Friday, September 09, 2005

Mayor Nagin's ineptitude during the disaster is starting to border on the least manslaughter

From the Houston Chronicle story, City had evacuation plan but strayed from strategy:

First this:

Hospitals were exempted from the mayor's mandatory evacuation order. But at least two public hospitals, loaded with more than 1,000 caregivers and patients, had their generators in their basements, which made them vulnerable in a flood. That violated the state's hurricane plan but had gone uncorrected for years because the hospitals did not have the money to fix the situation, a state university hospital official told the Chronicle.

Then this!:

Saturday evening, Hurricane Katrina had intensified to Category 4, with the possibility that it could strike land as a killer Category 5 storm.

About 8 p.m., Mayor Nagin fielded an unusual personal call at home from Max Mayfield, director of the National Hurricane Center, who wanted to be sure Nagin knew what was coming.

Still, Nagin waited to issue a mandatory evacuation, apparently because of legal complications, said Frazier. She said the city attorney was unavailable for an interview to explain.

But Kris Wartelle, spokeswoman for the attorney general of Louisiana, said state law clearly gives the mayor the authority to "direct and compel the evacuation of all or part of the population from any stricken or threatened area."

"They're not confused about it. He had the authority to do it," Wartelle said.

The mandatory evacuation order came at 10 a.m Sunday.
14 hours in a mandatory evacuation would have made a huge difference in the number of lives that could have been saved along with the suffering that could have been avoided.

Update: There may be some that think the title of this post is over the line. Reserve your judgement until you read Hurricane Katrina: Liberal Politics Kill in its entirety.


Senator Huey “Kingfish” Long, who once boasted that he bought legislators “like sacks of potatoes” and “shuffled them like a deck of cards,” must find the actions of his Democratic Party, both in Washington and his home state of Louisiana, ironic. Assassinated for having taken his backroom politics a bit too far, even he must be skeptical of the job his contemporary counterparts are doing to uphold the tradition of self serving manipulation, their partisan
politics having killed people.

The shriekers of the mainstream media and the liberal left must have stopped by the “unlooted” stores of their hometowns for brand new batteries for the bullhorns because the hate-Bush, “let’s blame him for everything” crowd is more shrill than ever. Perhaps they should have picked up some unbiased reading material in the form of the New Orleans disaster plan or the Standard Operating Procedures for FEMA. Being educated on how a disaster response is set-up to work would have been a brilliant idea before the pointing of the liberal finger of blame.

If all politics is local, disaster response is even more so. From the smallest fire department to the most rural chapters of national aid organizations, disaster response is first and foremost the responsibility and jurisdiction of local authorities. Because no one knows a location better than those who live there, primary disaster response and emergency management fall under the
authority of local governments. That is why local governments are charged with putting in place plans that make sense for their communities.

Because interjecting politics into disaster response situations is the most ridiculous, foolish and dangerous thing that can happen, disaster response authority works against the grain. If a town floods or a hurricane hits, the request for emergency management moves up the chain, not down. Mayors ask for help from the state authorities (sometimes the county) and then in the event of a major tragedy – as in Hurricane Katrina – the state asks for help from the federal authorities. Until assistance is requested, the authority – and responsibility – for managing and executing emergency operations rests upon the shoulders of the more local levels of government. That’s just the way it is.

In the case of Hurricane Katrina, the elected officials at the helm of the local and state authorities failed miserably. There can be no other way to look at this issue. If the local and state governments would have performed for their people at an acceptable level more people would be alive today.

Local government – read New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin and his staff – were poorly prepared to carry out their emergency management plan. Not only had they not prepared for the flood scenario of a Category 4 or 5 hurricane – which is leaving hurricane evacuation experts all over the country scratching their heads – they didn’t utilize the resources that were available to them up until the very the last moments before the disaster occurred.

Evidence to this negligence can be seen in the unutilized New Orleans school buses, now submerged where they were parked. They remained idle while the limited number of municipal buses rushed to ferry most of the poor from Jefferson Perish to the “last resort” shelters, which are those not set-up to provide food or water to their occupants.

Nagin’s biggest failure, however, is the fact that he was delinquent in calling for the evacuation of New Orleans until time was already running out. Even after a phone call from Max Mayfield, the director of the National Hurricane Center, at 8pm on the Saturday before Katrina’s landfall confirming the dangers of the approaching storm, Nagin, citing “legal complications,” waited until 10am Sunday to order the evacuation of New Orleans, a city of 500,000-plus. Katrina hit New Orleans at 6am Monday.

Bill King, a former mayor from the Houston-Galveston Area who has been integral in that area’s hurricane and disaster preparedness called Nagin’s evacuation order delay “negligence.”

President Bush, in preparation for the devastation that Katrina was predicted to leave in her wake, declared the three state area a federal disaster area two days before landfall and ordered FEMA to move truck loads of supplies to within safe distances from where experts said the most damage would occur. But because Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco feared political blame from the Bush Administration for any acts of incompetence she didn’t cede authority by requesting federal assistance. FEMA resources and other federally coordinated assistance sat idle, thwarted by the Louisiana Department of Homeland Security.

Further, Blanco – doing her best Ray Nagin impersonation – was delinquent in ordering the Louisiana National Guard to quell the looting, the raping and the violence that inundated not only the Superdome and convention center but all the streets of New Orleans, until the damage was already done. A recent story recounts how two children were raped to death, that’s right two children raped to death inside the Superdome.

Governor Blanco’s response was to hire former Clinton FEMA Director James Lee Witt to handle the catastrophe management. To this day she has not ceded power to the federal government although Louisiana, Alabama and Mississippi remain federal disaster areas.

Nancy Pelosi stated, “If somebody is incompetent, has no credentials for the job that he holds…brings nothing to the table of the level of competence and accountability…” while calling for FEMA Director Michael Brown’s dismissal. Am I the only one or does anyone else believe she should be leveling those exact charges against Kathleen Blanco and Ray Nagin, members of the
compassionate Democratic Party?

The big difference between Huey Long’s corrupt political tenure and that of New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin, and Louisiana Governor Kathleen Blanco’s is that Long was calculating and cunning in his political manipulation. The only thing that can be said for Nagin and Blanco is that their politics have killed people.

Update 2:
Andrew Sullivan:

BLOOD ON BLANCO'S HANDS: She took several days to sign a simple proclamation allowing doctors licensed out of state to help the sick and injured. Several doctors sat around for days waiting to go to work. No, you sure can't blame the feds for that.



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