ST. PETERSBURG — Standing in a neighborhood with residents awash with worry over flood insurance rates, Democratic congressional candidate Alex Sink called for changes to a controversial new law.
Sink, in the Northeast Park neighborhood, said Congress should stop the sharp increases in flood insurance rates that are creating havoc in the local real estate market.
She also said the Federal Emergency Management Agency should complete mapping and affordability studies that show the impact of the fundamental changes Congress made to the National Flood Insurance program. FEMA also needs to work harder to clarify how it comes up with flood insurance rates and make sure there is a good process for people who wish to appeal their rate changes, she said.
"I don't know what the people of FEMA were thinking," she said Tuesday, "but they had to know that these so-called unintended consequences were going to be a huge concern for people who own homes like you see right here in this neighborhood."
Northeast Park Neighborhood Association president Scott Willis said he has been told that flood insurance for area homes could rise from $2,000 per year to as much as $8,000 to $10,000 annually.
Sink said she developed flood insurance expertise while working as Florida's statewide chief financial officer, and said she also has a track record of working across party lines to get things done. She said she's in a much better position to tackle this problem than her Republican opponent, David Jolly.
Jolly has called for a nationwide program that would pool risks for homeowners facing the threat of tornadoes, volcanoes and other natural disasters, not just flooding. Sink criticized the idea, saying such a complicated program could take years to push through Congress.
"It sounds like Alex is suggesting she's not up to the job," Jolly responded later, adding that he was not going to be "resigned to a broken Congress."
Jolly, Sink and Libertarian candidate Lucas Overby are candidates in the March 11 special election to succeed longtime Republican U.S. Rep. C.W. Bill Young, who died in October. They are running in the 13th Congressional District, which extends from south Pinellas to Dunedin, with portions of downtown and southern St. Petersburg cut out.
Sink's news conference came on the same day the Democratic Congressional Campaign launched a negative campaign commercial against Jolly, criticizing his background as a lobbyist. In response, Jolly said it was "exactly the type of politics we expected and exactly the type of politics we're running against."
Meanwhile, the Jolly campaign released an internal poll that showed 43 percent of district voters support Jolly, compared to 38 percent for Sink and 4 percent for Overby. Fifteen percent were undecided. The poll had a margin of error of 4.9 percent.