At the last City Commission meeting, I and six Knock Out Committee members asked whether our elected commissioners or the staff made the actual decisions to sue FEMA, what relief to ask for, what law firm to handle the case, when to file and who would be plaintiffs. It is our belief that these matters should have been finalized in open session by our elected people, not staff members.
We also tried to ascertain whether the four commissioners present (Mesa was absent) want FEMA to conduct another study, as requested in the lawsuit, and whether they favor spending $250,000 of our local tax dollars for that purpose, as recently suggested by our city manager. We should have direct answers to those two questions from all five of our elected folks, preferably in writing in The Telegram. And we would also like to have the same two questions answered by all five of the county commissioners: do they want FEMA to do another study, as requested in the suit, and do they want to spend local tax dollars to do it?
Our committee is pleased that the city and county finally filed the lawsuit on behalf of the two entities and the three named plaintiffs. On page seven of the complaint, in paragraph 36, it states "the City/County bring this action for themselves and on behalf of the citizens affected by FEMA's designation, either directly or indirectly." This clearly means all 1,800 property owners in the proposed flood plains are parties to the action.
As such, here are comments about the lawsuit: First of all, paragraph five of the prayer for relief asks the judge to order FEMA to restart its Flood Insurance Study and to provide plaintiffs their procedural rights. We question whether the judge has such authority to order a new study, but we certainly don't want a new FEMA study of any sort. No tax dollars should have been wasted at the outset on "drainage ditches" where no flooding problems exist. If a new study is done, does anyone not think 5,000 properties will then be in the "new floodplain?"
Secondly, we believe the Kansas Ag Department and AMEC, the original consultant, should also be parties defendant from whom damages should be sought because of the Slander of Title to our 1,800 properties.
Thirdly, the suit should ask the Court to declare the Flood Insurance Act unconstitutional in so far as it forces lenders to make homeowners with mortgages buy flood insurance ex post facto and when there is no flood experience whatsoever. And all provisions of the Act that withhold disaster or any other types of aid to local governmental units who refuse to participate in expanding flood plains should also be declared invalid and unconstitutional. Coercion should be clearly unlawful, even when done by FEMA.
Fourthly, the complaint and prayer should also ask that this suit become a Section 1983 action because the civil rights of all plaintiffs have been violated, thus permitting the plaintiffs to seek attorney fees.
Please call your elected officials about these important points.
West, a former mayor, is chairman of the Knock Out Committee.