Monday, July 7, 2008

Running for Congress: Trying to Capitalize on a FEMA/”BEMA” Meeting

When I started this blog, I promised to document my run for Congress as best as possible. It won't be easy to recall all of the exciting elements of the experience and I may over explain some non-sense and under explain some important items. Please leave a comment if there is a hole that needs to be plugged, questions about my story or if you met me somewhere and want to add to my story, please comment. This recap may make me look like a genius or it may prove me to be the average no one I have always insisted that I am. It might help me if I ever wanted to run for office again, or it might hurt me if I ever try to run for office again but I'll at least be as honest and open as I can remember the experience. My perspective of the story might be damaging, embarrassing, insulting or give more credit than is deserved to certain individuals or it might not be any of those things and might leave out important individuals or minimize the importance of some people. In any case, what I will write as my time permits is my experience, from my perspective, and I will preface each entry in my blog on the topic of "Running for Congress" with this same disclaimer, or a like disclaimer if I think it needs to change. Here goes...
Part 1 - Running for Congress: The Beginnings
Part 2 - Running for Congress: Getting on the Ballot
Part 3 - Getting on the Sabrin Line
Part 4 - Realization that the Sabrin line meant failure
Part 5 - The Monmouth County GOP Nominating Convention
Part 6 - Meeting the Bloggers
Part 7 - The Middlesex Convention and Meeting my Opponents
Part 8 - Learning How to Campaign
Part 9 - Steve Lonegan Becomes My New Best Friend
Part 10 - Trying to Capitalize on a FEMA/”BEMA” Meeting
Part 11 - The Last of the "Big Events"
Part 12 - The Calleia Murder Trial and the Wrong Priorities in Media
Part 13 - The Door to Door Effort, and Notable Characters
Part 14 - Primary Day, and Night
Part 15 - Random Observations During the Campaign

The next event I attended was a Bayshore Area flood preparation meeting in the Port Monmouth Section of Middletown. Again, seeing as the FEMA flood map issue is such a big issue in the district, and this event was being advertised on the radio, in the newspapers, online, etc, I expected thousands of people and lots of media to arrive. I again showed up as early as possible, and I’ll explain why I didn’t get there even earlier later on, stood outside in the rain under my umbrella, and introduced myself to potential voters as they walked in to the event. I handed them each a flyer, shook their hand and made a mental note that Mr. Pallone was not in attendance and neither was Traffic Court Judge Bob McLeod or Angy Peter. Score another one for me for showing up, these thousands of people would only know about James P. Hogan.

Again, sadly, and unfortunately, only about 20 or 30 people showed up at this event; there were more "officials" than residents. I had also arrived a little later than I had intended so Melissa Gaffney, the Courier Reporter who has been doing an excellent job of covering the very fluid FEMA/flooding situation, was already inside and in attendance. Since I try to be polite and respectful, I purposely took a seat inside, directly in front of Melissa, hoping that she would see me and my flyers and write about me or ask me for one, but I dare not bother her while she was “working” and I dare not hand out a flyer or "campaign" to her during the meeting; the issue and her work is far more important than me and my campaign and turning the event into a Hogan For Congress event would have been a lame effort to divert attention from the real issue, which is flood hazards and response preparation in the Bayshore area. Then again, seeing as not many people showed up at the event, maybe it wasn’t such a big issue and maybe I should have bothered Melissa.

In either case, Melissa left the event a bit early so I didn’t get to catch her outside of the event to say hello. Sorry Melissa, but please do keep up the great work. I handed out some more flyers after the event, seemingly to mostly Democrats and left without reaching the thousands of people I had hoped to find. One note worth item is that many residents, and officials, were complaining about what “they” were doing down in Washington, but not many of the people in attendance seemed interested in voting for me, or against Pallone, who is part of this "they" down in D.C. who "we" were complaining about that night, and every day. I’m not sure that I’ll ever understand how and why "we" complain about "they" but then don’t make the association between the individuals "we" supposedly elect, or nominate, and the "they" that is the government "we" complain about. I left a bit disappointed in turnout and a bit disappointed in the public for not showing up to discuss what should be an important issue in the Bayshore... at least I got to meet Pam Brightbill, "WHO????" you ask? The Deputy Mayor of Middletown of course. (I don't know what that means or what powers deputy mayor possesses) Pam was at least friendly, to me, and took a flyer. I wonder if Mrs. Brightbill voted for me? Hrm.

Coming up next - The Last of the "Big Events" - as if anything I went to was "big"....


Melissa L. Gaffney said...

This is, by far, my absolute favorite chapter of your adventures in running for Congress.

You totally should have bothered that Courier reporter. She left feeling irritated and disgruntled that nothing productive took place during that meeting.

But she, too, got to meet Pam Brightbill. And let me tell you, I think Pam enjoyed meeting YOU a lot more than she did that Courier crazy.

And I think she looked your way at least once ;-)

James Hogan said...

Melissa, if Pam was looking my way, I'm sure it was only because of my "Pallone Virus" flyer. :-)

For anyone else reading, I should probably explain this meeting a bit further because it demonstrates a significant rift between the local and federal levels of government as well as the public and the government.

For readers who aren't aware, the meeting I'm referencing had nothing to do with FEMA (despite my chapter title) and the new flood maps, or at least on the official record this meeting had nothing to do with the FEMA issue.

The meeting was organized by the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) officials from several Bayshore towns (Monmouth County OEM/Sherrif Dept, Middletown, Hazlet, Union Beach, Highlands, Atlantic Highlands, Holmdel, Keyport were all represented - oddly enough - I don't recall Keansburg having a representative there, maybe I’m mistaken and maybe if Melissa is reading she has a log and can fill in the who's who list if anyone cares but it’s not too important who exactly was there, it’s more important that the meeting was held). The town OEM representatives formed a loose association with one another that mimicked the FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) name and called themselves BEMA (Bayshore Emergency Management Association).

It would appear that BEMA members have some agreements, connections and plans in place with one another to deal with an emergency created by a storm and flooding. Their plans essentially seem to be to get people out of the Bayshore (out of Keansburg/Union Beach/Highlands/etc) and into higher ground areas (Middltown/Holmdel). Good plan I guess – kind of obvious but it works I suppose.

FEMA doesn’t have a plan to deal with flooding or prevent flooding, FEMA is just reinforcing the problem for us by changing the maps and requiring additional flood insurance.

In either case, the divide in evidenced by BEMA officials claiming there is no federal money available and statements that “they” (the federal government) aren’t providing the funding BEMA (local government) needs. At the same time, the dozen or so people in attendance really could care less what is being attempted on the local level because they are being hit with flood insurance costs on a federal level and further, the people in attendance couldn’t seem to grasp the difference between the local effort and the federal effort.

Also, while I’ll still blast Pallone for not getting involved in the flooding issues years ago (he could have secured money for an ACE project to protect the Bayshore at any time in his 20 year career), it’s also difficult to blast the guy for not caring when it doesn’t appear that a significant percentage of people care about the flooding issue. I didn’t attended a recent FEMA meeting in Keansburg but I’m lead to believe that only a few hundred people (200 or so at most) attended which is a very small number compared to the thousands who are effected. If “we the people” don’t care “they the government” won’t care. “We” will complain about what “they” do and “we” will continue to vote for, and fund, “them” while the problems compound.

It’ll be interesting to see what comes of the FEMA maps, the appeals process, Pallone bill to delay the maps, and what happens if and when a major rolls through the area. My predictions are that a whole lot of nothing will happen – Melissa at the Courier will operate as a great watchdog for Pallone and he’ll get his legislation to delay the maps passed if not just because Melissa will act as a voice for the people and make this happen. The people will hear that the maps are delayed and forget (or just not care) that they now have to take action and file an appeal. A few dozen people will actually appeal and most will be denied in their appeal in an unfair and expensive process and then the maps will be implemented and after a few hundred people appeal, the thousands who just don’t know or just don’t care will foot the bill from FEMA. At the same time, the flood prevention infrastructure that we do have will continue to age and deteriorate, no new projects will be started, let alone completed, and BEMA will struggle more and more each year to address the needs of the people, with less and less funds available each year. All while the money that the public pays into insurance could have funded a ACE project to prevent flooding and save everyone money and fear of flooding.