Thursday, September 15, 2005

The NY Times makes nice with Houston

I just watched the President's speech from Jackson Square in New Orleans, which I thought was really well done. ABC went right to evacuee interviews at Reliant Park to get their reaction. Despite clear baiting by the reporter trying to get them to be negative on the President, they were remarkably positive about the President, the speech, and the recovery plan, and surprisingly hostile towards their own state and local officials (one woman singled out Mayor Nagin specifically). Evidently the stories of the unused buses in New Orleans have made the rounds among the evacuees, and they are not happy about it. When they went back to Ted Koppel in the studio, he commented along the lines of, "if that reaction is reflective of the rest of the country, then this is a big win for the President."

I actually want to cover two items in this post. The first is the NY Times conversation with the former head of FEMA, which you have to take with a grain of salt because it's a one-sided view, but seems to confirm my earlier suspicion that the real weak link was at the state level:

Mr. Brown, then director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said he told the officials in Washington that the Louisiana governor, Kathleen Babineaux Blanco, and her staff were proving incapable of organizing a coherent state effort and that his field officers in the city were reporting an "out of control" situation.


FEMA, he said, had no helicopters and only a few communications trucks. The agency typically depends on state resources, a system he said worked well in the other Gulf Coast states and in Florida last year.

Another way of reading that: FEMA was lulled into a sense of complacency by the competence of Florida. Maybe everybody's blaming the wrong Bush?

In other news, it looks like the New York Times may have been feeling a bit guilty about their earlier characterization of Houston as an economic vulture feeding on Katrina, so they made up for it with a really nice piece earlier this week:

A Rescue Mission Under Control: Houston Adjusts Well on the Fly

If any city in the country was ready for the disaster of Hurricane Katrina, it was Houston.

When the catastrophic storm set off the largest mass migration in modern American history, this subtropical-oiltown-turned-energy-capital of two million people, itself no stranger to severe weather, quickly set an extra 200,000 places for dinner.


Now Houstonians, steeped in accolades for their hospitality, are grappling with questions of how the crisis will change their hometown, America's fourth-most populous city, and how it already has.


The mood is clearly upbeat. "We're a bigger community today just in terms of our heart," said Judge Robert Eckels, Harris County's top official, who has led the local effort with Mayor Bill White of Houston as a kind of Rudy Giuliani rallying duo.

If Houston became "the shock absorber of the nation," in the judge's phrase, it was partly because of its size; Chicago and Philadelphia would fit nicely inside Houston's 630 square miles, with room left over for Baltimore and Detroit.

It also boasts the nation's largest medical center, with 13 hospitals and 11 educational institutions employing more than 65,000 people. There were so many volunteers last week that 300 doctors from the Baylor College of Medicine were put on a waiting list.

And Houston is a city of big givers. A leftover doughnut auctioned off by a radio station last week drew up to $15,300 for hurricane survivors.

The whole article is well done, and I highly recommend reading the whole thing. I am not, however, recommending "Shock Absorber City" as another in a long list of city nicknames...

(thanks to reader Bob Sanborn for the article pointer)


At 10:44 PM, September 15, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think Houston being a shock absorber has more to do with its massive glut of empty apartment complexes, and less to do with being sprawled out.

At 8:09 AM, September 16, 2005, Blogger kjb434 said...

I'm glad to see the sentiment of the survivors truly portrayed. These people know their local politicians and aren't hard pressed to believe the majority of the problems are rooted in the state and local government.

I have no problem with Houston being called the "shock asborber" city. Houston, along with Dallas, Atlanta, and Phoenix have been absorbing people fleeing the the northeast for years. We just now got an influx from the south's closest version of northeast-like run city.

At 9:10 AM, September 16, 2005, Blogger Andrew said...

Finally some good press from those New Yorkers!
I prefer the City of Renewed Dreams as our motto since so many people have come here when there was no hope and support.

At 10:52 AM, September 16, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The #1 emotion I've felt through all of this has been sorrow. I feel sorry for the people killed, injured and forced from their homes. Nothing will overpower those thoughts. However, I have taken great pride in my city's ability to help out its neighbors. I am simply glad to be in a position to help.

At 4:43 AM, October 29, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

yeah, I'm agree with last commenter, very sorry those people..


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