[  ]
Restore the Wetlands. Reinforce the Levees.

Archive for the ‘Relief/Recovery’ Category

Hurricane Isaac and Tampa’s Blizzard of Lies

Monday, September 3rd, 2012

What Would Romney-Ryan Mean for FEMA and Infrastructure?

[ cross-posted at DailyKos ]

*

“One of the themes of the Tampa convention will be the failure of government, and the prosperity that will result if it is cut to ribbons. But in a different corner of the television screen, the winds of Isaac are a reminder of the necessity of government—its labor, its expertise, its money—in the nation’s most dire moments. It is hard to forget what happened to New Orleans when that Republican philosophy was followed in 2005, and it will be harder still to explain how it might be allowed to happen again.” —“The Storm, Again,” NYT editorial, Aug. 27, 2012

“We have responsibilities, one to another—we do not each face the world alone. And the greatest of all responsibilities, is that of the strong to protect the weak. The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves.” —vice presidential nominee Paul D. Ryan, acceptance speech, Republican National Convention, Tampa, Aug. 29, 2012

*

If Hurricane Katrina was indeed divine retribution for abortions and tolerance of homosexuality, then how are we to understand God’s twice visiting strong hurricanes upon the U.S. at the exact moment when the Republican National Convention gathers to nominate its presidential candidate, with Gustav in 2008 and now with Isaac, which made landfall on the Gulf Coast on August 29, the exact 7-year anniversary of Katrina? (Rush Limbaugh has a suspicion.)

Far be it from us to question the wisdom of the true believers, but it’s our view that if hurricanes must come at all, it’s best they blow when the elephants are gathering at the water hole—preferably in Florida, or some other red coastal state. Let the screen be split. Let the images be juxtaposed. Let the nation never forget how the Republican way of governing—staffing disaster relief agencies with inexperienced cronies and then cutting funds—resulted in the disastrous response to Hurricane Katrina: immeasurable death, destruction, anguish, financial ruin and impoverishment, dispersal, heartbreak . . . (To be sure, however, blame rests with both parties for the chronic underfunding of the Army Corps of Engineers that left the city’s levees and outflow canals’ floodwalls compromised.)

The Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), established by President Jimmy Carter in 1979 at the persistent urging of state governors, only functions well when Democrats are in the White House. Democrats take governing and disaster management seriously, and Republicans do not. Bill Clinton’s FEMA director James Lee Witt (1993–2001) and the present director, W. Craig Fugate, are widely respected as disaster response professionals. In Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security (2006), Chris Cooper and Bobby Block survey the sad story of Republican disregard for disaster relief. FEMA’s tardy and disorganized response to Hurricane Andrew (shown above) in August 1992 likely cost President George H. W. Bush many votes in Florida, and beyond. Bill Clinton wrote in My Life (2004):

Traditionally, the job of FEMA director was given to a political supporter of the President who wanted some plum position but who had no experience with emergencies. I made a mental note to avoid that mistake if I won. Voters don’t chose a President based on how he’ll handle disasters, but if they’re faced with one themselves, it quickly becomes the most important issue in their lives.

*

More Tax Cuts for the Rich, While Disaster Relief Is Held Hostage?

Five, six days after the storm, the lights are just coming back on in Mid-City and other parts of New Orleans. It’s 93 degrees, and thousands are still in the dark, without air conditioning.

While Hurricane Isaac was not as destructive as we feared—the reinforced floodwall system around greater New Orleans held up well—this storm’s timing was a reminder that there is one political party that is not to be trusted with disaster management, or with anything else relating to the social safety net. Mitt Romney’s economic plan would reduce non-discretionary spending by 30 percent.

Others have examined the falsehoods in Paul Ryan’s v.p. nomination acceptance speech and the overall dishonesty of the RNC show in Tampa (see here and here). Many have objected to the Republicans’ hypocrisy in blaming a president for failures ensured by their own blocking of every effort at repairing the economy. They filibustered or voted No on all potential remedies to make the public reject Obama. Many independents as well as Democrats and moderate Republicans are put off by the Mad Tea Party–style conservatives’ insistence that nothing good can come of government.

Many of the lies and evasions that concern us most, however, stem from the GOP’s hostility to spending taxpayers’ dollars on programs of direct help to the public, from Medicare and Social Security to FEMA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), which includes the National Hurricane Center and the National Weather Service.

Paul Ryan sounds reassuring when he says, “The truest measure of any society is how it treats those who cannot defend or care for themselves,” but the budgets he has put forth as chair of the House Budget Committee tell another story: You’re on your own.

Tim Murphy of Mother Jones in “What Would Romney-Ryan Mean for FEMA?” surveys the implications for disaster relief in the Ryan budgets—the same ones that would convert Medicare to a privatized “Vouchercare.” Murphy notes that the Ryan budget does not detail specific cuts (just as Mitt Romney avoids specifics), but “the overall math suggests that [the cuts] would be drastic.” In 2011 there were 14 disasters costing over $1 billion in damages, a record high, and with the intensifying climate change that the Republicans refuse to acknowledge, the disasters’ frequency and destructiveness are only going to get worse.

Murphy writes:

“. . . under a Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan administration, FEMA’s ability to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters could be severely inhibited. In a 2012 report on Rep. Paul Ryan’s ‘Path to Prosperity’ roadmap (which Romney has said is similar to his own), the non-partisan Center on Budget and Policy Priorities noted that, due to the severe cuts to non-entitlement, non-defense spending, the costs for things like emergency management would have to be passed on to the states—which, with just a few exceptions, are currently in an even tighter financial bind than Washington.

“FEMA also helps states and local governments repair or replace public facilities and infrastructure, which often is not insured,” the CBPP report explained. ‘This form of discretionary federal aid would be subject to cuts under the Ryan budget. If it were scaled back substantially, states and localities would need to bear a larger share of the costs of disaster response and recovery, or attempt to make do with less during difficult times.’ ”

Pat Garofalo at ThinkProgress describes how Republicans held disaster relief funding hostage several times in 2011, demanding that funding be offset by cuts elsewhere in the budget. “The GOP pulled the same trick when Missouri was hit by a deadly tornado in May, when Virginia was affected by an earthquake, and when Hurricane Irene struck America’s east coast.” Garofalo quotes David Weigel at Slate:

According to the House Appropriation Committee’s summary of the bill, the [GOP’s 2011 continuing resolution] funds Operations, Research and Facilities for the National Oceanic Atmospheric Association with $454.3 million less than it got in FY2010; this represents a $450.3 million cut from what the president’s never-passed FY2011 budget was requesting. The National Weather Service, of course, is part of NOAA—its funding drops by $126 million. The CR also reduces funding for FEMA management by $24.3 million off of the FY2010 budget, and reduces that appropriation by $783.3 million for FEMA state and local programs.

*

We won’t pretend to interpret divine intentions in the timing of the recent hurricanes and other disasters, but we can be thankful for the opportunity to point out to the concerned public that there is one slate of candidates who will not be there for you when a tornado rips through your town, or an earthquake splits your streets. We won’t say (though others may) that natural disasters are God’s way of saying “Vote Democratic,” but don’t you want to be on the safe side?

*

Photo credits: Hurricane Andrew (1992) by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA); downed stop light in New Orleans (2012) by Frederic J. Brown/AFP/Getty Images.



As We Enter 2012, Best Wishes to All

Sunday, January 1st, 2012

May the new year bring you all the good things you wish for.

We’ll be brief with our greetings and good wishes, as last night’s champagne slowly wears off, and as there’s some house-cleaning to do before guests arrive for the New Year’s Day dinner . . .

For all our readers here in the “upper blogosphere” and for everyone beyond, we wish a year of good health to all, steady employment, rewarding work, and, while we’re at it, good luck and bon courage in putting the “progress” in “progressive.”

State. We wish for a calm, boring hurricane season for New Orleans and the Gulf Coast, steady recovery from the wicked hellacious storms of yesteryear, and strong, robust flood protection and generous funding for coastal restoration of the eroding Louisiana coast. We also pray for no BP-style oil spills in the Gulf—or any other kind. 2010’s Deepwater Horizon disaster was enough to last for quite a while, thank you. Let those who are still recovering from that catastrophe find abundant catches of healthy seafood in clean waters, and may those still making their way back home to New Orleans and environs find affordable housing in safe neighborhoods and steady employment.

Nation. The United States has its own peculiar, festering, largely neglected problems amid the stresses of the world. During this 2012 presidential campaign season, which had already overstayed its welcome long ago, we hope that the ideas and priorities generated by the Occupy Wall Street movement will take even stronger hold on the public imagination and find their way into debates, policy, and actual programs. May the good ideas be fulfilled. Let’s keep reminding public officials and reporters and editors that there is a terrible and increasing wealth disparity in this nation, an endangered middle class, and an even more threatened (and growing) population of struggling poor people: our brothers and sisters. We are not holding our breath waiting for Congressional action—we expect nothing but continuing obstruction from one party and particular, and the other party ain’t much better but for a few individual exceptions—but we do detect energy and ideas in the Occupy people across the U.S. and around the world. Good work; keep it going, please. Long live the 99 Percent!

World. Among our wishes for world peace and goodwill among peoples, we wish the citizens and the economies of Europe in particular good luck in finding workable solutions to their ongoing crises, and we wish for renewed energy for all nations’ reformers and progressives. As 2011 was not a good year for despots and dictators, let 2012 be a good year for fair and honest leaders. Looking around the globe, we hope the activists of the Arab Spring will succeed in making a better life for themselves—not forgetting their women—and we pray that cool, sane heads will prevail (this is possible) in Iran and in its foreign relations; good luck to the Green Revolution reformers in that troubled land.

Here at Levees Not War we’ll work hard to bring you, as regularly and steadily as we can, reporting and commentary that is based in reality and in hopes for stronger, durable infrastructure, a healthier and better-sustained environment, and more peace, less war. (Click herehere, and here for New Year’s greetings from previous January 1’s.)

We hope you enjoy this new year, and hope it brings you all the good things you wish for.

Well, we meant to be brief. And now, there’s some more house-cleaning to do . . .

*



Dedra Johnson of ‘The G Bitch Spot’ Wins Rising Tide’s Ashley Award

Wednesday, August 31st, 2011

Each year at the Rising Tide conference on the future of New Orleans the coveted Ashley Award, named in honor of the legendary, larger-than-life Ashley Morris,* is presented to a blogger who has made outstanding contributions to writing about post-Katrina New Orleans.

This year’s winner is Dedra Johnson (right) of The G Bitch Spot, “at which a mad black woman rants about New Orleans, insomnia, teaching, education . . .”, particularly about life in the post-Katrina New Orleans school system. Click here for a video of the presentation, with praise for Dedra by Mark Moseley of The Lens, and here for a special congratulations by someone who knows Dedra well: her husband, Derek Bridges.

To celebrate Dedra’s award and to showcase her strong, no-nonsense writing, we’re showing some samples of her writing. The blog posts chosen have also appeared in A Howling in the Wires: An Anthology of Writing from Postdiluvian New Orleans, edited by Sam Jasper and Mark Folse (Gallatin & Toulouse Press, 2010).

Dedra Johnson is a creative writing teacher and author of Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow (2007), a coming-of-age novel set in 1970s New Orleans. Sandrine’s Letter was praised by Robert Olen Butler as “an important novel by a true artist” and hailed by Frederick Barthelme as “a remarkable debut novel” that conveys “the intricacies of a vexed family life.” Dedra received her MFA degree from the University of Florida, where she was a finalist for the Hurston/Wright Award for College Writers. Sandrine’s Letter to Tomorrow was a runner-up for the William Faulkner–William Wisdom Award in 2006. She is also an AOL travel contributor (see “New Orleans Mythbusters”).

Where You Said You Live At? or Margaritas as Coping Strategy,” posted on March 19, 2006, conveys the fatigue of living in a battered, depopulated city that nearly drowned in floodwaters a half year earlier and is slowly being strangled by bureaucratic red tape and incompetence. This post was selected not only for its evocative prose but because it reflects conditions that persist in many parts of America and may spread with any given natural or unnatural disaster.**

The following is a selection. Click here or on the title above for the full post.

*

Where You Said You Live At? or Margaritas as Coping Strategy  

Why no N.O. news, commentary, rants, pleas? Because it rankles enough to live it, much less reiterate it for the consumption of others. Each front page of the Times-Pic is demoralizing, infuriating—early pundits bashing New Orleanian stupidity in not getting flood insurance when a large percentage HAD flood insurance; every senator and representative bitching and moaning over the Gulf Coast being OK (and needing no more money) since they see clips of the French Quarter up and running on national news then being agog at their first superficial glance of Lakeview (where WHITE people and PROFESSIONAL people lived, not welfare queens and drug dealing pimps specializing in crack whores of all hues) and then the Ninth Ward, not even taking a look at the chaos of half-repaired and completely ignored traffic lights, piles of debris, refrigerators and 3+ weeks’ worth of garbage and a coming election that is plagued by chaos, in-fighting, racial contempt and deep-seated conflict, federal neglect and unprocessed hurt and anger; and the bullshitting cockamamie half-assed amateurish job being done by all decision-makers and -influencers on the local, state and federal level; and then there’s the particular chaos and neglect and fraud and graft that is FEMA.

I’m shattered and nothing happened to my house.

No one is being decisive or honest. Much of the money directed our way in the early days has been wasted. Entergy and LSUHC saw the post-Katrina atmosphere as one in which they could get concessions and privileges no one would give them before—LSUHC closed Charity and University, “furloughed” most of the employees (all while LSU hospital staff were retained and many helped with housing), and claimed the Charity hospital building was unusable and the federal government needed to build a brand new hospital for them; and contractors ran loose and wild with money, squishing the huge amounts they got through more and more subcontractors and therefore smaller funnels until those who actually did the work got paid shit. It offends all my sensibilities, fuels all my social resentments (one, that Entergy, a private for-profit company, owns a utility at all; none of this would’ve happened if we still had NOPSI [New Orleans Public Service, Inc.] b/c there would’ve been no incentive/profit in delaying repairs or service or paperwork gimmicks). Shaw [the Shaw Group, a Fortune 500 construction and engineering firm based in Baton Rouge] made a shitload of money, too. Meanwhile, no one knows what to do while FEMA drags its barely-competent feet on new flood maps and SBA loan requirements and amounts change at random and Burger King pays better than most of the non-construction jobs in town. I feel like my chest is weighed down, and also feel forsaken. Again.

*

* Ashley Morris, Ph.D., who died in 2008, was one of the founders of the Rising Tide conference and an inspiration for the character Creighton Bernette, played by John Goodman, in HBO’s Treme.

** If you think conditions in storm-damaged America may have improved since 2006, just listen to House Majority Leader Eric Cantor [R-Va.] insisting that federal funds for disaster relief after Hurricane Irene should be offset by additional spending cuts.

*

*

Dedra Johnson after being presented with the Ashley Award by Mark Moseley and Leigh Checkman at Rising Tide 6 at Xavier University, August 27, 2011. Photo by Derek Bridges. More RT6 photos here and here.

 *



When Harry Met a Cover-Up:
Shearer Talks about “The Big Uneasy”

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

*

[ cross-posted at Daily Kos ]

We sat down recently with Harry Shearer—that is, we sat down and e-mailed him some questions, and he sat down and wrote some thoughtful replies—to talk about his new film The Big Uneasy, which tells the real story of why New Orleans flooded in Hurricane Katrina. (Click here for the trailer.) Here’s a brief sample:

Q. You’ve said that in President Obama’s 3-hour “drive-through” appearance in New Orleans in October 2009, he used the phrase “natural disaster,” and that that is what prompted you to make this film. Is anyone learning that Katrina itself did not flood the city, but that the levees’ failure is what flooded the city?

Shearer: Very few, very slowly. People sometimes make reference to the levee failure in passing, as if it’s a natural result of a storm like Katrina. But there still seems to be quite low awareness of the conclusion of the two independent investigations that, absent a badly-designed and -built “protection system,” the worst Katrina would have inflicted on New Orleans would have been “wet ankles.”

Q. Had you thought of making a film on this subject before the president’s remarks triggered you? (Somewhere we saw a mention that the idea had occurred to you at the Rising Tide 4 conference, and that you posed the idea but nobody responded and so it was up to you?)

Shearer: No, I don’t recall giving serious thought to it, though I may have mentioned at RT that wresting back control of the narrative of the city’s near-destruction might have required somebody to do such a film. But I’d really not thought of myself as that somebody until I heard the President say something that he patently should have known was not true.

*

Before we continue with the interview, we want to talk a bit about the film. You may not have seen it because it does not yet have a distributor. Harry is working on that. Thus far it has been shown in New Orleans at the Prytania Theater uptown (it premiered before the Rising Tide conference in late August near the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina), and it has run briefly in New York City and Los Angeles. We saw it twice at Manhattan’s IFC  Center (as shown) and want to do all we can to spread the word about this excellent project—particularly to people with connections to film distributors with a social and political conscience.

Leave It to a Jester to Tell the Truth

Harry Shearer is famous as a versatile humorist, writer, and “voice artist” for The Simpsons and as Derek Smalls, the bearded Ringo-like bass player in This Is Spinal Tap, so at first it may not seem that a movie about the flooding of New Orleans would be his natural subject matter. How funny can it be to explain the catastrophic engineering failure that led to the flooding of 80 percent of the city and hundreds of deaths (if not more)? Although The Big Uneasy won’t have audiences rolling in the aisles, this compelling and richly sourced new documentary does clarify the facts about the disaster-within-a-disaster. Misconceptions are corrected. Cover-ups are uncovered. Truths are told. Acts of professional courage are held up to the light.

Shearer’s comic talent is for real, but his seriousness is authentic, too, as anyone knows who has read his Huffington Post blog pieces over the past several years or listened to his weekly radio program Le Show (KCRW, Los Angeles). He explains in the opening reel that he is a part-time New Orleanian. Through his work with Levees.org (no relation) and his blogging and other efforts he has helped keep the spotlight on his adopted city’s predicament with a commitment and persistence that should earn him some kind of Honorary Full-Time Citizenship award. You’ll understand why when you see The Big Uneasy.

In a recent post on HuffPo Shearer acknowledged that it’s ironic that “a damn comedy actor” should be taking up the untold story:

. . . the story that the flooding was a man-made catastrophe that developed over four and a half decades under administrations of both parties, and the story from a whistleblower inside the Corps of Engineers that the “new, improved” system for protecting New Orleans may right now be fatally flawed. . . . given that lapse among the professional journalists, it was up to a damn comedy actor to piece together the material that’s been sitting there, on the public record, all this time . . .

A review in New York magazine by David Edelstein said it well:

By the end of The Big Uneasy, I came to appreciate [Shearer’s] self-effacement. He’s not a filmmaker or an investigative journalist. He’s not really in his element here. He just, finally, couldn’t stand by and hear “natural disaster” one more time without picking up a camera and, like his protagonists, doing his civic duty for the city he loves so deeply.

Get This: The Flooding Was Not a Natural Disaster

The Big Uneasy is a feature film–length documentary about how and why New Orleans was flooded during Hurricane Katrina. It happened not because Katrina was so overwhelming: although it had been a Category 5 storm in the Gulf, Katrina was only about a Category 1.5 hurricane when it blew past (not straight through) New Orleans, sparing the city the brunt of the storm. The city flooded because of engineering failures in the federally built levees and walls of outflow canals that gave way under pressure even before the storm’s winds did their worst. The film draws on engineers’ reports, postmortem studies, and never-before-seen amateur video footage to show the flooding was not a natural but a man-made disaster. It was not inevitable. Contrary to predictable official claims that the storm was simply overwhelming and the levees were never designed to hold a storm of such magnitude, the flooding resulted from inferior engineering—a point that Ivor van Heerden (right) of the LSU Hurricane Center began speaking out about very soon after the storm passed.

(more…)



Venice (Calif.) Hearts Venice (La.)

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010

*

9/21 Rock and Rally for Victims of Oil Spill (with live stream)

A benefit concert to aid citizens of Venice, Louisiana, and help with restoration of the BP oil–stricken Gulf Coast. The fund-raiser is the idea of Melissa McGinnis (in video below), host of the hit “green” web series Greenopolis TV. The event is sponsored by the Whole Foods Market in Venice, California, and supported by surrounding communities to help their sister coastal town in Louisiana. From Venice for Venice’s web site:

Join us on September 21st at the Air Conditioned Supper Club in Venice, Calif. from 8 p.m. to 2 a.m. for a great night of live music from several local bands and performers such as Adam Darling, Christopher Hawley Rollers, Love in the Circus, Velvet Nation, Leftover Cuties, members of the Lumanaries and The Gumbo Brothers. Door charge of $10, all of which goes to the Venice for Venice fund. More about the bands here.

Venice, Louisiana is one of the cities hardest hit by the recent devastating oil spill. Many families there have not yet received any compensation from either BP or the government and are without a source of income.

Make PayPal donations to the fund-raiser here.

Thank you, California. With love from Louisiana.

*



9/11 “Battle of New Orleans” Joins Victims of BP Oil Spill, Exxon Valdez, Hurricanes, and 9/11 First Responders

Friday, September 10th, 2010

[ The following press release is presented as a public service announcement ]

NEW ORLEANS — In a historic gathering, Gulf Coast residents devastated by the BP oil spill will join 9/11 first responders, victims of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, and survivors of hurricanes Katrina and Rita to share lessons on preparing for future disasters from 1:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, Sept. 11, 2010. The event starts with a 1:30 meetup at the Creole Queen riverboat at the foot of Canal Street. (See schedule below.)

Outraged by what they believe is BP and the government’s inappropriate and slow response to the Gulf oil spill, this event will, for the first time, join concerned citizens with non-profit organizations for an exchange of ideas on community-led action, in response to the immediate and long-term health, environmental and economic impacts of the BP oil disaster.

(more…)



Launching Midterm Campaign, Obama Mocks Republican Recklessness

Wednesday, September 8th, 2010

*

“We are united. We are strong. That’s why they call them unions.”

President Obama was in full campaign mode as he rallied a lively Labor Day crowd of some 5,000 supporters at Milwaukee’s LaborFest on Monday, Sept. 6. First he talked about what the administration and Democrats in Congress have achieved, then proposed “a new plan for rebuilding and modernizing America’s roads and rails and runways for the long term.” We’ll have more to say in the next day or so about his impressive pitch for a National Infrastructure Bank. Meanwhile, here’s what he had to say about the Republicans who think they deserve another turn at the wheel. (The quoted passage begins at about 45:30 in the video.)

“They drove our economy into a ditch. And we got in there and put on our boots and we pushed and we shoved. And we were sweating and these guys were standing, watching us and sipping on a Slurpee. [Laughter.] And they were pointing at us saying, how come you’re not pushing harder, how come you’re not pushing faster? And then when we finally got the car up—and it’s got a few dings and a few dents, it’s got some mud on it, we’re going to have to do some work on it—they point to everybody and say, look what these guys did to your car. [Laughter.] After we got it out of the ditch! And then they got the nerve to ask for the keys back! I don’t want to give them the keys back. They don’t know how to drive.”

And there’s more, much more.

You go, Barack. This is the kind of punch in the face of the Party of No we’ve been starving for for a year and a half.



Celebrity Sighting: Levees Not War Meets FEMA’s Fugate

Monday, August 30th, 2010

Tomorrow we’ll post some comments on President Obama’s remarks at Xavier University on the fifth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina. But first, allow us to babble excitedly about the public-safety-and-disaster geek’s idea of a celebrity sighting:

After all the luminaries at the fab Rising Tide conference this weekend we didn’t think we could be any more dazzled, until yesterday at the New Orleans airport we bumped into FEMA administrator W. Craig Fugate and his wife on their way back to Washington following the president’s speech. Sweet serendipity. We talked for a few minutes, told him Levees Not War has hailed his appointment as FEMA administrator—a return to the good old days of experience + competence that FEMA knew during the 1990s—and asked if we can interview him sometime. You see, Mr. Fugate, Levees Not War has interviewed Ivor van Heerden and Mark Schleifstein and other experts on the environment, infrastructure, and public safety, and we’d sincerely love to hear what you have to say after more than a year on the job. Mr. Fugate (pron. FEW-gate) graciously agreed, and we’ll be following up soon. In the meantime, you can see Deborah Solomon’s interview with “The Storm Tracker” in the Aug. 29 New York Times Magazine. He was tickled to hear that we used a photo of him paddling in his kayak (below), his home away from home; this may be why he agreed to an interview. Before parting, we wished each other a boring hurricane season.

A FEMA Administrator Who Tweets

Fugate, a former fireman and paramedic, directed Florida’s Division of Emergency Management from 2001 until his appointment to FEMA in 2009. Until 2009, James Lee Witt, FEMA administrator under President Clinton, was the most well qualified and admired director in the agency’s otherwise troubled history since its founding in the Carter years. Witt had been the emergency director for the state of Arkansas, and praise for his nimble and proactive emergency preparedness and response was bipartisan and pretty well unanimous. Florida native Fugate’s familiarity with hurricanes, however, certainly surpasses that of his celebrated predecessor, and he has won praise for, among other things, his insistence that individuals and families do as much as possible to help themselves by stocking up with emergency supplies and working out a plan for evacuation and communications. See his tweets about preparedness and staying alert about oncoming tropical storms here at In Case of Emergency, Read Blog.

Never anticipating we’d bump into him in an airport, we wrote here in May 2009 after Fugate was confirmed:

Obama’s nomination of Fugate to head FEMA exemplifies a restoration of trust in government and illustrates the difference between Democratic and Republican views of how elected officials should function. It is because Obama has largely chosen very highly qualified individuals for the federal agencies that Americans are consistently reporting to pollsters a renewed confidence in the integrity of government and a sense that the nation is moving in the right direction.

Stay tuned for more Fugate and FEMA reporting. Till then, you can read previous Fugate posts and our interview with Chris Cooper and Robert Block, authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security, which explains in compelling detail why FEMA and public safety demand a competent, experienced administrator, and what happens when those qualities are lacking. (Cooper and Block were the keynote speakers at the first Rising Tide conference in August 2006.)

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

More Praise for Craig Fugate as FEMA Director-Nominee

Fugate Confirmed for FEMA: Help Is on the Way

Interview with Christopher Cooper and Robert Block, authors of Disaster: Hurricane Katrina and the Failure of Homeland Security