Flood Control Task Force Over-Stepping Its Authority


We’ve been a fan of the Flood Control Task Force (the “FCTF”) since its establishment, in part because several of its members have first-rate expertise in water and flooding matters; and most of the other members appear to have served capably in their lay-persons roles.

But when appointed board, committee and task force members decide to go beyond their assigned duties and try to play politics, it almost always goes off the rails – often causing additional and unnecessary expense to the taxpayers.  That’s what we addressed in our post “The Flood Control Task Force: Leaping Before Looking” (07.22.09), and that’s exactly what we’re getting again from the FCTF, if the Park Ridge Herald-Advocate’s story is accurate (“In flood’s wake, Park Ridge task force looks for new problems,” May 6).

Former Public Works director and FCTF member Joe Saccomanno, claiming he speaks for a majority of FCTF members, is trying to resurrect one of the more boneheaded wastes of taxpayer dollars we have seen or heard in at least two decades: City (a/k/a taxpayer) subsidies, or “incentives,” for homeowners installing flood control systems – primarily overhead sewers and shut-off valves – in their own homes.

That wrongheaded idea was originally proposed by Saccomanno and Company back in 2009 as a $420,000 give-away which, at $2,500 a home, would help 168 households.  It was wisely rejected by the Council for several reasons, including that it’s a form of “welfare” that would actually reward those homeowners who have been too irresponsible or too cheap to install their own flood control systems, at the expense of those many residents who already have sprung for that expense themselves; or who are fortunate enough to not have seepage and/or back-up problems.

Worse yet (and as Saccomanno acknowledges), these taxpayer-subsidized private flood control devices would likely put more water into the streets, many of which already become impassable when we get the kind of rains that cause this kind of flooding.  In other words, the FCTF wants to use public monies to subsidize the installation of flood control devices in private homes that likely will push more water into neighbors’ basements and into public streets, helping make those streets impassable.

And impassable streets mean a likely delay, if not a complete loss, of fire, police and other emergency services – as anybody who remembers the photo of a City police cruiser on a flatbed and a Fire Department ambulance literally dead-in-the-water at Greenwood and Busse back in 2008 can attest.

That kind of subsidy was bad public policy four years ago, and it’s bad public policy today – just as it’s bad public policy to throw public dollars at private community groups, or to subsidize private businesses.

We believe the recent flooding should cause the City – and the FCTF – to revisit the issue of whether the flood control program already devised will actually provide $1 or more of value for every $1 borrowed and spent.  That program is only designed to address “10-year” floods, even though we reportedly have had three “100-year” floods since 2008 that the City’s 10-year plan would not have prevented.

Is simply “reducing” the amount of flooding worth the multi-millions of cost – and bonded debt to fund it – that the current program is intended to provide?  More importantly, do our citizens realize that the program will do only that and not keep their basements bone dry going forward?

Those questions should be front-and-center on the new Council’s agenda, especially as it reconsiders the already-passed 2013-14 budget over the next few weeks, a prerogative newly-elected Councils enjoy.

Meanwhile, we suggest that the members of the FCTF stick with the technical issues within their wheelhouse, leaving public policy matters to the folks the voters elected to address them.

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