What Gulf Coast Congressman Gene Taylor wanted the Easter Bunny to bring him.
South Mississippi Living 4/07

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Like Rocky, we must never lose sight of the goal


It could be a scene from a movie: "Rocky - The Katrina Sequel." The chants from the seemingly forgotten areas of Hancock County seem so faint, "Rocky! Rocky!" Then a little louder and a little clearer, "Go, Rocky, Go!"

But there is a sad sense of desperation in the chant, a sense of desperation which we pray continues to resonate across America in a way that leads to solutions to the many challenges we still face.

Unfortunately, this isn't a movie.

As the Sun Herald reported last week, President Bush may have gotten more than he bargained for when he asked Rocky Pullman how things are going.

Pullman, president of the Hancock County Board of Supervisors, gave a candid, frustrated answer born from two years of struggling to help his county recover from Hurricane Katrina. In so many words, he said: Things are not going well and the feds just don't get it. He later added, "We have been driving home that Hancock County was ground zero in the hurricane. Now, we're ground zero in restoration."

Bush was here on a post-hurricane tour, his 15th visit since Katrina. On previous visits, he has taken the time to sit down with private- and public-sector leaders to get as clear an understanding of the current situation as possible. He takes notes and asks questions.

On this visit, U.S. Rep. Gene Taylor, Sen. Trent Lott, Gov. Haley Barbour, Waveland Mayor Tommy Longo and Bay St. Louis Mayor Eddie Favre and others shared thoughts about the state of the recovery and rebuilding effort.

You've heard it a thousand times by now: Nothing could have prepared all levels of government for the brutal reality of Hurricane Katrina. In many ways, as difficult and challenging as the cleanup has been (up to 50 million cubic yards of debris picked up in Mississippi alone, compared to 25 million cubic yards after Hurricane Andrew), the recovery and rebuilding effort in the aftermath of the worst natural disaster in American history has been even more challenging. We are working every day in South Mississippi to find solutions to problems that have never been faced before.

And we hope that Rocky Pullman's passion, frustration and knowledge of the challenges, combined with the input from the others sitting around the table, will keep all levels of government engaged in South Mississippi for the long haul.

For the too many seemingly invisible residents in Hancock County, and across the coast of South Mississippi, it was critical for Rocky to lay it on the line: "This is bigger than local elected officials can overcome." He reeled off a list of worries that included a sluggish recovery, acres of dead trees, crumbling roads, decimated houses, no county jail, a lack of adequate FEMA representation in the county, and homeowner grants that seem to arrive too late or not at all. He asked for more help: at least eight more months of federal assistance, $10 million to $12 million in additional funding, help from the U.S. Forest Service to deal with major tree problems, quicker delivery on stalled federal homeowners' relief grants, and a full-time FEMA team assigned to the county for the duration.

That's quite a list to respond to, but it is accurate and concise. There is no knock-out punch in achieving recovery; every round - every different aspect affecting people, housing, business, local government, infrastructure, insurance, environment - must be won for recovery to be a success. We cannot lose sight of the goal.

We know that the many people laboring toward recovery continue to chant, "Go, Rocky, Go!"

If only this were a "Rocky" movie...

The editorial above represents the views of the Sun Herald editorial board: President-Publisher Ricky R. Mathews, Vice President and Executive Editor Stan Tiner, Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Flora S. Point, Opinion Page Editor Marie Harris and Associate Editor Tony Biffle. Opinions expressed by columnists, cartoonists and letter writers on these pages are their own and do not necessarily reflect the views of the editorial board.

The Sun Herald published the original story on September 9, 2007.

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