Who knew?

Congrats to the Independent Weekly whose September 9, 2004 cover story exposed FEMA's decimation in the service of "homeland security." Managing Editor Kirk Ross says the article is getting a lot of hits lately (Google counts at least 182 links). I would like other newspapers to note that this was only possible because they use permalinks for each story and keep their archives completely open.

"Disaster in the Making" was written by former Chapel Hillian Jon Elliston almost a year ago. Here's an excerpt:

Former FEMA director James Lee Witt recently restated it in strong terms. "I am extremely concerned that the ability of our nation to prepare for and respond to disasters has been sharply eroded," he testified at a March 24, 2004, hearing on Capitol Hill. "I hear from emergency managers, local and state leaders, and first responders nearly every day that the FEMA they knew and worked well with has now disappeared. In fact one state emergency manager told me, 'It is like a stake has been driven into the heart of emergency management.'"

Now if only decision-makers would pay attention to the Independent before the next debacle!

Also this seems like a good time to point out that the Indy also has two new blogs: scan covers the local music scene, and dent follows local politics. Welcome to the blogosphere, y'all!



Actually, the article Rudy references wasn't the only one in the Indy's series:

To help cover the $3.5 million cost of the generators, state officials turned to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA), a department with which North Carolina had developed strong bonds--particularly during the 1990s, when a series of major natural disasters hammered the state.

The regional FEMA office in Atlanta approved the generators in May 2003 as a worthy preparedness plan. Raleigh, Sanford and Davidson were among the municipalities that submitted proposals.

But when the requests got to Washington, they hit a wall. FEMA officials began questioning the costs of the generators and whether they were even eligible for government funding. After months of back and forth with federal bureaucrats, word finally came down in May of this year, and it was a resounding "No."

The question that kept running through my head when I read this second article, however, is why is a federal say-so is the make-or-break answer on a $3.5 million (that's with an "m") expense. In governmental terms, especially on the state level, $3.5 million is nothing. The city of Raleigh, mentioned in the article as a community that lost out on the generator grant, found it easy to pledge $1 million to help build a road.

You can borrow $3.5 million over five years and knock the annual payment down to about $800K (albeit by expending an extra mil over the term of the loan for interest).

I have wonder if the message sent by such small grant requests is that the government asking for the money doesn't really attach a high priority to the thing it's trying to fund.

Far fetched? Chapel Hill seems to have money to site public art at the town ops center, but it doesn't have enough to build an EOC there.

Kevin Drum at www.washingtonmonthly.com linked to the Indy story on this a few days back. It's near the bottom of this page. Good to see the paper getting some well-deserved national exposure.


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