Bob Williams, president of the free market think tank Evergreen Freedom Foundation, has an wonderful Op/Ed in yesterday's Wall Street Journal (This can be found at the WSJ's free OpinionJournal site via an e-mail registration.) noting that even though FEMA was slow in responding to Katrina because of bureaucratic red-tape, the state and local governments are more at fault in handling the emergency. I thought this passage was the most telling about where the state government under Gov. Blanco let down the people of New Orleans with her indecisive actions:
The federal government does not have the authority to intervene in a state emergency without the request of a governor. President Bush declared an emergency prior to Katrina hitting New Orleans, so the only action needed for federal assistance was for Gov. Blanco to request the specific type of assistance she needed. She failed to send a timely request for specific aid.I'd say that they MSM can continue to point fingers at toss invective after invective towards FEMA(I fault them more for being a slow mammoth much like all big bureaucracies.) like CBS's "48 Hrs" did last night or we can start focusing on how the state and local governments failed to act in a more timely and organized manner. No matter where we look, the jury is out that there needs to be reform or a reassessment of the whole emergency responses in the state, local and federal government. So let's get to work.
In addition, unlike the governors of New York, Oklahoma and California in past disasters, Gov. Blanco failed to take charge of the situation and ensure that the state emergency operation facility was in constant contact with Mayor Nagin and FEMA. It is likely that thousands of people died because of the failure of Gov. Blanco to implement the state plan, which mentions the possible need to evacuate up to one million people. The plan clearly gives the governor the authority for declaring an emergency, sending in state resources to the disaster area and requesting necessary federal assistance.
State legislators and governors nationwide need to update their contingency plans and the operation procedures for state emergency centers. Hurricane Katrina had been forecast for days, but that will not always be the case with a disaster (think of terrorist attacks). It must be made clear that the governor and locally elected officials are in charge of the "first response."