Sunday, 4 September 2005

New Orleans - Old Politics

From the Washington Post, a paper not known for it's pro-Bush views :
Behind the scenes, a power struggle emerged, as federal officials tried to wrest authority from Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco (D). Shortly before midnight Friday, the Bush administration sent her a proposed legal memorandum asking her to request a federal takeover of the evacuation of New Orleans, a source within the state's emergency operations center said Saturday.

The administration sought unified control over all local police and state National Guard units reporting to the governor. Louisiana officials rejected the request after talks throughout the night, concerned that such a move would be comparable to a federal declaration of martial law. Some officials in the state suspected a political motive behind the request. "Quite frankly, if they'd been able to pull off taking it away from the locals, they then could have blamed everything on the locals," said the source, who does not have the authority to speak publicly.

A senior administration official said that Bush has clear legal authority to federalize National Guard units to quell civil disturbances under the Insurrection Act and will continue to try to unify the chains of command that are split among the president, the Louisiana governor and the New Orleans mayor.

Louisiana did not reach out to a multi-state mutual aid compact for assistance until Wednesday, three state and federal officials said. As of Saturday, Blanco still had not declared a state of emergency, the senior Bush official said.

"The federal government stands ready to work with state and local officials to secure New Orleans and the state of Louisiana," White House spokesman Dan Bartlett said. "The president will not let any form of bureaucracy get in the way of protecting the citizens of Louisiana."

Blanco made two moves Saturday that protected her independence from the federal government: She created a philanthropic fund for the state's victims and hired James Lee Witt, Federal Emergency Management Agency director in the Clinton administration, to advise her on the relief effort.

Bush, who has been criticized, even by supporters, for the delayed response to the disaster, used his weekly radio address to put responsibility for the failure on lower levels of government. The magnitude of the crisis "has created tremendous problems that have strained state and local capabilities," he said. "The result is that many of our citizens simply are not getting the help they need, especially in New Orleans. And that is unacceptable."
Then there's the Mayor ray Nagin Memorial Motor Pool.

This shows just one of the fleets of school busses that could have been, and should have been, used to ferry those without transport to pre-arranged places of safety. The resources were there. They just didn't get used.

From the Mudville Gazette :

New Orlean's "Hurricane Plan". Scan it for about 10 minutes and you'll see it's a damning document insofar as city management there is concerned. Judging from recent comments by a few of the folks named as responsible in that plan they didn't know it existed - there's no other explanation for the absurdity of some recent statements and "demands".

Ray Nagin, in a radio interview, said: "I need reinforcements. I need troops, man. I need 500 buses, man. Now get off your asses and fix this. Let's do something and let's fix the biggest goddam crisis in the history of this country."

He castigated the government's failure to help those stranded in the city by Hurricane Katrina, echoing a mounting wave of criticism of the slow federal response to a long-predicted catastrophe.

"This is a national disaster," he said. "Get every doggone Greyhound bus line in the country and get it here to New Orleans."

That wasn't in the plan. Actually, the buses were in the plan. They were here. This was in the plan too:
Conduct of an actual evacuation will be the responsibility of the Mayor of New Orleans in coordination with the Director of the Office of Emergency Preparedness, and the OEP Shelter Coordinator.

The SOP, in unison with other elements of the Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan, is designed for use in all hazard situations, including citywide evacuations in response to hurricane situations and addresses three elements of emergency response: warning, evacuation, and sheltering.

The busses were there. The plan called for their use. The people in charge of implementing the plan.... skeddadled to Baton Rouge and blame Bush for all their woes.

Oh well, keep this lesson for later, we have too much to do in keeping people alive right now. But lynching would be appropriate later, and I don't mean figuratively. I mean hand them over to the people who were put in danger by their incompetence. Let them decide.

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