Red Tape, Lapses in Planning Stall Relief

The tales of inept management get deeper by the day. Where is the help for these people?

Three weeks after Hurricane Katrina struck, red tape and poor planning have left thousands of evacuees without basic services, according to local and state officials, public policy experts and survivors themselves.

Hundreds of thousands of people from New Orleans and Gulf Coast communities have fled, sometimes to neighboring states and beyond, moving in with friends and family or into shelters, public housing and hotels funded by the Red Cross. With little guidance from federal and state governments — and no single person or entity in charge of the overall operation — cities and counties have been left on their own to find survivors homes, schools, jobs and health care. A patchwork of policies has resulted, causing relief agencies to sometimes work at cross-purposes.

And why isn’t anyone answering the phone?

In his Thursday speech, Bush implored evacuees to call the Federal Emergency Management Agency or the Red Cross to register themselves, because “we need to know who you are.” Bush was referring to people such as Steve Lacourt, whose mobile home in Pass Christian, Miss., washed away.

Lacourt has tried to do just what the president asked — for more than a week. One night, the 42-year-old mechanic said, he drove to a highway overpass, where his cell phone got some reception, and speed-dialed the toll-free numbers for FEMA and the Red Cross for six hours straight, from 8 in the evening until 2 in the morning.

He could not get through.

John Kerry was right in his response to Bush’s speech Thursday night, “Leadership isn’t a speech or a toll-free number.”

When will this president get it right?

I don’t see much evidence of overall planning and guidance,” said Richard Murray, a public policy expert in Houston, which is hosting thousands of evacuees.

In an e-mail, Murray, who is director of the University of Houston’s Center for Public Policy, wrote: “Couple a multi-state disaster of Katrina’s magnitude, (including some of the poorer and less well-governed states in the union), add on a dysfunctional federal bureaucracy that had deteriorated in recent years, and a chief executive whose motto seemed to be, until yesterday, the buck stops there, and we get a helluva mess.”

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6 Responses to Red Tape, Lapses in Planning Stall Relief

  1. Ginny in CO says:


    (Yes. I’m having trouble sleeping) W will get it right if he resigns, donates all his Federal retirement salary to the cleanup, forgos a presidential library and takes Dick with him.*

    Hah, I know what I need. A nice hot bath with some aromatherapy bath salts. The weather here has finally cooled off enough to think hot bath 🙂

    *Did I miss anything?

  2. Here’s the opening paragraph of a story in the Washington Post two days ago:

    “ANDERSEN AIR FORCE BASE, Guam — A dull-gray B-2 bomber sat poised in a typhoon-proof air-conditioned hangar, its bat wings stretching 172 feet across. The bomb bay was fitted for 80 GPS-guided bombs, at 500 pounds each, that could be delivered to any target in Asia within a few hours.”

    Imagine that. We can spend the money to protect our war-making machines from hurricanes, but we couldn’t spend the money to protect the New Orleans levees from hurricanes.

    Imagine that. We can drop eighty 500-pound bombs anywhere in Asia within a few hours, but we can’t drop bottled water to Americans in New Orleans in a few days.

  3. Donnie From Houma, LA says:

    Pamela, these stories about FEMA and the 800 number are the absolute truth. I can personaly vouch for this. I had someone come to me for help a few days ago, and I just about blew up!!! I had him on the phone, as I was on the websight. Neither way was working!!! When I would put in his info, it would kick it back and say the claim was expired!!! Every day, I hear more stories about people trying to get into the system, and it’s the same old song and dance.

  4. Marjorie G says:

    Reading about the FEMA rule to go by the homes and not go inside to rescue. Only look through the window and the mortician will be by, which is the Bush crony assigned to count?

    With all the seemingly endless string of FEMA obstructions of recent days, keeping ships, buses, and supplies from entering, how deliberate could this be?

    I know they’re gleeful at remaking the port, and having gov’t look even worse, but how sinister is this?

  5. Stephen McArthur:

    That is right on point with this culture of death. But we in general have always prioritized our military spending post WWII, it has been such a waste of resource and talent. I do believe in an healthy military, but we have gone so far over the edge with it all. As I recall even Dwight Eisenhower was aware and feared the direction we were heading so many years ago. And the message we send the world: Might is Right.

  6. Marjorie G says:

    Ike wrote very prescient things, among them warnings of the “military industrial complex.” Again, a warrior, he knew what a waste as a goal, and should be used in defense, only, while spending on the rest of our needs. As the GOP used to do not long ago.