About Us

A Few Words About the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance

The Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance

Since April 2013, GNO, Inc. has led the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance (CSFI), a national coalition of approximately 250 organizations across 35 states, formed during the implementation of the Biggert-Waters Act. CSFI was a driving force behind the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act (HFIAA), compromise legislation that was cosponsored by more than 235 Members of the House and supported by 306 Members, representing the overwhelming support of both caucuses, and passed the Senate with the support of 72 Senators. Since the passage of HFIAA, our coalition has focused on advocating for a stronger policy framework for the NFIP. There are four primary policy areas CSFI has focused on that will provide for this stronger framework – mitigation, mapping, affordability, and program participation.

  • Mitigation – A comprehensive approach to reducing flood losses before a disaster occurs is a more effective means to reducing economic loss and protecting taxpayer interests than ejecting households and businesses from the NFIP via unaffordable flood insurance premiums.
  • Mapping – Enhancing the way we assess and communicate risk through improvements to the mapping process will protect communities and the NFIP over the long-term.
  • Affordability – Premiums must remain affordable, and people who played by the rules at the time that they built or bought their property should not be penalized.
  • Program Participation – Adopting policies that encourage more people to buy flood insurance will help to bring the program’s costs in line with revenues in a responsible way and help communities recover more quickly following a flood event.

For further information on the policy proposals CSFI has proposed for the 2017 reauthorization, you can read our one pager here. CSFI also released a series of white papers in late 2016 and early 2017 which provide further analysis and justification for these proposals. They can be found under Research and Reports.

CSFI is staffed by Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) the regional economic development organization for Southeast Louisiana.  For more information or to be added to our flood insurance mailing list, please contact Caitlin Berni, VP of Policy and Communications, at cberni@gnoinc.org or 504.527.6980.

THE CSFI TEAM

MEET THE LEADERS OF THE COALITION

Michael Hecht

Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Michael Hecht is President & CEO of Greater New Orleans, Inc., the economic development organization for southeast Louisiana. GNO, Inc.’s mission falls broadly into two categories: business development – attracting and growing businesses – and product development – creating better business conditions. Under Michael’s leadership, GNO, Inc. was recently named the #2 economic development organization in the United States by Business Facilities magazine.

Before coming to GNO, Inc. Michael led the quarter-billion dollar Katrina Small Business Recovery Program for the State. Previous to coming home to Louisiana, Michael worked for Mayor Michael Bloomberg in New York City as an Assistant and Deputy Commissioner, running the post-9/11 small business program.

Michael’s entrepreneurial experience includes co-founding a conglomerate of restaurant ventures, including “Foreign Cinema,” named Restaurant of the Year 2000 in San Francisco. He began his career as a strategic management consultant in the US, Canada, Europe and Australia.

Michael holds an MBA from Stanford Graduate School of Business, and an undergraduate degree from Yale.

Recently Michael has been recognized as “One of the Ten People Who Made a Difference in the South,” “One of the 25 Most Powerful People in the 10/12 Corridor,” and “One of the Top 50 Economic Developers in North America.”

With family roots in Louisiana back to the 1830s, Michael now lives in New Orleans with his wife, Marlene, an ESL professor at Delgado, and his two sons, Dexter and Kaj (“Kī”).

Caitlin Berni

Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Caitlin S. Berni serves as Vice President of Policy and Communications for Greater New Orleans, Inc. (GNO, Inc.) She is responsible for directing the organization’s policy work at the federal and state level and serves as the primary liaison with Congressional, state, and local elected officials. She also directs the organization’s communications team, which focuses on communicating why Greater New Orleans is the logical choice to live, work, and raise a family. Berni directs the Coalition for Sustainable Flood Insurance (CSFI), an effort initiated by GNO, Inc. to keep flood insurance offered through the National Flood Insurance Program affordable. CSFI now represents 35 states and 250 organizations and its work resulted in the passage of the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act, which signed into law by President Barack Obama on March 21, 2014.

Prior to joining GNO, Inc., Berni worked in the Washington, D.C. office of Congressman Steve Scalise (LA-01) as a legislative assistant. Her policy portfolio included business and tax issues, financial services, military and defense, veterans’ affairs, and foreign affairs issues. She focused extensively on reforms to the National Flood Insurance Program, extending Go Zone tax credits, and improving veterans’ access to care in the New Orleans area. She also worked at the House Committee on Ways and Means.

Berni has a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science from Louisiana State University. She is a member of the New Orleans Regional Leadership Institute, New Orleans Museum of Art Young Professionals Steering Committee, and the St. Andrew’s Village Young Friends Steering Committee.

Lacy Strohschein

Greater New Orleans, Inc.

Lacy is responsible for relationships and coordination between product and business development as it relates to coastal restoration, water management and community resiliency. In this role, Lacy acts as a liaison between business community stakeholders (including restoration and water firms), government agencies, and environmental NGO’s. Through this position, Lacy is able to effectively manage GNO, Inc.’s Coalition for Coastal Resilience and Economy (CCRE)—an unprecedented cadre of business leaders championing holistic coastal restoration—and guide appropriate policy and outreach actions for the group. Additionally, Lacy also works with municipal stakeholders to advance and implement the Greater New Orleans Urban Water Plan, specifically assisting in public and private funding pursuits, including HUD’s recent National Disaster Resiliency Competition (NDRC).

Prior to joining the GNO, Inc. staff, Lacy was the Special Initiatives Manager with the non-profit organization the Center for Planning Excellence (CPEX), where she oversaw an innovative transportation, land-use and housing policy and advocacy campaign. Lacy has unique branding and communications experience as well from several years living and working abroad in both India and Paris, France. She holds a B.A. from the University of Georgia’s Grady School of Journalism, a M.A. in Global Communications from the American University of Paris, and an M.B.A. from Tulane University.

R. Christian Johnsen

Jones Walker

Christian Johnsen is a partner at Jones Walker in the firm’s Government Relations Practice Group and a member of its board of directors. Christian received his Bachelor of Science in Commerce from the University of Virginia in 1982, and his juris doctor degree, cum laude, from Tulane University Law School in 1985. He was admitted to practice in Louisiana later that year, and has worked continuously with Jones Walker since completing his law degree.

Since opening the firm’s Washington, D.C. office in 1990 and being admitted to the District of Columbia Bar in 1991, Christian has built a strong team of government relations professionals who represent clients in the maritime, energy, and defense industries; numerous institutions of higher learning; and several state and local government entities. He provides his clients with a broad range of government relations assistance, including providing advice on a wide variety of legislative and regulatory matters facing the maritime industry and other business interests. Christian has developed strong relationships with the key committees on Capitol Hill with general jurisdiction over transportation and maritime issues, including the Senate Commerce Committee, the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, and the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, as well as tax writing committees with jurisdiction over maritime tax and trade matters, including the Senate Finance Committee and the House Ways and Means Committee.

In the past several years, Christian participated in the successful effort to amend and reauthorize the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). He worked closely with key Members of the House and Senate on amendments to the Biggert-Waters Act that have lessened the burdens on ratepayers throughout the country.

Scott Canady

Tambala Strategy

Scott Canady’s record of public service includes 13 years of experience gained in the U.S. House of Representatives and in the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In Congress, Scott served on staff for Congressman Richard H. Baker (R-LA), a senior member of the House Financial Services Committee. Scott’s primary legislative responsibilities centered on reform of the housing government sponsored enterprises, Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, as well as the National Flood Insurance Program. Scott served as Rep. Baker’s lead staff member for the Bunning, Bereuter, Blumenauer Flood Insurance Reform Act of 2004 and managed Rep. Baker’s flood insurance and mitigation legislative activities following the 2005 hurricane season.

Following his time in the Congress, Scott was appointed Deputy Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affairs at the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. In this capacity, Scott worked with the Assistant Secretary for Congressional and Intergovernmental Relations to advance the legislative goals of the Department, prepare testimony and witnesses for congressional hearings, coordinate with Administration officials on policy, and brief the Secretary and senior staff on legislative matters affecting the Department’s mission.

In 2009, Scott launched Tambala Strategy, a consultancy with a focus on housing and housing finance public policy. In partnership with clients, Scott develops public policy proposals, identifies risks posed by government action to client interests, and mobilizes grassroots advocates to educate federal policymakers on client issues and priorities

Scott resides with his family in Alexandria, Virginia, and is a proud graduate of Louisiana State University where he earned a Bachelor of Arts in Political Science and History.

B. Jeffrey Brooks

Adams & Reese

Jeffrey “Jeff” Brooks is the former Chair and Member of the Adams and Reese’s Executive Committee and former practice group leader. Jeff joined Adams and Reese in 1997 after serving as Chief Counsel and Director of Special Projects for Congressman Richard H. Baker. Establishing an office for Adams and Reese in Washington DC, Jeff has added several lawyers and lobbyists and built a substantive legislative practice.

Jeff serves clients primarily in matters of transportation, appropriations, public works, education, stimulus, energy and the environment. Clients consider Jeff and his team an extension of their business when representing their interests on Capitol Hill.

Jeff is known both has a substantive legislative lawyer and lobbyist through strong political relationships and knowledge of the legislative process, resulting in consistent representation and creative solutions for clients. He has assisted the NFIP Coalition in successfully passing the Homeowner Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.

In his free time, Jeff spends time with his three children and is a baseball coach and major sports fan.

Larry Lavende

Jones Walker

Larry Lavender is Director of Government Relations for Jones Walker. Before joining the firm, he served for five years as the Chief of Staff of the Financial Services Committee for the United States House of Representatives, and, prior to that, for five years as Chief of Staff to Congressman Spencer Bachus.

During his tenure with the Financial Services Committee, which spanned the 2008 financial crisis, the Committee considered some of the most significant and far reaching legislation in its history. The Dodd-Frank Act is the most prominent example, but Housing, GSE legislation, and the Biggert-Waters Flood Insurance Reform and Modernization Act of 2012 were also major issues.

In addition to managing the day-to-day operations of the Committee, Larry assisted the Chairman and other members in developing policy and legislative strategy, and was the Committee’s principal contact with congressional leadership staff and other committees of the House, particularly when considering cross-jurisdictional issues such as internet gambling, derivatives regulation, and budget authorizations.

As Chief of Staff of the Committee, he interacted extensively with the Executive Branch, the SEC, the CFTC, the Federal Reserve, the FDIC, the OCC, and other regulatory agencies, particularly in the interpretation and implementation of the Dodd-Frank Act.

Larry has also communicated extensively with international financial and accounting agencies and regulators, including those of the European Union, China, Israel, The United Kingdom, and several African and Middle Eastern countries. This has included official visits to these and many other nations.

He has spoken and participated on panels for trade associations, think tanks, and regulators, including the Federal Reserve, the Municipal Securities Rule Making Board, the American Enterprise Institute, the American Bankers Association, The Institutional Investors’ Forum, and many others.

Larry has been active in the management of political campaigns at the local, congressional district, and state-wide levels. Early in his career, he served for 10 years with the City of Birmingham, Alabama, first as the staff director for the city council and later as the Chief of Staff to the mayor. During that time, he was intimately involved in the city’s financial management, gaining a broad and deep understanding of municipal finance. Most recently, Larry played a role in flood insurance reform through the Homeowners Flood Insurance Affordability Act of 2014.

Outside the governmental arena, Larry has extensive experience in the management of small and medium-sized businesses, having owned and managed several manufacturing companies primarily supplying the heavy truck industry.