November 21, 2008 5:37 AM

Chertoff to Texas: (&^% you

Many Texans are suffering needlessly because of the federal government's slow and inadequate relief effort after Hurricane Ike, Gov. Rick Perry said today. At a news conference in Houston, Perry said state officials would lobby more aggressively for federal aid while taking over some functions such as debris removal... "How is it that Washington can shower $700 billion on mismanaged Wall Street firms, but they can't spare the money to help Broadway in Galveston or Main Street in Bridge City?" Perry asked. Perry said Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said Texas wouldn't get as much recovery money as Louisiana received after Hurricane Katrina because Texas has a budget surplus. This amounts to penalizing Texas for its fiscal responsibility, the governor said. "It is incomprehensible to me," Perry said.

Those of y'all who've hung around these parts for any length of time know that I stand in support of or in agreement with Texas Governor Rick Perry about as often as children are able to build snowmen on the beach in Galveston. In this case, though, I'm going to drop the partisanship and my conviction that the man's a blithering idiot and get in his corner...because he's (for once) spot on.

After having witnessed the aftermath of Hurricane Ike firsthand (I've seen more of the devastation than most), I can confirm that FEMA didn't exactly bust a gut in helping southeast Texas recover. After having tried to convince us that they learned their lesson from the clusterf--k that was the federal government's response to Hurricane Katrina, this time was supposed to be different.

Yeah, right....

It's true that FEMA didn't display the same sort of spectacular incompetence and ineptitude that they did after Katrina, but Ike brought a whole different flavor of clusterf--k. Bureaucratic ineptitude, sloth, and a seeming indifference to the suffering swirling all around them...well, it was (and remains) truly breathtaking. Go to places like the Bolivar Peninsula, Oak Island, and Bacliff, and you'd be hard-pressed to determine what FEMA has been up to. Decisions, when they're made, are slow, hindered by bureaucratic gobbledygook, seemingly arbitrary, and almost uniformly incomprehensible. These are peoples lives we're dealing with, y'all; a little compassion goes a long ways, knowhutimean??

Gpvernor Goodhair has every right to be upset, and I'm impressed that he's managed to keep his powder dry this long. FEMA, while they've managed to tinker around the margins, has been largely useless and almost completely invisible to the average Texan's recovery efforts. Claims aren't addressed in a timely manner, and when they are resolved and payment sent, there's no accompanying rationale or explanation.

Here's some money; now go away and leave us alone....

Among other problems, the governor said, the state is still awaiting an answer to its request for 100 percent reimbursement to local governments for debris removal costs for 18 months.

Even the 25 percent local match required now is a tremendous burden to small communities that have experienced some of the greatest devastation, said former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels, who will chair the governor's newly created Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal.

Piles of debris stretch for 30 miles in Chambers County, Eckels said. Chambers County Commissioner Mark Huddleston, who attended the news conference, said it's likely that bodies are in some of those piles.

Perry said he had tried to be polite in his assessment of federal agencies, but would shift to a more aggressive approach.

"We tried for 60 days the good, obedient, please and thank you approach, and that didn't work too well," Perry said. "We're going to be a little more hardboiled about it."

Unlike New Orleans, few, if any, people expected the federal government to ride in on a white horse and make everything magically and immediately better. In fact, from what I saw, most Texans took matters into their own hands as best they could and worked hard to clean up their own mess. Perhaps it was the memory of the FEMA clusterf--k in New Orleans that convinced them that depending on the government was a fool's errand. Or perhaps it was just the fact that Texans tend to want to take care of their own problems in their own way.

Even with the initiative and courage shown by so many who were hit so hard, it shouldn't have been a stretch to expect FEMA to...well, do it's job, right? After all, FEMA is the acronym for the Federal EMERGENCY MANAGEMENT Agency, no? So, we should be able to expect FEMA to at least minimally manage this emergency...right? No one expects perfection or complete and total accuracy, but would it be too much to expect that FEMA be able to get it's $#!& together and respond in an efficient, coherent, and compassionate manner? Shouldn't taxpayers be able to expect that a federal agency funded by their tax dollars be able to carry out the mission it was set up to accomplish?

Governor Goodhair- and the people of southeast Texas- have good reason to be thoroughly pissed off. I was there dealing with the aftermath of the storm, and I've got to say that I was thoroughly underwhelmed by the effort put forth by FEMA in assisting those impacted by Hurricane Ike. The fact that FEMA essentially expected Texas to empty it's treasury before getting any real federal assistance is absolutely absurd. Sec. Chertoff's attitude essentially means that Texas stands to be punished for keeping it's house in order, unlike Louisiana, which was a mess before Hurricane Katrina, and remains a mess three-plus years later.

Perhaps once we're done introducing the wonders of democracy to Iraq, we could devote some of those impressive resources to helping tax-paying Americans in places like the Bolivar Peninsula and Oak Island??

We're from the government, and we're here to...ah, fuhgeddaboudit....

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This page contains a single entry by Jack Cluth published on November 21, 2008 5:37 AM.

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