Monday, September 20, 2004

Rich savor taxpayers' lunch, thanks to Porter

Another bit of awkward Porter Goss arcana:

North Captiva island off the coast of Southwest Florida is one of those exclusive barrier islands that one needs a boat just to get to. Captiva Island, where Robert Rauschenberg has long had a studio, is itself quite the fancy address. But North Captiva, also known as Upper Captiva, is even more uppah, and much in the news now because for the past few years wealthy folk have been able to build large homes there, taking on enormous insurance risk.

Problem is, when these multi-million-dollar homes are flooded, flood insurance, backed by taxpayer money, helps clean them up and get them ready to be hit by another storm. (And when they're destroyed by winds, overextended insurers fall back upon taxpayers to bail them out, much like the Savings and Loans of the 80s).

Barrier island living is not unlike San Andreas fault living: both are forms of building on amphetamine geology, says ocean activist David Helvarg. Besides providing space for nesting sea turtles, barrier islands, as the name implies, usefully interpose a buffer between raw nature and human civilization.

But that's not how Porter Goss sees it. Goss, President Bush's nominee to head the CIA, opened the way for rich folk to build on North Captiva in 1999, one of the wealthiest zip codes in the US.

The other day I happened to be speaking with a roofing contractor who had just come back from the island. Every home on it is worth a million or more, and every one had sustained extensive damage from Hurricane Charley, he said.

Damage the taxpayers will pay for, if it involves flood. See this Naples Daily News article for more. Here's Mr. Goss's own testimony on behalf of opening North Captiva to construction.

One has to wonder if Mr. Goss has an 800 number to handle whatall's hitting the fan.


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