Neighbors, especially those living in the White River floodplain;
It has come to my attention that a flyer containing misinformation regarding BTNA’s position and actions related to the plan to finish the White River flood protection project has been circulated to some portions of the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood. I feel compelled to address this immediately. Before doing so, however, I want to say that my property is among the parcels set to be mapped into the 100-year floodplain when the new maps take effect. Accordingly, I sympathize with those in the floodplain and especially those who are being mapped in to the new floodplain and who are eager to have the project completed. Indeed, I count myself among those individuals who could directly benefit.
This past Thursday, representatives of Mayor Hogsett’s administration hosted a meeting regarding this issue. I attended the meeting at the request of the administration and delivered a message that was consistent with a letter I sent the Mayor on behalf of BTNA following our February Meeting. My message was simple: BTNA requests flood protection that protects the Butler-Tarkington neighborhood to be completed in a timely fashion, and we believe that the best way to achieve that end is to continue building a levee along the White River, which would include the Town of Rocky Ripple in the plan. View the letter here.
At the outset of the meeting, Chief Deputy Mayor Thomas Cook informed the group that the federal funding to construct a wall along the east side of the canal, known as the Westfield Alignment, had been procured. They also stressed that the purpose of the meeting was to hear from groups that have been invested in this issue about concerns they have had about that plan. Let me be clear – the invite list for this meeting was reflective of the fact that its purpose was for the Hogsett Administration to hear from those who have worked for years to achieve the goal of flood protection for all and to understand the finer points of their position. I observed to the administration officials that, based on where things stand, they have an A or B choice. Either: (A) continue the Ballard Administration’s decision to push forward with building the Westfield Alignment; or (B) pivot in their course and commit, once and for all, to continuing the levee along the White River and around Rocky Ripple. BOTH of these options would deliver Butler-Tarkington with flood protection, which would remove the burden of paying flood insurance for those in the floodplain. We encouraged the Mayor’s office to act decisively and get the project done.
As noted above, there are people in the northern part of our neighborhood (and outside the neighborhood) perpetuating a notion that, due to actions by BTNA and other groups, somehow this project will not get done or the City could decide to cut the Butler-Tarkington area out of the project by constructing an alternative fix, ending the project at 56th and Illinois streets in what is referred to as the Illinois Alternative. This design was officially rejected by the City in 2014. I noted for the Deputy Mayors during the meeting that some had lingering concerns about this and specifically spoke with them about it afterward as well. The Deputy Mayors informed me that this is not something even on their radar as far as the project is concerned. In sum, the Illinois Alternative is NOT being considered as an option.
There has also been an effort to suggest that BTNA is threatening to stall the construction of the Westfield Alignment with a lawsuit. Such a claim is patently false. However, the potential for lawsuits brought by Rocky Ripple residents was discussed because it is a serious concern for those who want to see a project completed in a timely fashion. This is an important consideration for the Mayor and is emblematic of perhaps the most important point: this issue is far more complex than a simple table denoting dollar amounts and project timelines. There is much at stake. This issue has motivated some to denigrate and undermine the work of a neighborhood association in an attempt to steer the conversation toward what they perceive as the quickest route to being mapped out of a floodplain; but what lengths will those whose entire home values are at risk go to, should they find themselves on the wrong side of a flood protection project? Due to the potential for Rocky Ripple folks to fight the construction of the Westfield Alternative, it merits consideration that the “path of least resistance,” which is to include every neighborhood in the plan, may in fact be the quickest path to seeing the project completed.
Finally, for those BTNA residents concerned with paying flood insurance and the prospect of rising premiums due to the Biggert-Waters law passed by Congress, I would highlight that we have had discussions at our meetings about the potential for purchasing flood insurance with much lower premiums on the private market, rather than from FEMA flood insurance providers. In particular, meeting attendees, including realtors and others, have noted that Lloyds of London offers very competitive rates that are far cheaper than the FEMA sources. Of course, I am not attempting to make a recommendation about where an individual purchases flood insurance, but I want to make sure that people are aware of this option.
I am saddened by how divisive of late this issue has become in part of our neighborhood. This is probably, in part, the result of BTNA largely choosing to remain above the fray rather than engage on social media, and in doing so allowing its position to be mischaracterized. Again, at the meeting last Thursday BTNA encouraged the Mayor to act decisively on this issue and get the project completed and advised them of our long-held belief that the best way to do so would be to continue building a levee along the White River. Ultimately, it is up to the Mayor’s office to decide the City’s course on issues it faces. Whatever course the Mayor settles on, however, homes in the affected area of Butler-Tarkington will be the beneficiaries of that decision.