My friend Gary W. Heinz wrote this. I was in the process of writing a very similar story about my old home town in Jersey — but I could not have said it better than this. Thanks for letting me share this Gary — Granger Whitelaw
If you had asked me a week or so ago whether I would ever write a post about FEMA, I’d ask you what you were smoking or drinking! A lot has changed since then wi
While the American spirit is alive and strong as evidenced by companies like San Antonio’s CPS and many other energy companies around the country sending workers to the Northeast to pitch in and help restore power, it’s also pretty clear that FEMA was not prepared for this storm even though it was talked about and tracked for days before. Gas, water and food shortages in the 21st century should not occur. Basically, a division of the Federal Government with a $5.8 billion budget is failing just as it did seven years ago under Bush during Katrina. Politics and pride have gotten in the way of commonsense and efficiency and Romney’s call in the debate for FEMA to be decentralized to the state level (and the private sector as it relates to flood insurance), while taking a lot of criticism given Sandy, probably makes the most sense in order to get politics out of the way of helping people.
Both Bush and Obama used these disasters to try to show their compassion and increase their stature with flyovers and visits of the Southeast and Northeast. While I’m sure they genuinely cared, when the problems remain long after the photo op pictures are developed and circulated, the whole thing doesn’t seem very genuine at all. Chris Christie, who has been doing an amazing job so far, got caught up in all of this with his flyover and photo op with Obama. Clearly it was a waste of time because there is still people without power and gas.
FEMA is set up in a way that gives the Governor of a particular state the ability to declare a state of emergency in a particular area and then request from the President a federal response. Of course, there is no doubt that Katrina and Sandy were qualified to receive FEMA assistance and Christie would do what any Governor in his situation would do. The simple fact remains though that that a President can still say “no” to a Governor’s request. This means that the system is, by its nature, political and therefore a bit screwed up. Most unfortunate, like most government bureaucracies, the FEMA system is very inefficient and causes unnecessary delays. Finally, the fact that FEMA isn’t very good at responding as shown in disasters of the last ten years means there must be a better approach.
For proof of this, one needs to look no further than a recent incident with Mayor Bloomberg. During a recent tour of the devastation, he didn’t have multiple rings of Secret Service agents to keep away the suffering citizens who felt that government (National, State and City) wasn’t doing its job properly and who fervently voiced their opinions. The reality is that if Bloomberg was truly in charge of the response, or Chris Christie, things would happen much faster and more efficiently. Since they are beholden to the whims of a multi-billion dollar agency that is ironically prone to not be prepared, they end up getting the complaints from those affected.
Perhaps, giving the money to the states via bloc grants, is the better approach. We could save $5.8 billion right off the bat or a least a large portion of that. I have more faith in someone like Bloomberg or Christie who are on the ground and feeling the heat form their constituents fixing a problem by allocating resources more efficiently than I do with a bunch of folks in D.C.
The most telling story of FEMA is one that circulated years after Katrina that amazes me to this day of money being storing, moving and ultimately melting unused ice. ((http://www.cbsnews.com/2100-201_162-3058982.html). To put it in perspective, this $12.5mm could have provided about 2,500 children a scholarship to an inner city parochial school or at least provided 12.5 million American’s with a dollar less in taxes! I know that Christie would spend that $12.5 million on children rather than moving around frozen water.