Local author and Boston University Journalism chairman William McKeen posts this on Facebook:
Attention citizens of Boston's South Shore! I will be signing books during the Cohasset Holiday Stroll, Dec. 14, 4-7 pm at Twist, on Main Street in Cohasset Village. Come share a mug o' nog. To get a signed book, of course, you must buy it. Do';t forget that I have many children and they'd like to go back to three meals a day. Click on the post for more details. God bless us everyone!
By Shujie Leng BU Washington News Service WASHINGTON — Rep. Stephen Lynch, D-South Boston, Tuesday afternoon asked the director of Federal Emergency Management Agency to delay a rate increase arising from recently enacted flood insurance legislation…
As revelers get ready to gather in Boston to celebrate the Boston's World Series win, South Shore MBTA routes are preparing to amp up service.
Service on the Red, Orange, Blue and Green lines will operate with rush hour levels of service beginning at 7 a.m. Saturday.
Previously scheduled diversions between Kendall/MIT and Park Street Stations on the Red line have been canceled for Nov. 2 and 3. The commuter boat out of Hingham will also be running at maximum capacity.
“Please be advised that each boat trip has a maximum capacity of 149 passengers. Parade-goers may start purchasing the $16 round trip tickets this afternoon at the Hingham Shipyard ticket window,” said MBTA spokesman Joe Pestaturo on Friday.
Customers are also encouraged to buy round trip or return tickets prior to their inbound trips to avoid long lines on their way home.
Commuter line trains will not be running out of Greenbush, Kingston, or Stoughton. However, patrons can catch commuter trains out of Worcester, Franklin/Forge Park, Providence, Middleboro/Lakeville, and a number of North Shore trains.
“Commuter Rail's Saturday schedule has been modified to provide special, pre-parade service with extra inbound trains in the morning,” MBTA officials said on their website. “In addition, capacity is being significantly increased along each line. Please expect variations in scheduled times due to increased ridership and allow extra time for your trip. The MBTA strongly urges parade-goers to take advantage of the earliest trains to avoid very heavy volume on subsequent trains.”
Each of those lines will return to their regular Saturday schedules at approximately 4 p.m.
Commuter Rail tickets can be purchase electronically via the mTicket mobile ticketing app at www.mbta.com/mticket beginning Friday, November 1 at 1:00 p.m.
For more information or train and boat schedules, click here.
The Red Sox parade will start at 10 a.m. at Fenway Park.
For more information on the parade, click here.
DEDHAM, Mass. (AP) — The state’s highest court is sending questionnaires to attorneys and court employees in Norfolk County, seeking input on 35 judges as part of an ongoing program to evaluate judicial performance.
The Supreme Judicial Court’s survey covers several categories including a judge’s knowledge of the law, fairness and impartiality, temperament on the bench and treatment of litigants, witnesses, jurors and attorneys.
Lawyers who have appeared in court in the county over the last two years will receive questionnaires.
All questionnaires are confidential and do not ask for the names of the respondents. The resulting reports also will be confidential and are given only to the judge being evaluated and to the chief justices of their courts.
Questionnaires will be accepted by the SJC through mid-December.
Worried about new federal flood insurance rules sparking another foreclosure crisis in Massachusetts, House Speaker Robert DeLeo and Attorney General Martha Coakley on Wednesday partnered to file legislation limiting the amount of insurance homeowners in the flood zone must purchase.
Though the Winthrop Democrat said the state-level action could blunt the impact of new federal flood insurance regulations, DeLeo said Congress must still act to further protect the expanded group of coastal residents and businesses and those living near lakes and rivers who are now required to purchase more comprehensive and costly insurance.
“People aren’t going to be able to pay their insurance, and as a result of that they’re going to lose their home unless we can convince our friends in Washington, which right now I guess they’re a little bit involved with a couple other issues, but they’re really going to have to get on the ball and address this,” DeLeo told reporters after meeting with House Democrats.
The bill filed by DeLeo and Coakley would limit the amount of flood coverage a homeowner or business must purchase to the value of the mortgage on the property, instead of the replacement value of the home. Creditors would also be prohibited from requiring coverage for contents of the home, or including a deductible less than $5,000.
Taking one of the only steps a state can to limit the amount of coverage required under federal guidelines, the Beacon Hill leaders hope to lower premiums for impacted homeowners, while retaining the option for consumers to purchase more coverage if they desire.
“These new flood insurance changes are going to devastate many families and businesses in our coastal communities,” Coakley said in a statement. “We continue to urge the federal government to delay implementing these changes until they’ve followed all the steps required by law.”
Coakley said she did not expect insurers to have a “huge complaint” with the legislation.
The Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 required the Federal Emergency Management Agency to redraw national flood maps, and eliminated various subsidies in the National Flood Insurance Program to ensure sustainability.
Critics, however, say the new maps have captured large swaths of real estate at little to no risk of flooding, forcing larger numbers of property owners to purchase insurance. New rules governing the required height of buildings and other structural requirements for properties in the flood zone have also driven up the price tags on policies.
Rep. James Cantwell, a Marshfield Democrat, recently provided the News Service with a copy of an insurance bill for a Scituate homeowner that spiked up to $68,000 under the new program. He called the new FEMA flood maps “ridiculous.”
The homeowner, Peg Sullivan, told the News Service that she previously paid a $1,300 premium for the same coverage.
“It’s hurting our Massachusetts builders. It’s hurting our Massachusetts realtors. Right now, all up and down the coast, we have essentially people are being frozen out. They can’t sell their homes, and people aren’t buying because there’s so much uncertainty about what their rates are going to be for their flood insurance. The speaker taking swift action right now is so warranted and so helpful and I’m thrilled to be joining with him,” Cantwell said.
Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Edward Markey and the state’s entire Congressional delegation recently sent a letter to House and Senate leadership urging a delay in the Biggert-Waters reforms.
Cantwell said budget cuts limited FEMA's ability to review its surveys, and the government shutdown, which began Oct. 1, has placed on furlough the governmental affairs person at FEMA whom he speaks to about constituents' concerns. Scituate and Marshfield hired their own consultant to contest the FEMA maps.
Cantwell, whose bill (H 865) had a hearing last month calling on the Division of Insurance to regularly investigate the National Flood Insurance Program, said he’s “cautiously optimistic” that DeLeo’s bill can be heard and brought forward for a vote before the end of the year.
Though he made clear the “ultimate answer” must still come from Washington, DeLeo said he hopes that by tying the insurance requirements in Massachusetts to the value of a mortgage, property owners will fare “significantly better” than they would under the federal guidelines.
“We’re truly going to see people losing their homes, not from floods, but from flood insurance,” DeLeo said.
With one constituent socked with a $68,707 premium, Rep. James Cantwell wants the federal government to reopen so that officials can find out whether any relief is available from federally mandated flood insurance rates.
The Marshfield Democrat said federal spending cuts had decimated the Federal Emergency Management Agency’s peer review on new flood insurance maps, and he is unsure whether the office will be staffed when Scituate and Marshfield plan to file a municipally funded review of the new maps.
“I hope the doors are opened so we can be able to file an appeal with somebody, because I don’t want to miss a statutory deadline because there’s no one to answer the phones and no one to receive the data,” Cantwell told the News Service last week.
On Tuesday, Cantwell said the government relations person he usually speaks with has been furloughed, and he believes someone will be at the office to receive the appeals.
While the federal government entered a partial shutdown last Tuesday and is on the brink of defaulting on debt, some property owner’s federal flood insurance bills have skyrocketed in what many see as an attempt by the federal government to recoup payments doled out in the wake of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation in New York and New Jersey.
Margaret Sullivan, a constituent who lives on Turner Road on a spit of land protecting Scituate Harbor, saw her premium rise from $4,600 annually to $68,707, according to Cantwell and a copy of her new bill.
Numerous attempts to contact Sullivan were unsuccessful and her listed phone number was disconnected. The Scituate assessor said the property is valued at $553,800 and has been in the family since at least 1978.
While the entire Massachusetts congressional delegation and Attorney General Martha Coakley have called for a delay in premium hikes, Washington D.C. has been wrestling with the more existential question of whether and how to agree on a funding bill to keep the government open.
The stalemate dragged into its second week Tuesday, as Republicans continued to insist on delays to the Affordable Care Act, and President Barack Obama said he would not negotiate “with a gun held to the head of the American people.”
The bills are still due for flood insurance payments.
“No one gets a tax delay from the shutdown,” said Cantwell.
The maps were redrawn in accordance with the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012, which changed flood insurance subsidies and called for new, more accurate maps to keep the National Flood Insurance Program financially solvent.
Cantwell said the federal funding cuts known as the sequester hindered the agency from conducting a robust review of the new maps, and said many of the predicted flooding levels are outlandish.
Bob Warner, who owns The Mill Wharf Restaurant in Scituate, said his property is already raised off the ground, and the new maps show the waters seven feet higher. He said even during the 1991 “perfect storm” water didn’t reach the building, and he said Scituate is protected by Cape Cod from the effect of a hurricane, such as the one that battered and swamped the Jersey Shore last fall.
“Normally what happens after those preliminary maps come back, they would have money and they would do a thing called peer review, they’d hire engineers to check them out to make sure – it was never done, and part of what they’re saying is, they didn’t have the money,” said Cantwell. He said, “This data is 800 pages long. Marshfield’s spending about $40,000 to review it. Scituate’s going to have to spend a similar amount. And they’re telling me their peer review was done by this one engineer, who’s like a 24-year-old woman.”
For a homeowner with a $300,000 mortgage who goes from having no flood insurance to a coastal high-hazard area, monthly flood insurance rates can go from zero to $1,250, according to an analysis by Jack Conway & Company realtors.
Cantwell said he agrees the program needs to be expanded from the 5.7 million people now, and he said without a federal program, flood insurance rates could be twice as much.
With a skeleton crew staffing many federal agencies, Cantwell said he is concerned about the ability for Marshfield and Scituate to file appeals along with the Woods Hole Group’s engineering analysis, which cost the towns about $40,000 each.
The state lawmaker, who has warned that the new mapping will affect inland areas as well, said the shutdown has also impeded his ability to find answers for the beachfront property owners who received the $68,000 spike.
“I think it has to be an error, but I can’t reach anybody now to help put this person at ease,” Cantwell said.
Massachusetts Republican Party grande dame Polly Logan, 88, died on September 30, a day when the national GOP showed again how it has become the antithesis of what she stood for.
Polly, who lived on the South Shore, was a former Republican National Committeewoman, State Committeewoman, head of the Massachusetts Republican Club and more. She was a Frank Sargent type of Republican, socially liberal and fiscally conservative, in short, a classic New England Republican. She could weave coalitions from people of different factions, and could energize young people about the nobility and fun of politics. Her astute skills, and her ready laugh (a cackle that could be recognized in a crowd of hundreds), made her a force to be reckoned with.
She was a feminist and proud of it and was to the left of her party, even back when her party was measurably much less conservative than it is today. She loved entertaining, at her home in Hingham and later at her residence in Cohasset. It was nothing for her to have a tent thrown up in her backyard, with ample food and beverage, and, even if a rain storm turned the ground to a bog and mud was tracked all over her living room, she laughed it off. There was nothing as satisfying to her as a boisterous political gathering.
Reporters loved her. She never pulled her punches. She told the truth with fierce honesty and humor. Though she was born in Iowa and went to college in Nebraska, she fit right into Boston, whose airport was named for the uncle of her husband, the late General Ed Logan. She served as an advisor to Governor Frank Sargent and was part of the transition team for Governor Weld and late Lt. Gov. Paul Cellucci. She was an overseer at Harvard and the Museum of Fine Arts and was a founder of the Doric Dames State House Guides. According to the family, she was also a founder of the Mass. Women’s Political Caucus and a board member of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund. How perfect that she also founded the Garden Club of Cohasset.
I was pleased when Polly asked me to serve on the founding board of the Polly Logan Fund at the Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy at the University of Massachusetts Boston. Its work mentoring young women to go into politics is a fitting tribute to this iconic woman, whose imprint is left on so much of Massachusetts and who will long be remembered for her contributions.
All eight current U.S. House members from Massachusetts voted against a temporary budget measure put forward by House GOP leadership over the weekend that would have averted a government shutdown by delaying the implementation of the Affordable Care Act for one year and repealing the tax on medical devices used to help fund the health care reform law.
The continuing resolution that would have funded the federal government through Dec. 15 cleared the Republican-controlled House on a mostly party-line vote of 231-192, with the Massachusetts delegation voting in a bloc to protect Obamacare despite opposition in the delegation to the medical device tax.
With the Democrat-controlled Senate preparing to reject the budget bill on Monday, time is running out and options appear limited to avert the first government shutdown since late 1995 into early 1996 when Bill Clinton was president. That shutdown lasted 21 days.
Sen. Edward Markey last week warned that a government shutdown could delay processing of new Social Security benefit applications and access to student and small business loans. The House also passed a measure to ensure that military pay continues in the event of a government shutdown if a deal cannot be reached by midnight. Open enrollment for new health plans under the ACA is scheduled to begin Tuesday.
- M. Murphy/SHNS
A readjustment of federal flood insurance rates is “radically” increasing costs for property owners as new maps project rare storm winds of over 200 miles per hour and three-foot waves in Marshfield Center, which is about five miles inland, according to Rep. James Cantwell.
“They went so radically to an extreme and in such a short amount of time,” Cantwell said after testifying at the Committee on Financial Services. He said the new actuarial calculation will increase flood insurance costs “25 percent a year for the next four to six years for people who are just, they’re going to get priced out of their homes.”
An increase in flood insurance rates drives down property values, creating an additional threat of foreclosure, said a panel of homeowners, bankers and real estate professionals who Cantwell assembled to testify before the state legislative panel.
“The sellers are forced to make deductions in their prices,” said Kim Moccia, a Radius Financial Group mortgage consultant. She said, “My fear is that we’re going to see an influx of foreclosures.”
Homeowners on the South Shore have protested the rates in recent meetings.
Cantwell has proposed a bill (H 865) that would direct the commissioner of insurance to regularly investigate how the National Flood Insurance Program rates are set and “make suggestions for changes to ensure the rates are not excessive.”
“We don’t do flood insurance, quite frankly, because it’s not the purview of our committee,” said House Chairman Michael Costello, who suggested the proponents would be able to more speedily achieve their goals by lobbying Gov. Deval Patrick to call for such a study. He said, “How much will it help? I don’t know. Is it more symbolic than anything? Maybe.”
Cantwell, who will attend an oversight hearing Wednesday by the U.S. Senate Committee on Banking, Housing and Urban Affairs, said the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2012 requires the Federal Emergency Management Agency, which draws the flood maps, to study the financial impacts of the new rates.
“FEMA hasn’t done the study because of sequestration,” Cantwell said.
In an online fact sheet, FEMA said the national flood program created in 1968 is in need of financial stability.
“Flooding has been, and continues to be, a serious risk in the United States—so serious that most insurance companies have specifically excluded flood damage from homeowners insurance,” FEMA wrote. The fact sheet said, “Over the years, the costs and consequences of flooding have continued to increase. For the NFIP to remain sustainable, its premium structure must reflect the true risks and costs of
flooding. This is a primary driver for many of the changes required under the law.”
The new maps, which have been created on the North Shore and South Shore, will be done throughout the state, pulling people into the redrawn flood zone where a home’s basement can be a tremendous liability, according to Doris Crary, of Marshfield.
“These people are looking at policies of $20-$30,000. They were fully compliant structures that were built with all of the laws of the town and the state and the building codes; and then they’re moved in afterwards, which is why we believe the basements should not count, and I don’t believe these properties should be even added into the special flood hazard area,” Crary told reporters.
Robert Tommasino, who is general counsel at the Fair Plan, a legislatively mandated partnership of insurers that provides a homeowner’s insurance refuge of last resort for property owners but does not provide flood coverage, said he is unaware of how the federal government calculates the rates.
“I’m not sure if they’re trying to make up losses that they’ve suffered in their program for the last 30 years all in one year or two years, rather than, say if we have losses – if we have a tremendously bad year and we lose $200 million in that year, we can’t make it up in one or two years,” Tommasino said. He said, “I don’t know what FEMA is doing, to be honest, and whether or not they’re overshooting to be able to kind of broaden the number of policy holders and therefore be able to collect the premium.”
Cantwell said the surplus from the National Flood Insurance Program is annually deposited into the federal government’s general fund, leaving the fund vulnerable when it is required to make massive payouts.
“All the money that goes into this fund should stay in the fund,” said Cantwell, who said only 60 percent of those who are deemed to require the insurance actually pay for it.
Many New Yorkers and New Jersey residents have spent much of the past 11 months digging out from Tropical Storm Sandy, and reports from Colorado show areas awash with devastating floodwaters, and Cantwell said the country as a whole should be on the hook for those costs, rather than only flood insurance policyholders.
“Those people in Colorado, I would bet most of them aren’t going to have flood insurance, because they just weren’t predicting this would be happening. So, should the federal government help them? Yes, they should,” said Cantwell, who said he is not financially impacted by the rate change. “That’s the role of the federal government, but you can’t then turn around and expect people who have been playing by the rules, who have their insurance, to shoulder the burden.”
Cantwell said Haddad’s Ocean Café in the Marshfield village of Brant Rock had recently raised its foundation up in an effort to limit its flood exposure, but the new maps have determined the height increase is insufficient.
“Now they’re receiving notice that they’re three feet below where they should be,” Cantwell said.