Sunday, September 04, 2005

Volume 10 - State and Local Politicians have Responsibility and Accountability in Katrina Disaster

What ever happened to State accountability? City accountability? County (or Parish) accountability? What ever happened to State and City preparedness? What preparation was made for this disaster situation over the past two decades or two weeks prior? Were disaster scenarios, that have proven models available, used and applicable? Is your State prepared for a natural disaster?

The City of New Orleans was built, over two hundred years ago, eight feet below sea-level with pumping contraptions and levee protection built over decades and neglected over by politicians. It's a city built in a bathtub. It doesn't take a Rhodes scholar to understand worst case scenarios. If you are smart enough to do scenarios, as all States and major cities are obliged and accountable to perform, this never was a case of "if" just one of "when". The worst case scenario just took place in the Cresent City along with many smaller cities throughout Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama. Three days afterwards riots (in New Orleans) and lawlessness are the order of the day from thugs and gangs and desperate people.

Yet, how many times did we read, over the past year or so, about the Governor of Louisiana and the owner of the New Orleans Saints arguing about new facilities and/or remodeling of the Superdome at costs staggering to the average person in that city. Or various court proceedings stopping commercial development, that might have contained proper hurricane codes within their construction, followed by other court proceedings over a variety of subjects ranging from gambling to hotel rooms. But, in all of that publicity and court proceedings, not a word about disaster plans and the implementation of rescue, evacuation, or communication issues or the greater good of building up the Barrier Islands that are all apparently missing, as this piece is being written, to help during strong storms. And, worse of all, a governor in Louisiana who constantly was on TV for the first two days, now doing a disappearing act with the majority of State and local politicians. And, legislators in the great State of Mississippi allowing gambling, like Louisiana (and probably other coastal cities)' on floating barges, instead of building codes that enforce proper structure, to bypass state and federal gambling laws instead of changing the law and building secure structures which would be the right and proper avenue of a well run business. But government is not like a well run business where accountability and responsibility are part of the program. They are experts in 'spin-talk' and the blame game. It was always a case of 'not on my watch will something like this occur' but it did and will occur again.

Whether the Federal Government was one day late or four days late in response or whether wrapping FEMA under Homeland Security was a good idea or not, State and local lack of preparedness is not going to be erased by blaming Homeland Security or the President of the United States. Not the President's fault. The federal government, and certainly Congress, make enough stupid mistakes. This isn't one of them. Accountability and responsibility are not elusive terms for local and state officials when it is convenient. They are tattoos that never go away. They are part of the job. If you're a politician, for god's sake accept the accountability and the responsibility and learn to think. Think in a forward manner that encompasses disaster thinking and rehearsals for your State. This is 2005 and not 1970, '911',within a week, will be four years old. Discuss and act on worse case scenarios. This isn't a Democrat versus Republican issue. This isn't about politics, power and procedures. It's about accountability and responsibility.

Unfortunately this failure of local and state government isn't going to be any different now than past federal failures with our airport security, which isn't any better today than it was previous to 2001, nor will it improve; or, the still lack of proper single communication systems with global technology for first responders of disaster situations; or, how much improvement has taken place with oil importation since the crisis of the late 70's and early 80's? None. Still dependent.

May a greater power take mercy on the Gulf Coast and especially the great City of New Orleans and somehow lesson the suffering that is going to be immense for years to come. And, since we're asking favors, how about some local and State accountability and responsibility, as well as citizentry, rather than the coming blame game spin talk.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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