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

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Taking Stock of FEMA's Foolish Fumbling

by Ana Maria

Why in the living heck does a small elementary school have to have a national morning television program publicize its two-year old need for running water before Bush's FEMA will FINALLY approve the request?!

This is utterly unacceptable, shameful, and maddening. Good Morning America's Robin Roberts, a native of Pass Christian, Miss., came here for the 2nd year Katrina anniversary festivities. During her visit to her hometown area, she learned that the Delisle Elementary School had NO running water. These 600 children were stuffed inside a 60 trailer campus and forced to use portable toilet for TWO years.

Delisle is a small community, and I'll guarantee its unmet needs are only the tip of the iceberg remaining inside the Katrina-ravaged region from Louisiana through Mississippi and over to our eastern neighbors in Alabama. Heck, it would NOT take a rocket scientist to document all the infrastructure needs we have. Here's a simple plan that is doable and can be completed in short order.

The Plan
A. Develop a list of the kinds of facilities and services that comprise basic infrastructure in Any Town, USA. Examples include, but are not limited to, the following.

  1. hospitals
  2. doctors (list types of docs from family practitioners to ob/gyns to dermitologists to dentists to chiropractors, etc.)
  3. nurses (list types of nurses from pediatrics to home health to surgical, etc.)
  4. mental health services (from psychologists to psychiatrists to drug and alcohol rehab, etc.)
  5. schools (elementary, middle, high, colleges and universities)
  6. municipal and county/parish (jails, city hall, police and fire stations, etc.)
Get the drift?

B. Recruit bright, eager college students to intern. These students are bright, young, eager-to-help-the-Katrina-ravaged-region and can be recruited from right here inside the region. They can live with their parents, earn college credit, and put something of substance on their resume. In turn, the American people will have a comprehensive list of the needs. No more waiting TWO years for running water for our elementary school children. How utterly ridiculous!

C. Project manager develops a brief questionnaire. It may have only a few questions on it. The point is to solicit the information and obtain documentation, as appropriate.
  1. What are your remaining Katrina-related needs?
  2. What have you applied for from FEMA and other government agencies that has not yet been funded and where is it in the FEMA paperwork chain? (Ask for copies of the paperwork.)
D. Have the students look for good photo opportunities to document needs. In the Delisle case, it would be a port-o-potty, maybe with kids standing in line or entering it. Visuals are good. Drives home the point.

E. At this point, we'll have a list of the needs. The project manager, perhaps with the interns, categorizes the needs by type and geographic location (city, county/parish) as well as visuals. We'll also have documentation of FEMA and other governmental agencies lack of responsiveness to our needs.

The truth, of course, is that the federal government--in particular FEMA--could have and should have already compiled a list of the needs throughout the Katrina-ravaged region. Where is that comprehensive list? What have they done in response to each of these needs?

Heck, if the federal government doesn't want to do what it is getting more than enough of our tax dollars to do, perhaps a news organization will sponsor this intern-based project to shine the light of day on what needs doing.

Put a few interns in each county and parish. Gather the information. Compile it in an easily digestible way. Put it on a website so that everyone can access it and read it. Be sure to include many visuals. Then, make a HUGE production of the end results.

With enough student interns and proper management of the project, this could take only a few months to collect, input into a database, analyze, publicize, and provide to an important congressional oversight committee. The one that comes to mind is Congressman Henry Waxman's (D-CA) Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

I'm not one to drag out these projects. I've conducted enough similar work as a management auditor for the State of Tennessee then the city and county of San Francisco to know that this work can be done efficiently and effectively with minimal resources.

This is the kind of work that someone the White House should have already ensured had been conducted. Frankly, if we recall, we would have expected as much from the Clinton Administration. But Bush's FEMA leadership seems more adept at handling horses (Michael Brown). The administration recently put in charge of Small State and Rural Advocate and Director, Community Preparedness Division a man good with sheep (Brock Bierman). Don't we feel better?

With A.M. in the Morning's proposed intern-based project--which the federal government should have already created--we'll have obtained a comprehensive list of unmet needs at this time. From there, we'll then be able to analyze where is the most appropriate place to go for assistance. (HINT: FEMA.) This is how we take stock of FEMA's foolish fumbling.

My guess is that we'll find plenty of stories similar to the Delisle elementary school where the White House Administration has done a great job of wrongfully neglecting the needs of our nation's children and their families.

Well, well, well. So be it. Let the project begin.

© 2007 Ana Maria Rosato. All rights reserved.
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