Jefferson Parish: Passing the Buck

In a widely republished September 4th interview on NBC, Aaron Broussard from Jefferson Parish, Louisiana, went into a partisan tirade against the Bush Administration for its failures in hurricane relief. MSNBC story. http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/9179790. The interview contained some serious allegations, which were apparently not checked by NBC or any other "so-called mainstream media" source that publish the interview and its allegations. While
I was waiting for Fact Check or a blog site to debunk this politically inspired show-boating, I did a little checking.

The guy's mother may well have drowned in the nursing home. But it is apparent to me that the rest of this allegation is political hype. No federal official was going to reassure him that they would be there "on Wednesday".... It just does not happen that way. The implication was that they were on the way to that building, which is plainly inaccurate. If there were trapped elderly people with cell phone access, why did not local officials respond? Evacuation is their obligation under the official emergency plans. See below. What kind of "local official" waits for federal help to get his mother out of a flooded nursing home in his own community? Duh? I would like to look at the Jefferson Parish Emergency Plan (his jurisdiction) and see who is charged with evacuation responisiblity: I guarantee you that it is not FEMA.

In fact, Jefferson Parish is directly responsible for evacuation under the Louisiana State Emergency Plan signed and approved by the Parish president. State of Louisna Emergency Plan Supplment.http://www.ohsep.louisiana.gov/plans/EOPSupplement1a.pdf
Under the listed responsiblities: "Parishes: Conduct and control local evacuation in parishes located in the risk area and manages reception and shelter operations in parishes located in the host area." Jefferson Parish was one of the signatories and its population included a very large portion that presumably needed evacuation. The state plan, approved by Jeffersen Parish, called for: "The primary means of hurricane evacuation will be personal vehicles. School and municipal buses, government-owned vehicles and vehicles provided by volunteer agencies may be used to provide transportation for individuals who lack transportation and require assistance in evacuating." Id.

President Bush offered early on for FEMA to take over evacuation and Governnor Blanco said no. All of the planning prior to the hurricane and flooding assumed evacuation was a local job: it must normally be done prior to the storm's hitting and in this case was assumed to be ordered (by local officials) 72 hours before the roads started flooding. Could it be that Jefferson Parish joins the City of New Orleans in not properly addressing its duties under the State Emergency Plan to evacuate local citizens who lacked private means to do so?

The Wal Mart trucks, allegedly turned around, were actually sent somewhelse where they were more needed. Redstate blog: http://mikewas.redstate.org/story/2005/9/6/114926/3369. ["Sharon Weber of Wal-Mart called back. She said that last week, FEMA diverted those water trucks to "another location, which [FEMA] felt was in greater need than where they were headed." Weber emphasized that Wal-Mart would not override any FEMA decisions made in emergency situations. So Broussard, who claimed that Wal-Mart's aid was ourtight rejected, was wrong. Based on Wal-Mart's information, their trucks were taken where FEMA thought they were needed most. It would appear that the same story occurred with the Coast Guard fuel issue. Broussard said that FEMA wouldn't release the fuel to Jefferson Parish - but surely that fuel went somewhere else it was needed. Thanks to Wal-Mart's Sharon Weber for tracking down this information"].

The fact that a blogger called Wal Mart and got the real story seems to reflect as badly on NBC as on Broussard. They both plainly wanted to believe the worst and selectively used "facts" for the argument with little or no regard for verification.

I assume that the "line cut" was probably cut to be re-routed in a more intelligent manner. The fact that so many locals decided to go to war with FEMA reflects their problems may largely have been self-created, beginning with the early meeting where Governor Blanco refused to abrogate any power or control over rleief efforts.

This makes the nursing home story highly suspect. We will probably have to wait for blogs to unearth the truth. Don't hold your breath for NBC to do any fact checking.

The State of Mississippi was hit much harder by the hurricane. You do not have the stories of big bureaucratic screw ups coming from there. Why?

Randy Mott

Comments

Anonymous said…
First of all, the reason other states didn't have the same confusion and disorder, was that they weren't flooded. The water came in and left. You either died or you were spared. In louisiana it did that as well as trapped thousands on their roof tops because the water didn't leave. As for Aron Brousard, the real issue should be when will he be indicted for flooding our parsh. He ordered the pump operators out when they had volunteers willing to stay and protect their holmes.

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