Wednesday, September 28, 2005

He Said, She Said

She Said:

"Under the provisions of Section 501 (a) of the Robert T. Stafford Disaster Relief and Emergency Assistance Act, 42 U.S.C. §§ 5121-5206 (Stafford Act), and implemented by 44 CFR § 206.35, I request that you declare an emergency for the State of Louisiana due to Hurricane Katrina for the time period beginning August 26, 2005, and continuing. The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area and the mid state Interstate I-49 corridor and northern parishes along the I-20 corridor that are accepting the thousands of citizens evacuating from the areas expecting to be flooded as a result of Hurricane Katrina."

--Letter requesting emergency status written by Gov. Kathleen Blanco, August 27,2005

He Said:

"The President's action authorizes the Department of Homeland Security, Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), to coordinate all disaster relief efforts which have the purpose of alleviating the hardship and suffering caused by the emergency on the local population, and to provide appropriate assistance for required emergency measures, authorized under Title V of the Stafford Act, to save lives, protect property and public health and safety, or to lessen or avert the threat of a catastrophe in the parishes of Allen, Avoyelles, Beauregard, Bienville, Bossier, Caddo, Caldwell, Claiborne, Catahoula, Concordia, De Soto, East Baton Rouge, East Carroll, East Feliciana, Evangeline, Franklin, Grant, Jackson, LaSalle, Lincoln, Livingston, Madison, Morehouse, Natchitoches, Pointe Coupee, Ouachita, Rapides, Red River, Richland, Sabine, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tensas, Union, Vernon, Webster, West Carroll, West Feliciana, and Winn."
--White House Statement on Federal Emergency Assistance for Louisiana, August 27. 2005

So what, you ask? So this: If you locate these parishes on a map of Louisiana, you'll notice that it excludes Orleans, St. Bernard, St. Tammany, Plaquemines, Jefferson and basically every coastal parish, and the next parishes closest to the coast.

In other words, The locations that would be hit hardest by Katrina

This is old news. If you go to Tom Tomorrow's website you can find a map showing this in detail. A later news release includes the missing parishes. The rescue effort was not hindered in any way by this error. By other things, yeah, but not by this.

It's obviously a mistake. The sort of stupid thing that happens when you've got a whole bunch of things to do. It should be no big deal.

Yesterday, Heckuva Job Brownie appeared in front of a committee nearly entirely made up of Republican lawmakers to answer questions about his and his agency's response--or lack thereof--to Hurricane Katrina. Rep. Steven Buyer, a Republican from Indiana, asked him about the discrepancy:
"BUYER: I would like to ask some questions about the pre- landfall. So I'd like to know why did the president's federal emergency assistance declaration of August 27th not include the parishes of Orleans, Jefferson and Plaquemines?

BROWN: Under the law, the governor makes the request for the declaration and the governors of the states specify what areas, what counties they want included in that declaration.

And, based upon the governor's request, that's the recommendation that we make to the president. So if a governor does not request a particular county or a particular parish, that's not included in the request.

BUYER: All right.

Orleans Parish is New Orleans. I was listening to my colleague, Mr. Jefferson's, questions about when they talked about, you know, they asked for this assistance for three days and then president responded the very next day, not the day that it was made -- the request -- but the governor of Louisiana actually excluded New Orleans from the president's federal emergency assistance declaration?


There it is. A direct question about the omission. How to handle it?

How about the truth: "Well, Congressman, Governor Blanco's request didn't mention parishes by name. She mentioned New Orleans, and the southern parishes. At FEMA, our procedure is to name all affected counties or parishes specifically when declaring emergencies. Somewhere along the way, our press office goofed and left those parishes off. As soon as we discovered our error, we rewrote the release."

There. A simple procedural error. Hell, he could have even scored some points: "This is the sort of minor, nit-picky questioning that truly hinders the process. It was, in the scheme of things, a tiny little insigificant. Everyone was too busy trying to co-ordinate relief efforts on a massive scale to proofread. It didn't hinder rescue efforts in New Orleans. This is playing 'Gotcha.'" In fact, Governor Blanco should have been aware of the procedures as outlined in the Stafford act when she first sent us the request. This is the sort of things that FEMA regularly encountered when trying to co-ordinate relief and rescue efforts"

Ooooo-SNAP! That would have been a slam dunk for Brownie. Turn a negative into a positive, and still find a way to blame the locals.

Too bad he didn't say it.

Here's what he did say:
BROWN: Again, Congressman, we looked at the request. The governors make the request by...

BUYER: Let me ask this. Since you went through the exercise in Pam, was that not shocking to you that the governor would excluded New Orleans from the declaration?


BUYER: When that request came in excluding these three parishes, did you question it?

BROWN: We questioned it. But I made the decision that we were going to go ahead and move assets in regardless because we have the ability to add those parishes...

BUYER: Regardless. Define regardless to me. What does that mean?

BROWN: Well, under the Stafford Act, once that declaration is made under the delegation of authorities, the director of FEMA can add counties on."

Waitaminnit. Rereading the Governor's request, you see she specifically states: The affected areas are all the southeastern parishes including the New Orleans Metropolitan area... but these guys are acting like she didn't request it?


So we have a Republican Representitive tossing up softball lies for Brownie to whack out of the park. There's nothing resembling the truth here.

Why isn't this perjury? Why is this man still employed by FEMA?

What is the lesson to be learned about this man, this administration?



Blogger steff81 said...

Know you guys are like a club, but just wanted to let Philip know I'm still dropping in and "getting informed."
Though actually I did see a little bit of this guy's hearing (the right word?) on the news this morning and he sounded really defensive.
People should accept blame or praise when it's due. And it kind of turned my corn flakes when he said he'd be a martyr if it'd restore people's opinion of FEMA.

3:54 PM, September 28, 2005  
Blogger Philip Morton said...

steff81: First of all, love "turn my cornflakes" and will have to use that from now on. The club thing only comes from people who have the opportunity to drop by a lot and post, which does feel great to us as we know there's a community out there, but it should not put anyone off, as it's really not meant to be exclusionary in any way. In fact I'm trying to get a good frient, a great writer who's a Republican, to join me here and rant, as she's very very burned out and paranoid. Anyway, as to your point - you're exactly right. And this guy lied under oath. Not a good guy.

5:36 PM, September 28, 2005  

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