living it with Sandy.

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Posted: April 13th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: 2014 Congressional Races, 2014 Elections, 2014 U.S. Senate race, 2016 Presidential Politics, 2017 NJ Gubernatorial Politics, Bob Menendez, Chris Christie, Chris Smith, Christie Administration, Congress, Cory Booker, Democrats, Department of Community Affairs, Department of Homland Security, Frank Pallone, George W Bush, Housing, Hurricane Sandy, Jennifer Beck, Jersey Shore, NJ Democrats, NJ State Legislature, RREM, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments »

Christie Administration Asks FEMA To Give New Jersey Residents And Businesses A 6-Month Extension To File Flood Claims Related To Superstorm Sandy

photo by Art Gallagher

photo by Art Gallagher

TRENTON –The Christie Administration today urged the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to grant New Jersey residents and businesses who suffered property damage or destruction in Superstorm Sandy an additional six-month extension to file a complete flood insurance claim, or proof of loss, in connection with the storm. The Administration is asking that the filing deadline be extended from April 28, 2014 to October 28, 2014.

“Superstorm Sandy was the worst natural disaster to strike New Jersey in a generation, and the process of rebuilding has been expensive and complicated. Homeowners and business owners simply need more time to file their final flood insurance claims,” said Governor Christie. “Many property owners have begun to rebuild only to find there was more damage than they originally thought. This extension would give New Jersey residents the vital extra time they need to successfully navigate the flood claims filing process and restore and rebuild their properties.”

A proof of loss is a form used by the policyholder to support the amount they are claiming under the policy, which must then be signed, sworn and submitted to the insurance company with proper supporting documentation. An extension of the filing deadline would give homeowners and business owners additional time to evaluate newly discovered damages and costs, obtain proper documentation, and submit detailed information in a supplemental proof of loss.

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Posted: April 8th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, Christie Administration, FEMA, National Flood Insurance Plan, Press Release, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , | No Comments »

House Passes ‘Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act’

Bill would reform National Flood Insurance Program, aims to protect homeowners from steep insurance hikes

Congressman Chris Smith and Monmouth County Shaun Golden prepare to survey Hurricane Sandy damage

Congressman Chris Smith and Monmouth County Shaun Golden prepare to survey Hurricane Sandy damage

WASHINGTON, D.C. – The House of Representatives voted last night to provide relief to hundreds of thousands of homeowners facing huge flood insurance premium rate increases, including many still recovering from the devastation caused by Superstorm Sandy. Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), who represents severely damaged areas in southern Monmouth and northern Ocean Counties, praised the vote.

“The bill makes targeted and necessary reforms and will prevent massive premium increases from hitting homeowners who simply cannot afford them—and cannot find a buyer to take them on, leaving them stranded and without a solution,” Smith said.  “Many cannot afford the recommended mitigation measures that may or may not reduce their premiums, creating a further environment of uncertainty. Accordingly, the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act slows the rate of increase that was included in the 2012 Biggert-Waters reform bill, allowing homeowners to remain in their homes and plan accordingly to continue flood insurance policies.”

The bill passed in a 309-91 vote. If enacted the bill will provide relief and stability to these homeowners and their communities while bringing reform to the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP).  It also provides a mechanism for enhanced community participation in the flood mapping process and increases transparency by making information publicly available to impacted parties.

The Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HR 3370), co-sponsored by Smith, remedies many of the unintended consequences of the so-called Biggert-Waters Act of 2012. It repeals certain rate increases on Pre-Flood Insurance Rate Map (Pre-FIRM) properties and restores Grandfathered Rates for Post-FIRM properties that were built to code at the time of construction. It prevents a property sale from triggering rate increases and refunds those who have already faced one.

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Posted: March 5th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, FEMA, Flood Maps, Flooding, National Flood Insurance Plan, Press Release | Tags: , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Joint Super Bowl Operation Targeting Commercial Child Sex Trafficking Rescue 25 Minors, Apprehends 45 Suspects

seated_on_setWASHINGTON, D.C. – Members of U.S. and New Jersey law enforcement agencies who took part in a Joint Super Bowl Operation deserve tremendous credit for rescuing 25 children ages 13-17 from lives of misery and sexual abuse, and for arresting 45 suspects who allegedly exploited the children for commercial sex, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), Chairman of the House congressional panel that oversees global human rights, and author of the landmark law, the Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000 (Public Law 106-386).

 

According to the FBI, which announced the arrests yesterday, some suspects claimed to have traveled to New Jersey from other states specifically for the purpose of prostituting women and children at the Super Bowl. High-profile special events, which draw large crowds, have become lucrative opportunities for child prostitution criminal enterprises, the FBI said.

This unprecedented effort by federal agencies in collaboration with local law enforcement from New Jersey aggressively focused on combating commercial child sex trafficking,” said Smith. “The joint efforts and the extraordinary leadership shown by Governor Christie and the New Jersey Human Trafficking Task force is to be applauded for working effectively to help save lives. 

“Young victims now have a chance for a new start thanks to these arrests and rescuesThose who took advantage of young runaways and women forced or mislead into a life of sex trafficking and abuse must now face justiceHopefully this effective effort will become a prototype and have a chilling effect on perpetrators across the nation and around the globe.”

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Posted: February 6th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, Human Trafficking, Press Release, Super Bowl | Tags: , , , , | 1 Comment »

FEMA Agrees to Levee Study that Could Ease Homeowners’ Flood Insurance Premiums

FREEHOLD, N.J. – Federal officials are taking steps which may help residents of the hard-hit neighborhood of North Middletown as they face potential flood insurance increases as a result of new flood maps expected to be unveiled this week.

 

U.S. Rep. Chris Smith (NJ-04) said that as a result of congressional inquiry and meetings with local officials from Middletown, the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) and other state and federal agencies, FEMA has agreed to implement a comprehensive study and evaluation of the East Keansburg Levee system which FEMA had previously “de-certified” for flood protection, resulting in proposed steep flood insurance hikes for homeowners.  If the study recognizes the levee system as flood protection that may prevent devastating flooding as it did during Superstorm Sandy and Hurricane Irene, it could lead to reduced risk assessment and lower insurance costs.

“Thousands of residents of North Middletown are looking at the very real possibility of their flood insurance premiums skyrocketing because FEMA no longer views some levee systems as adequate flood protection,” said Smith. “But as residents there know, for more than 40 years this neighborhood has been well served by a flood management system of levees, dunes, and pumps. This unique system has been effective since its installation in the 1970s. Even during Hurricane Irene and Superstorm Sandy, when much of the coast was badly flooded, the roughly 1,400 homes in North Middletown remained protected. To omit an evaluation of this levy system and a substantive analysis of any form of protection it might offer would be unfair to the residents.”

 

Smith sent a letter to FEMA Region II chief Jerome Hatfield on November 8 requesting the agency do a study, to which Hatfield replied that FEMA did not at the time have adequate funding.

 

“We are thankful that FEMA has now identified funding to undertake this important study, particularly after correspondence in which Administrator Hatfield stated that FEMA was looking to explore this option and work together with local stakeholders,” said Smith.  “We hope this new study will enable FEMA to determine the effectiveness of the East Keansburg Levee system and provide them with the most comprehensive and up-to-date information as they conclude analysis of the region’s flood maps.”

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Posted: January 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, FEMA, Flood Maps, Flooding, Press Release, Superstorm Sandy | Tags: , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Congressman Chris Smith To Hold Hearing on Human Trafficking and The Super Bowl This Afternoon

New Jersey, New York and federal officials, along with their private sector partners in the transportation and hospitality industries have been working to thwart human trafficking associated with the Super Bowl since the day it was announced the big game would be played in New Jersey this year.

Congressman Chris Smith, Chairman of the House committee that oversees global human rights, will hold a hearing this afternoon at 2PM to examine the measures that are being deployed this week before the game.

“As sports fans prepare for February’s Super Bowl, the prospect of human trafficking threatens to darken the festivities,” said Smith, author of the landmark Trafficking Victims Protection Act of 2000. “Fortunately, we have learned from past sporting events and have new best practices, such as training for the transportation and hospitality industries to help identify and rescue victims being trafficked in plain sight. This hearing will examine how we can transform this Super Bowl  —and other major sporting event worldwide— from potential trafficking-fests to trafficking-free zones.”

Representatives from the State Department, the Department of Homeland Security, AMTRAK, the airline industry and End Child Prostitution and Trafficking-USA are scheduled to testify.

The hearing will be live-streamed here.

Live streaming video by Ustream

Posted: January 27th, 2014 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith | Tags: , , | 1 Comment »

House of Representatives Unanimously Approves Smith’s International Child Abduction Act

WASHINGTON, D.C. – “Left-behind” parents came from across the country to watch as Members of the House of Representatives voted to unanimously pass a bill to help

Bindu Phillips of Plainsboro, N.J. addresses media at a Capitol Hill press conference. From left in rear are other “left-behind” parents Barton Hermer of Texas, Paul Toland of Maryland, Rep. Chris Smith, David Goldman of  N.J., Dennis Burns of Colorado, and Arvind Chawdra of N.J.

Bindu Phillips of Plainsboro, N.J. addresses media at a Capitol Hill press conference. From left in rear are other “left-behind” parents Barton Hermer of Texas, Paul Toland of Maryland, Rep. Chris Smith, David Goldman of N.J., Dennis Burns of Colorado, and Arvind Chawdra of N.J.

bring home American children abducted to overseas destinations, said Congressman Chris Smith (NJ-04), the author of the legislation and chairman of the House congressional panel which oversees human rights.

 

The bill gives us continued hope that our elected officials grasp the enormity and the severity of this ongoing injustice and pail inflicted upon these victim families torn apart because their American children have been ripped from their loving arms,” said David Goldman, of Monmouth County, N.J., who waged a five-year battle to get his son back from Brazil. He is one of the lucky parents. H.R. 3212, the “Sean and David Goldman International Child Abduction Prevention and Return Act of 2013,” passed 398-0 late Thursday.

 

Smith has held several hearings on the heartbreaking cases of  left-behind parents of American children abducted to India, Japan, Egypt, India, Brazil, Russia, England and other countries where far too few of the thousands of U.S. kids held wrongfully overseas are returned. Not all countries have signed The Hague Convention on the Civil Aspects of International Child Abduction, the standing international treaty to try to address parental abductions via a civil framework that provides for the quick return of abducted children, and access rights to both parents. Sadly, even Hague signatories, like Brazil, often don’t enforce its provisions.

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Posted: December 13th, 2013 | Author: | Filed under: Chris Smith, Congress, Press Release | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »