As the devastation of Hurricane Katrina continues to shock and sadden the nation, the question on many lips is, Who is to blame for the inadequate [government] response [to the Hurricane Katrina disaster in September 2005]?
As a former state legislator who represented the legislative district most impacted by the eruption of Mount St. Helens in 1980, I can fully understand and empathize with the people and public officials over the loss of life and property.
Many in the media are turning their eyes toward the federal government, rather than considering the culpability of city and state officials. I am fully aware of the challenges of having a quick and responsive emergency response to a major disaster. And there is definitely a time for accountability; but what isn't fair is to dump on the federal officials and avoid those most responsible--local and state officials who failed to do their job as the first responders. The plain fact is, lives were needlessly lost in New Orleans due to the failure of Louisiana's governor, Kathleen Blanco, and the city's mayor, Ray Nagin.
The primary responsibility for dealing with emergencies does not belong to the federal government. It belongs to local and state officials who are charged by law with the management of the crucial first response to disasters.
First response should be carried out by local and state emergency personnel under the supervision of the state governor and his emergency operations center. The actions and inactions of [Louisiana] Gov. Blanco and [New Orleans] Mayor Nagin are a national disgrace due to their failure to implement the previously established evacuation plans of the state and city. [emphasis mine - Dan]
Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin cannot claim that they were surprised by the extent of the damage and the need to evacuate so many people. Detailed written plans were already in place to evacuate more than a million people. The plans projected that 300,000 people would need transportation in the event of a hurricane like Katrina. If the plans had been implemented, thousands of lives would likely have been saved.
In addition to the plans, local, state and federal officials held a simulated hurricane drill 13 months ago, in which widespread flooding supposedly trapped 300,000 people inside New Orleans. The exercise simulated the evacuation of more than a million residents. The problems identified in the simulation apparently were not solved.
A year ago, as Hurricane Ivan approached, New Orleans ordered an evacuation but did not use city or school buses to help people evacuate. As a result many of the poorest citizens were unable to evacuate. Fortunately, the hurricane changed course and did not hit New Orleans, but both Gov. Blanco and Mayor Nagin acknowledged the need for a better evacuation plan. Again, they did not take corrective actions. In 1998, during a threat by Hurricane George, 14,000 people were sent to the Superdome and theft and vandalism were rampant due to inadequate security. Again, these problems were not corrected.
The New Orleans contingency plan is still, as of this writing, on the city's Web site, and states: "The safe evacuation of threatened populations is one of the principle [sic] reasons for developing a Comprehensive Emergency Management Plan." But the plan was apparently ignored.
Mayor Nagin was responsible for giving the order for mandatory evacuation and supervising the actual evacuation: His Office of Emergency Preparedness (not the federal government) must coordinate with the state on elements of evacuation and assist in directing the transportation of evacuees to staging areas. Mayor Nagin had to be encouraged by the governor to contact the National Hurricane Center before he finally, belatedly, issued the order for mandatory evacuation. And sadly, it apparently took a personal call from the president to urge the governor to order the mandatory evacuation.
The city's evacuation plan states: "The city of New Orleans will utilize all available resources to quickly and safely evacuate threatened areas." But even though the city has enough school and transit buses to evacuate 12,000 citizens per fleet run, the mayor did not use them. To compound the problem, the buses were not moved to high ground and were flooded. The plan also states that "special arrangements will be made to evacuate persons unable to transport themselves or who require specific lifesaving assistance. Additional personnel will be recruited to assist in evacuation procedures as needed." This was not done.
The evacuation plan warned that "if an evacuation order is issued without the mechanisms needed to disseminate the information to the affected persons, then we face the possibility of having large numbers of people either stranded and left to the mercy of a storm, or left in an area impacted by toxic materials." That is precisely what happened because of the mayor's failure.
Instead of evacuating the people, the mayor ordered the refugees to the Superdome and Convention Center without adequate security and no provisions for food, water and sanitary conditions. As a result people died, and there was even rape committed, in these facilities. Mayor Nagin failed in his responsibility to provide public safety and to manage the orderly evacuation of the citizens of New Orleans. Now he wants to blame Gov. Blanco and the Federal Emergency Management Agency. In an emergency the first requirement is for the city's emergency center to be linked to the state emergency operations center. This was not done.
The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.
In addition, unlike the governors of New York, Oklahoma and California in past disasters, Gov. Blanco failed to take charge of the situation and ensure that the state emergency operation facility was in constant contact with Mayor Nagin and FEMA. It is likely that thousands of people died because of the failure of Gov. Blanco to implement the state plan, which mentions the possible need to evacuate up to one million people. The plan clearly gives the governor the authority for declaring an emergency, sending in state resources to the disaster area and requesting necessary federal assistance.
State legislators and governors nationwide need to update their contingency plans and the operation procedures for state emergency centers. Hurricane Katrina had been forecast for days, but that will not always be the case with a disaster (think of terrorist attacks). It must be made clear that the governor and locally elected officials are in charge of the "first response."
I am not attempting to excuse some of the delays in FEMA's response. Congress and the president need to take corrective action there, also. However, if citizens expect FEMA to be a first responder to terrorist attacks or other local emergencies (earthquakes, forest fires, volcanoes), they will be disappointed. The federal government's role is to offer aid upon request.
The Louisiana Legislature should conduct an immediate investigation into the failures of state and local officials to implement the written emergency plans. The tragedy is not over, and real leadership in the state and local government are essential in the months to come. More importantly, the hurricane season is still upon us, and local and state officials must stay focused on the jobs for which they were elected--and not on the deadly game of passing the emergency buck.
Mr. Williams is president of the Evergreen Freedom Foundation, a free market public policy research organization in Olympia, Wash.
Copyright © 2005 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved.
Louisiana Gov Kathleen Blanco and New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin are both Democrats. Both are Politically Untouchable because of their respective sex and race. It seems therefore that they have a vested interest, and full liberal support, in declaring the Bush adminstration the scapegoat of the whole mess. An actual New Orleans resident wrote this firsthand email which in no uncertain terms lays the blame for most of the Katrina human tragedy at the feet of the Governor of LA and the Mayor of NO.
Here we are in September 2007, apparently mindless that the same politicians - Nagin, Obama, Clinton, Edwards, all of whom fiddled while New Orleans flooded, are still calling for the underwater city, including the doomed 9th Ward, to be totally rebuilt using public money (taxes). We The People need to stop this madness. One has to wonder how much of their own money Nagin, Obama, Edwards and Clinton are investing in businesses in the Lower 9th Ward of New Orleans?
Many are trying to deflect the blame by making a racial issue out of the whole affair, most recently by Louis Farrakhan who alleged on national TV that the NO dikes were actually blown up by whites so that blacks would suffer. Here is a candid article by a black reporter which completely dispels that this is a white-against-black issue, while taking great issue with the way President Bush characterizes the role of the NO black community responsibility in the aftermath of Katrina. This disturbing link argues that FEMA handled the NO disaster in a predictable, but fascist manner. FEMA FUBARs, such as the Incredible Ice Fiasco and the Microscopic Relief Check, have become legendary.
The "Anything-To-Get-Bush" movement is analyzed further in this excellent report, written by my own personal political hero.
Not that Bush & Co are innocent of being culpably negligent. Far from it. B&C are responsible for dredging up FEMA chief Michael Brown, who was fired from his previous job supervising horse shows. Not much of a resume, I agree.
At least B&C has now called Brown back to Washington D.C. to rejoin the ranks of professional politicrats, and put a military man in charge. I think we can definitely expect both rapid and decisive action in N'Awlin's from now on. This will of course cause a huge outpouring of rage from the aforementioned "Anything-To-Get-Bush" movement as they will find (or create) endless examples of alleged civil rights violations. Like flies to excrement, Jesse Jackson and Al Sharpton are already buzzing about the scene inciting unrest.
Not for a second do I pretend that there will not be many, many real civil rights violations: Martial Law requires that all guns be confiscated. ML effectively suspends all Constitutional rights. Non-military persons instantly become "subjects," effectively losing all rights of citizenship. A very sad, but probably necessary thing.
What's so scary is that no American city is truly prepared to realistically anticipate, much less effectly deal with, a general disaster of even moderate proportion. N'Awlins is merely the first to demonstrate this sad fact. Some are predicting massive new terror attacks on American soil to "celebrate" the Islamic Ramadan, coming to a town near you in October 2005. Suitcase nukes detonated in 5 American cities would bring down our entire socio-economic structure faster than the Twin Towers. Martial Law will become the order of the day, the month, the year...
Someday many of us may face a "From My Cold, Dead Hands..." decision, but until then we must carefully pick our battles before we take up arms against our own forces. New Orleans is neither the time or the place. We must let the soldiers go about their work.
I don't pretend to know what should have been done by Bush, FEMA, the Governor, or the Mayor. The Katrina problem has its roots in generations of poor black folks and the predilection of both state and local governments to focus (i.e., squander resources) on attracting tourism to the apparent exclusion of critical improvements needed to the infrastructure.
I have little sympathy (none, actually) for the tens of thousands of New Orleans residents who could have evacuated (i.e., had the funds to do so) but foolishly elected to do otherwise. The true tragedy is, that while tens of thousands of poor and disabled folks, with neither money or transportation, languished in terror as the waters rose, hundreds of New Orleans school buses - and several dike pumping stations - sat unattended and unprotected. All were to be flooded and ultimately ruined by criminal official ineptitude and inaction. The buses could have evacuated the poor and disabled, and the pumps could have minimized or at least delayed the epic flooding.
As far as all the Lootin' and Shootin' goes, the picture at left sums up my feelings exactly!
The situation with the Mississippi river and the New Orleans dikes has been well documented since the 1920s and many are the politicrats filling the ranks of past Presidents, Governors, and Mayors, all of whom have ignored the pleas of the Corps of Engineers. There is good historical information at this link.
As for me, I'm up for moving beyond whose blame-bucket is (or should be) the fullest America has got to mainstream all of Katrina's new jobless and new homeless families into its national economic and social fabric.
We all gotta roll up our sleeves. Sadly, The People are so hooked on the Narcotic of Public Money that the burden on the national economy will launch the National Debt far out into financial deep space. Those who wish to rebuild in dangerous places such as New Orleans should expend the majority of the effort, and bear most of the cost.
Now's a good time to take a look at some hard choices, most of which are going to be political dynamite. Who is finally going to straight-out say that The Great Society produced millions of chronically dependent poor, generally illiterate, and therefore unemployable folks?
Who will be so un-PC as to dare suggest these folks have to look to themselves first for economic salvation? No more endless handouts. Bottom line: Get a proper education and and then get a job.
If black folks want to be treated with more respect (ebonically pronounced 'treatit wif mo respek'), then they need to heed this essential advice. Otherwise, the White Man's Burden is bound to go on and on and on...
But there is one last way to pay for Katrina/Rita damage without bleeding the American taxpayer (again), while still giving the welfare addicts a free pass to continue gorging themselves at the public trough: Click here.
America's politicrats, the left-wing in particular, need to stop vilifying people of financial means. As someone once said, a poor man never hired anyone.
God Bless America, Please...
The article implies that nuclear energy is the only solution to the "oil problem" - but this is a deliberate obfuscation. There are at least two viable alternatives:
Almost unlimited fossil energy has already been verified as existing within the continental United States in OIL-BEARING COAL and OIL-BEARING SHALE.
Utilization of these resources will bring in "oil" at the equivalent price of about $35 a barrel. It can provide all our energy needs, for the next 40 years at least, while eliminating dependency on the America-hating Arabs, or paying further ransom to the rabid dictators of South America.
More importantly, neither energy alternative carries any threat whatever of either nuclear accidents and/or nuclear terrorism.
The American People - YOU in particular - deserve to be
fully informed if they are to avoid being sold yet another
bill of goods - "clean atomic energy" - by our "leaders." Future generations
must be protected from genetic disasters like
Three Mile Island and
many, many others.