Men stumble over the truth from time to time, but most pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing happened. -- Winston Churchill

All truths are easy to understand once they are discovered; the point is to discover them. -- Galileo Galilei

I never give them hell. I just tell the truth and they think it's hell. -- Harry Truman

Location: Wichita, Kansas

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

The Trouble with Katrina Recovery

The Hurricane was a natural disaster, not a partisan event. The administration did a very poor job of responding, as did the Mayor of New Orleans, and the Governor of Louisiana. A look at the approval ratings for Nagins show him placing last of four candidates for a March election. Blanco stands at a 32% approval rating. This shows that blame is an equal opportunity punisher.

This is not a defense of the administration. Chertoff's original handling was and continues to be unacceptable.

The recovery effort has the potential to both waste huge sums of money and fail to do the job well. The recovery needs a strong leader dedicated to that job, with authority commensurate to the responsibility. We don't have that. Remembering the impact that General Honroe quickly had when he appeared on the scene, perhaps we should look to a sharp no-nonsense retired general to take on the job.

Bush appointed Donald E. Powell, as federal coordinator of Hurricane Katrina recovery efforts in November. A former chairman of the Federal Deposit Insurance Corporation, he is probably a fine fellow with great financial expertise. But he says, “This job is not a chief executive," he said. "This job is more of listening . . . getting opposites together and motivating folks to do the right thing.”

That sounds more like a man who would be a wonderful asset to a “chief executive”. We need a person with direct management skills and an on the ground, get it done orientation. Someone who says, “I want 1,000 trailers moved to that location in 10 days”, and holds people's feet to the fire to make sure it got done.

Particularly in Louisiana, which makes Chicago look like a model of clean government, listening is not enough. A recovery Czar is going to have to knock some heads together. Appointed in November, Powell does not seem to be fitting that bill. In talking with people who have recently been in New Orleans, they were shocked that even basic clean-up efforts are not underway in enormous areas of the city, and essential services such as electricity have not been restored.

Making grand plans and developing visions for the future of New Orleans are wonderful things, but at the moment, we need someone who will get the debris hauled away.

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