Monday, September 05, 2005

What About Blanco and Nagin?

Another commenter raises an important question:

The real people who need to be fired are Louisiana's governor Blanco and N.O.'s mayor

What about Governor Blanco and Mayor Nagin? Why am I not calling for them to be fired as well?

It's simple. The governor and the mayor are the chief executives of their respective governments, just as President Bush is the chief executive of the federal government.

I'm not calling for President Bush to be fired (impeached) or to resign, even though I'd be in my rights (under the First Amendment) as an American citizen to do so.

I am not now, nor have I ever been, a registered voter in the city of New Orleans or the state of Louisiana (I maintained my Ohio residency all through college), so I feel it is not my place to tell the good people of that city and state to remove their elected officials from office now.

There are serious questions about preparedness for this well-predicted event at the local, state, and federal level. As I (here, here, and here) and others have written before, this was actually the best of the worst-case scenarios, in that the wind and rain from the storm itself did not cause most of the flooding -- and the deaths -- as would have been the case in a direct hit. Instead it was the levee breaches after the storm passed.

I was there when Georges was projected to be The Big One in 1998. I couldn't get out of the city, had to be bivouacked on campus -- my friends who had cars were convinced the Coast Guard would come in helicopters to save us. I had less trust and packed a secret suitcase of food. Thankfully it missed -- projections (only released later) were that the wind and rain from the storm -- if a direct hit -- would have killed 44,000 in New Orleans alone.

The fact that this was the best of the worst-case scenarios does not absolve anyone in government at any level. Georges was the perfect test case for how people in the city behave when The Big One is projected -- most New Orleanians left, but far too many stayed. Had Georges hit the city head on -- as Katrina was projected to do -- most of the survivors rescued from their rooftops would have been drowned in their attics.

In both cases -- Georges and Katrina -- the call for mandatory evacuation came too late. The first time, the city was spared. This time it wasn't. Local and state officials have a lot to answer for on that end. I don't mean to minimize it.

But when a major American city is completely wiped out -- including its transportation and communications infrastructure -- someone in a higher level of government has to step in and help. To protect and defend the life and liberty of the survivors -- and to back up the thousands of first responders in the city who must continue to work despite the loss of their own homes, friends, and family.

One of the flaws of the national coverage of this disaster is the focus on New Orleans at the expense of other devastated areas of south Louisiana. I'll be posting about that later, so do check back -- comparing the local/parish responses will be very informative.


Post a Comment

<< Home