Monday, February 13, 2006

Federal Ineptitude, Local Failure

In my mind, I get it. I don't know if I have the words to express it, but I will give it a try.

Local government failed. They did not plan properly for a storm like Katrina. In Jefferson Parish, the Doomsday Plan was enacted. The pump operators left as they were supposed to do. Did the publich know about this plan? Who knows? But they followed the plan even if it was a bad plan. Even though East Jefferson was flooded, it could have been much, much worse. In Orleans Parish, the effects of the storm were overwhelming. I wasn't there that day, so I don't know for certain. Watching the news in Jackson on August 29th, I remember thinking that we avoided another disaster. When the flyby of downtown showed the destruction, I kep thinking that things looked bad, but I had no idea. I do know that Nagin issued a voluntary evacuation on Saturday. I do know that he issued a mandatory evacuation on Sunday. He told people NOT to go do the Superdome unless they had no other choice. Once the storm hit, I don't know what the plan was. There is no question that the intensity and destruction of the storm were unpreventable. How could the city government know that the levees would fail? And was there a plan for what to do after that? There better be one or it better be in the works.

I read somewhere last week that some clown in Baton Rouge who was part of the state's Department of Transportation was supposed to come up with a plan to use buses to help people evacuate from New Orleans and other locations. He admitted that, though he was given the task in April, he had done NOTHING to address this new duty. When the school buses were flooded, was that his fault? Did the state activate its emergency plan? Can a state be expected to deal with such devastation. (Communications down + red-tape - leadership) x Katrina = Failure. For any state. In Mississippi, nearly every water management system IN JACKSON was down. Power was out. Phone lines and cell towers were down. But there wasn't standing water. There were fights in line to get ice. There was no gas. And that was 100+ miles from the storm greatest impact. Did that state fail its mission? Did Louisiana?

The federal government absolutely failed its mission. The ACE built shoddy levees. FEMA, despite its claims to the contrary, had its head up its ass. Why was Marty Bahamonde the only person in New Orleans? Because he couldn't get out. Once the storm passed, it was evident that things were bad. I never once got a sense of the urgency of the situation from anyone at the Federal level. Items were "prepositioned" whatever that means. Why were they not closer? What was there plan? React? I love the Michael Brown is now saying that he told the White House. He was in position to execute and didn't. George Bush may be an idiot, but what could he have done. Seriously.

Michael Brown :" W, we got a levee breach here."
W's intern: "We know. I will tell the President after he finishes his margarita."
MB: "This is bad. Put W on the phone."
W's intern: rustling, muffled "(untelligible) Brown in Baton (untelligible) c'est levee or some (unintelligible)."
W: "Brownie, hows the wife? (slurps)"
MB: "Sir, things are bad. A levee or two has failed."
W: "Well, of course they are. A hurricane has hit. I love hurricanes. Delicious drink."
MB: "Sir, the levees have failed and New Orleans is filling up."
W: "I fill up whenever I go down there. Bengays or whatever those donut thingies are. Love em."
MB: "Hey, those things are great. I think I am going to go get me some."


In New Orleans, there has to be a plan to get everyone out. One plan for the smart people who plan in advance and evacuate when a storm approaches. One plan for the dolts who stay and need to be taken out in boats. And, for God's sake, fix that damn train bridge at Metairie/City Park. That area is impassable when it rains hard (which is often in New Orleans). How many people couldn't get anywhere because of that? And communicate with neighboring parishes about your plans. A REGIONAL PLAN. Whoa. Get over your petty fights and act like your lives depend on it. They might. Why not go across the Crescent City Connection and head west Because Gretna police won't let you. Fix that problem.

The state needs to pass levee reform. Boasso has a plan. It may not fit everyone's current needs. It fixes some of the major problems. If the plan has to be modified to create a west bank levee board and an east bank levee board, do it. Do something. Clearly, things don't work now. Did Blanco drop the ball? Yes. Could any governor have done more?

The federal government definitely was more ready to stop terrorists. They failed . The levees were a lie and a joke. And now people are homeless and hopeless. They trusted you. You betrayed that trust. And now you spend time pointing fingers and demanding a city and state to do things your way. Why would they? They listed to you and you let them down. Enormously. You lied. And now you want to call the shots. Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Why would we trust you? How could we trust you? You have done nothing for us, and now you are promising to do something if we play by your rules. Didn't we already play by your rules? And look where that got us. St. Bernard has it right. The attitude down that way seems to be, "Help someone else. We look out for ourselves. We don't want your rules, we don't want your money, we don't want your help. You screwed us. And now screw you." And who can blame them? Why isn't anyone else doing this?


FEMA blundered. The state faltered. New Orleans planned poorly. Check. Now what? As of right now, it seems New Orleans is dying. The State government is dropping the ball and it's politics as usual. And the feds are arguing about who is responsible. I have news for them. The levees broke, the storm was bad, water was everywhere. We all screwed up. We admit it. Now that that's settled, come help.

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