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Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for March, 2009

Senators, a Vote for AmeriCorps Expansion Is a Vote for America’s Wetland Conservation Corps

Wednesday, March 25th, 2009

LNW_AWCCThere is a good, bipartisan bill up for a vote tonight (3/26) or Friday on a generous expansion of funding for AmeriCorps, the national and community service program launched by President Clinton. The bill has been strongly supported by President Obama and by Senator Edward Kennedy, a co-sponsor. The bill would give about $6 billion over the next five years and allow more than a tripling of membership. The House approved the measure by 321 to 105 last week. Senate sponsors are Democrats Kennedy and Barbara Mikulski, and Republicans Orrin Hatch and Mike Enzi. Senators, we salute you.


Fugate for FEMA: “Semper Gumby”—In an Emergency, “The Calmest Man in the Room”

Monday, March 16th, 2009

Photo by Alachua County Today.

Photo by Alachua County Today.

Some of our readers are too young to remember a time when the much-derided FEMA actually functioned well. That would be 1993 to 2001: Under President Clinton, former Arkansas emergency services director James Lee Witt directed FEMA with direct, cabinet-level access to the president and earned wide, bipartisan respect for his competence and flexibility.

Happy days—or at least competent days—are soon to be here again. President Obama has nominated W. Craig Fugate, director of Florida’s Division of Emergency Management, to be the next head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. This is good news indeed.

Besides his depth of professional experience (see below), there is something reassuring in the fact that the man picked to be the next director for emergency management is the one who, on the morning of Sept. 11, 2001, informed then-FEMA director Joe Allbaugh that two planes had struck the World Trade Center. They were in Montana at the annual meeting of the National Emergency Management Association; Allbaugh was Bush’s first FEMA director (Brownie’s predecessor), and Fugate was acting director of the agency he now heads. Fugate handed the phoneless FEMA boss his cell so Allbaugh could get the story from Fugate’s deputy in Tallahassee.


“American-Made”: A WPA History for Our Time
(“Yes We Can” Do It Again)

Wednesday, March 4th, 2009

“All work undertaken should be useful—not just for a day, or a year, but useful in the sense that it affords permanent improvement in living conditions or that it creates future new wealth for the Nation.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt, second state of the union address (1935)

“You can start out from Baton Rouge in any direction and pass through town after town which has water facilities or sewer facilities or roads or streets or sidewalks or better public buildings, which it would had not have had but for the Works Progress Administration.”

—WPA administrator Harry L. Hopkins, dedication of addition to Tiger Stadium, LSU, Nov. 28, 1936 (in Taylor, American-Made)

LNW_American-Made.2Levees Not War has been recommending a Civilian Conservation Corps for Louisiana coastal restoration for some time now, and here is more encouragement in that direction.

From his first days in office, Franklin Roosevelt worked to establish relief programs to ease the pain of 25% unemployment nationwide, with some 15 million men, or 60 million Americans, having no income whatsoever. But it was not until his third year in office that Roosevelt launched the Works Progress Administration, the famous jobs and public works program that is one of the hallmarks of the New Deal. Other public assistance and jobs programs had come before—FDR’s beloved CCC was created in his first month—but the WPA took relief to a whole new level: practical, rewarding, enduring.

Yesterday we went to the 92nd Street Y–Tribeca to hear Nick Taylor speak about his book American-Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the Nation to Work (2008). Mr. Taylor began research for the book in 2001, and its publication could hardly be more timely: lucky for the book’s sales and for American readers. American-Made is an engaging account of the Roosevelt administration’s Works Progress Administration (1935–1943), the nationwide jobs and public works program that put 8.5 million Americans back to work (enrollment peaked at about 3.3 million in 1938) in building roads and bridges, tunnels and airports, producing plays and painting murals, serving millions of hot lunches, sewing clothes and repairing toys, and many more useful and entertaining works.