Monday, September 05, 2005

What They Knew and When They Knew It

This morning I make my usual stop over at Making Light and I read this. Now, I've been muttering since early last week about the Mayor of N.O. being more culpible than most folk are saying. (I noted on Wednesday that I felt there should be a tradition of Mayors going down with their cities). Apparently in July of this year the New Orleans Times Picayune printed an article which is provided in part here.

The blog to which this comment is attached is called Lenin's Tomb. Now I would have laid odds a couple weeks ago that I would never be getting my news from- heck, even reading - a blog called Lenin's Tomb. And even now I'm uncomforatable relying on it as the single source of I Google a key phrase and yep, a few more blogs are covering it, this one named Attytood has a chunk of the article as well apparently from Nexis. For $3.00 I looked it up myself. Yep, it's all there. For example:

Truehill, Wilkins and others said emergency preparedness officials still plan to deploy some Regional Transit Authority buses, school buses and perhaps even Amtrak trains to move some people before a storm.

An RTA emergency plan dedicates 64 buses and 10 lift vans to move people somewhere; whether that means out of town or to local shelters of last resort would depend on emergency planners' decision at that moment, RTA spokeswoman Rosalind Cook said.

But even the larger buses hold only about 60 people each, a rescue capacity that is dwarfed by the unmet need.

In an interview at the opening of this year's hurricane season, New Orleans Emergency Preparedness Director Joseph Matthews acknowledged that the city is overmatched.

"It's important to emphasize that we just don't have the resources to take everybody out," he said in a interview in late May.

So the city leaders knew exactly what was going to happen when they heard Katrina was heading their way. Well, at least they knew that the poorest would not be transported to safety. I'll go so far as to give them the benefit of the doubt about the levees, although, deep down, they probably knew the levees weren't going to hold. Kinda puts a different spin on some of the outrage heard in the Mayor's voice when you read this.

And I fully agree when the writer of that post says:
"Still I wonder why I had to discover this myself. I did not find it in any of the major news outlets, and never heard a peep about it in the major newspapers."

I don't know if it's because folks are unwilling to hit a guy when he's down or some other more, uh, let us say "PC" reasons, but I'm glad to finally see some recognition that the Mayor and other city officials had some accountablility for the lack of appropriate response. I mean, if you knew in advance that it was going to be this bad -- and you had a YEAR to think about it (since the "Pam" event) why didn't you organize the churches and community leaders? Nope, instead they produce a DVD (that wasn't due to be distributed until September) that basically says "you're on your own". I mean, each community could have had folks trained to drive a school bus out of town - instead, this is how those buses ended up. I mean that 18 year old kid did it and he wasn't trained!

The Mayor's a Democrat (although apparently one of recent vintage), I understand that folks would want to be supportive of their own. I'm OK with that. I don't disagree that the federal government deserves to shoulder a huge amount of the blame. FEMA's response was a bizarre bureaucratic nightmare and I won't disagree that the head of FEMA is an idiot, a badly bungled political appointment. The president isn't off the hookwith me either. Ultimately he is accountable for the action/inaction of his government. BUT let's not let anyone off the hook who is culpable if we're going to be pointing fingers (and really, everywhere I look there are digits pointing, mostly at the feds).

My feelings about Hizzonor Nagin appear to have been accurate. What I would give to get my hands on a copy of the soon to be infamous DVD. I hope it was finished and someone can and will upload it on the net where we can all watch.

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