Friday, September 02, 2005

Trading public safety
for tax cuts

For those of her readers perplexed by the slow response of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to the disaster on the Gulf Coast, your blogstress suggests a look at a prescient piece of journalism done nearly a year ago by Jon Elliston in the Orlando Weekly. In his article, Disaster in the Making, Elliston reported:

[L]ong before this hurricane season, some emergency managers inside and outside of government started sounding an alarm that still rings loudly. Bush administration policy changes and budget cuts, they say, are sapping FEMA's long-term ability to cushion the blow of hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, tornados, wildfires and other natural disasters.

Among emergency specialists, "mitigation" – measures taken in advance to minimize damage caused by natural disasters – is a crucial part of the strategy to save lives and cut recovery costs. But since 2001, key federal disaster mitigation programs, developed over many years, have been slashed and tossed aside. FEMA's Project Impact, a model mitigation program created under Clinton, has been canceled outright. Federal funding of post-disaster mitigation efforts designed to protect people and property from the next disaster has been cut in half, and now, communities across the country must compete for pre-disaster mitigation dollars.

On Bella Ciao, Chris Sal posts a number of snips with informative links, including this from the Elliston piece as it ran in the Gambit Weekly at The Best of New Orleans on September 29, 2004:

[Walter] Maestri [director of Jefferson Parish’s Office of Emergency Management] is still awaiting word from FEMA officials as to why Louisiana, despite being called the "floodplain of the nation" in a 2002 FEMA report, received no disaster mitigation grant money from FEMA in 2003 ("Homeland Insecurity," Sept. 28). Maestri says the rejection left emergency officials around the state "flabbergasted."

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