Thursday, September 08, 2005

In the You Reap What You Sow Department

Here's a timeline that outlines the fate of both FEMA and flood control projects in New Orleans under the Bush administration. I received this in an e-mail and thought it was worth passing on. Feel free to comment.

January 2001: Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas, as head of FEMA. Allbaugh has no previous experience in disaster management.

April 2001: Budget Director Mitch Daniels announces the Bush administration's goal of privatizing much of FEMA's work. In May, Allbaugh confirms that FEMA will be downsized: "Many are concerned that federal disaster assistance may have evolved into both an oversized entitlement program...." he said. "Expectations of when the federal government should be involved and the degree of involvement may have ballooned beyond what is an appropriate level."

2001: FEMA designates a major hurricane hitting New Orleans as one of the three "likeliest, most catastrophic disasters facing this country."

December 2002: After less than two years at FEMA, Allbaugh announces he is leaving to start up a consulting firm that advises companies seeking to do business in Iraq. He is succeeded by his deputy, Michael Brown, who, like Allbaugh, has no previous experience in disaster management.

March 2003: FEMA is downgraded from a cabinet level position and folded into the Department of Homeland Security. Its mission is refocused on fighting acts of terrorism.

2003: Under its new organization chart within DHS, FEMA's preparation and planning functions are reassigned to a new Office of Preparedness and Response. FEMA will henceforth focus only on response and recovery.

Summer 2004: FEMA denies Louisiana's pre-disaster mitigation funding requests. Says Jefferson Parish flood zone manager Tom Rodrigue: "You would think we would get maximum consideration....This is what the grant program called for. We were more than qualified for it."

June 2004: The Army Corps of Engineers budget for levee construction in New Orleans is slashed. Jefferson Parish emergency management chiefs Walter Maestri comments: "It appears that the money has been moved in the president's budget to handle homeland security and the war in Iraq, and I suppose that's the price we pay."

June 2005: Funding for the New Orleans district of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is cut by a record $71.2 million. One of the hardest-hit areas is the Southeast Louisiana Urban Flood Control Project, which was created after the May 1995 flood to improve drainage in Jefferson, Orleans and St. Tammany parishes.

August 2005:
While New Orleans is undergoing a slow motion catastrophe, Bush mugs for the cameras, cuts a cake for John McCain, plays the guitar for Mark Wills, delivers an address about V-J day, and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers only a photo op on Air Force One and a flat, defensive, laundry list speech in the Rose Garden.

I am not offering the above to kick our country's leader in the wake of a national disaster. And while it is easy to Monday morning quarterback this thing, I do think that there are countless valuable lessons to be learned at every level of government about prudence and priorities. Whether it's disaster preparedness or a rainy day fund, the time almost always comes to pay the piper.


At September 7, 2005 at 11:30 PM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...

The most egregious item of all was your statement that you weren't offering this information to "kick our country's leader in the wake of a catastrophe."

Of course you were.

The fact is that if Bush hadn't put these cronies in, then Gore and Kerry would have put their cronies in - and they would have been no better.

Bush, for all his shortcomings in this matter, looks like a genius in comparison to the inept Mayor and dishrag governor, who bear the brunt of the responsibility for the massive failures of leadership before and immediately after the storm.

Funding cuts? Sure they were miguided. Here in IL, pork pig Hastert got us a $4.8 million idiot project to "cap the Ike" along with numerous other projects for the pigs feeding at the trough.

I'm noticing in today's Trib (which seems to be shocked! shocked!) that incompetent boobs are placed in positions of authority...based upon nothing other than sucking up to the Cook County Duke of Dukey.

I'll take your carping about Bush's FEMA appointments when I see you calling for Stroger to step down.

FEMA, like every other bureaucracy created out of some fake or real "crisis." is only there to act as a sponge for the massive spilling of taxpayer funds.

You want to avoid another Hugo, Andrew or New Orleans? It's simple.

1. Shut down all the state & federal monies going to these engines of waste.

2. Give 1/2 back the taxpayer and the other half to the military

3. Enact legislation allowing the President to declare disaster areas and place them under provisional Martial Law 48 hours BEFORE landfall.

4. Move the State's Guards in with pumps, generators, shelters, etc. and give them temporary control over police & fire.


You get the idea. The corruption of $600 toilet seats is a drop in the bucket compared to the waste in FEMA or other bureacracies.

The military has a chain of command, and bad decisions cause firings, not larger budgets for larger failures next time around.


Of course, the first person who actually does this will be branded a "fascist" and suffer even worse fates at the hands of opportunistic politicians - who wouldn't think of kicking "our country's leader in the wake of a catastrophe."

You are smart enough to know how all this works. If you are in a "Damned if you do, Damned if you don't" situation, "don't" is always the better option for bureaucrat or politician.

That's the world that your party created and my party is making worse. If you want to really blame some one (and this is for all of you reading) look in the mirror.

At September 8, 2005 at 8:13 AM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

First off, I actually appreciate your comments. What you miss is that, having been born down in Louisiana, I have some strong feelings on this. My comments are not my using an easy chance to take a shot at Bush; they would have been essentially the same if there was a Democrat in the White House who had engaged in the same pattern and practice.

My point and yours are not too dissimilar. Whether it's disaster preparedness or pension funding, poor short term funding 'priorities' can lead to very bad long term consequences.

At September 8, 2005 at 8:18 AM, Blogger Rep. John Fritchey said...

And having just reread the last paragraph of my original post, I actually think that I made that pretty clear.

At September 8, 2005 at 11:52 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

>My comments are not my using an
>easy chance to take a shot at Bush

I beg to differ. Consider:

Bush appoints Joe Allbaugh, a crony from Texas

Bush mugs for the cameras,
cuts a cake for John McCain,
plays the guitar for Mark Wills, []
and continues with his vacation. When he finally gets around to acknowledging the scope of the unfolding disaster, he delivers
only a photo op on Air Force One

As a critical thinker, and non partisan, I personally believe you could have made your stated point about disaster preparedness without the above Bush commentary.

To then immediately state you are not 'taking a shot at Bush' is really disingenuous. Clearly, you are. Which is fine, it is your blog to do your will. But don't patronize me by telling me you are not.

(Please do not intrepret by comments here as endorsing Bush's actions on my part)

And Wisdom is right...are you going to take a stand against cronyism in Illinois/Chicago to see that this never happens here?

At September 8, 2005 at 12:27 PM, Blogger Hon. John Fritchey said...

Your point is well taken, and as I now clarified in the post (and should have done in the first place), I was passing on something that was sent to me. I could have made the same point without the pointed language, but candidly, thought that the timeline was still a good way to set forth the bigger issue of what happens when we roll the long-term dice in the name of short-term expediency.

And while this probably isn't the time to fully take on this part of the issue, I think that my leadership and record on state and local gov't ethics and campaign finance issues is pretty solid , even through last session when I worked with Rep. Colvin to pass legislation aimed at bogus minority contracts, and went public with a push to remove the shroud of secrecy from the office of the Inspector General.

You are not going to find any of the 'insiders' who are real enamored of my work on these issues. Trust me on this one.

At September 8, 2005 at 9:26 PM, Blogger Extreme Wisdom said...


I was wondering what your comment on this article might be. It's from the Washington Post - which we all know is a tool of the VRCW.

Money Flowed to Questionable Projects

"Before Hurricane Katrina breached a levee on the New Orleans Industrial Canal, the Army Corps of Engineers had already launched a $748 million construction project at that very location. But the project had nothing to do with flood control. The Corps was building a huge new lock for the canal, an effort to accommodate steadily increasing barge traffic.

Except that barge traffic on the canal has been steadily decreasing.

In Katrina's wake, Louisiana politicians and other critics have complained about paltry funding for the Army Corps in general and Louisiana projects in particular. But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large.

Much of that Louisiana money was spent to try to keep low-lying New Orleans dry. But hundreds of millions of dollars have gone to unrelated water projects demanded by the state's congressional delegation and approved by the Corps, often after economic analyses that turned out to be inaccurate. Despite a series of independent investigations criticizing Army Corps construction projects as wasteful pork-barrel spending, Louisiana's representatives have kept bringing home the bacon.

For example, after a $194 million deepening project for the Port of Iberia flunked a Corps cost-benefit analysis, Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-La.) tucked language into an emergency Iraq spending bill ordering the agency to redo its calculations. The Corps also spends tens of millions of dollars a year dredging little-used waterways such as the Mississippi River Gulf Outlet, the Atchafalaya River and the Red River -- now known as the J. Bennett Johnston Waterway, in honor of the project's congressional godfather -- for barge traffic that is less than forecast."


The money quote...

"But over the five years of President Bush's administration, Louisiana has received far more money for Corps civil works projects than any other state, about $1.9 billion; California was a distant second with less than $1.4 billion, even though its population is more than seven times as large."


Bring on the Commission. I want to see how this one turns out.

At September 9, 2005 at 7:41 AM, Blogger JohnGalt said...

You just can't tell who is jerking your chain these days.

Politicians will tell you they are for freedom while they are enslaving you. The sad fact is they don't even realize they are enslaving you. They think they are protecting you. And so do the voters.

Then the media tries to tell a story objectively. Problem is they lost their sense of objectivity decades ago, but don't know it. Anyone who can think critically and unbiasedly can challenge just about any media assertion.

So who do you trust? Only people that have the same opinion as you, apprently. Unfortunately, this starts skewing your thinking (How could McGovern have lost in '72? Everyone I know voted for him...) and instead of becoming more educated and open minded, your circle starts reenforcing your beliefs, and you start believing your own press releases.


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