Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Hurricane Katrina: A round-up of analysis

The one-year anniversary of Katrina -- and the fact that rebuilding is proceeding at a snail's pace -- has produced some good reporting and opinion pieces, along with some detailed analysis.

The Washington Post reports on the problems local governments affected by the storm have in getting money from FEMA. According to the Post, FEMA has quibbled over paying for everything from removing dead trees to repairing water and sewer systems. The Post sums up the problem:
Current and former officials at all levels blame FEMA workers' inexperience with eligibility rules, weaknesses in U.S. disaster laws and inconsistent treatment by Congress for much of the wrangling. The huge scale of the storm and honest disagreement over whether federal or local taxpayers should pay the tab add to the conflict.
The Post article also adds these observations from David A. Craig, former chief of recovery operations for FEMA who left last October and now consults for New Orleans:
Disasters should be difficult to declare. . . . But once you get them, FEMA should not worry about cutting costs. . . . Public entities are eligible for everything they have lost due to the disaster. It is not up to FEMA to cut corners or makes sure money is saved.
Craig is just one of the many experienced people who have left FEMA.

NOW President Kim Gandy takes a cynical look at the post-Katrina situation in her regular online column:
Pardon my cynicism, but has it occurred to anyone that Bush's "mismanagement" of the Katrina aftermath actually accomplished longstanding political goals while benefiting his political allies?
Gandy goes on to list the money paid to Halliburton and other major Republican-friendly corporations for disaster work and suggests the Bush administration is using Katrina-related expenses as an excuse to cut other social services programs. She also speculates that the slow recovery works in Republican favor, since it has kept a lot of African Americans from returning home.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, Tom Paine.com has a good wrap up called Katrina: The Continuing Storm. Tom Paine is not a latecomer to the debate -- the first article in their compilation is dated Sept. 1, 2005, and they have been regularly addressing the Katrina problems ever since.

One piece that really caught my eye is by Lester Brown of the Earth Policy Institute. Brown reminds us that Katrina forced a major evacuation -- one we might have expected to see in another country, but not in the US:
Hurricane Katrina, which made landfall in late August 2005, forced a million people from New Orleans and the small towns on the Mississippi and Louisiana coasts to move inland either within their state or to neighboring states, such as Texas and Arkansas. Although nearly all planned to return, many have not.
And he suggests that this is an omen of future population shifts due to climate problems.

Brown's article led me to a special analysis (PDF) by the Brookings Institution, which provides an excellent overview of the current situation. The conclusion summarizes:
One year after the storm, New Orleans is showing signs of early promise. The housing market is beginning to turn. Half of the major hospitals in the city are now seeing patients and more public schools, including a spate of new charter schools, are slated for opening this fall. Business and visitor travel to the region are fast approaching pre-Katrina levels, helping to bolster the region's tax base and economy.

But the majority of the indicators are troubling. The level of basic city services and infrastructure remain thin, does not cover all neighborhoods, and has yet to strengthen overall in the past six months. Affordable, rental housing is critical for workers, and the employers who rely on them, and yet that seems increasingly out of reach. Job growth has inched upward but so has the unemployment rate, sending mixed signals about worker security.

1 comment:

Jamie Lynk, Sarasota, FL said...

It’s just politics, as usual:

Yesterday when Ernesto was heading toward South Florida, the Florida Emergency Management team went on TV/Radio and assured the people how prepared they were; that the Governor had already declared Ernesto an “emergency” and that elements of the National Guard were in place to immediately respond in the aftermath. Governor Jeb Bush (yep, the brother of the Prez) and Michael Chertoff (Secretary of Homeland Security) were there to make these assurances.

While these assurances were being made, Ernesto had just left Cuba and was in the Florida Straits…first as a “Tropical Depression” and then barely a “Tropical Storm” with weak 45-mph winds when making landfall yesterday. I will concede that Miami is about 90-miles from Cuba and nobody was sure if and how much the warm waters of the Florida Straits would reinvigorate Ernesto.

Yet, how do we rate the Head of Homeland Security at a press conference which was supposedly of interest only to Floridians -- especially, when NOT ONE national politico left Washington to re-assure the peoples of Louisiana (or Mississippi) about hurricane preparations for KATRINA. Wow, Tropical Storm vs. a Category 5/4 Hurricane. So, maybe we “rated” because Jeb is George’s brother; maybe it’s because Florida is a “Red” state; or maybe it’s because the mid-term elections for a US-Senate-slot and for Governor have a good chance of electing Democrats. Ah, yes - Just politics as usual.