Third Party & Independents Archives

Open Letter to Barack Obama, Senator, Illinois

Dear Mr. Obama et.al,

I, like most of my fellow Americans, was stunned, transfixed, one might say, as the human drama played (and continues to play) itself out in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I like most of my fellow citizens, be they black or white, or yellow or red or varying shades in between, are asking ourselves how could government at the local, state, and federal levels fail so catastrophically at one of its core functions: protecting the populace, and providing leadership in times of national crisis.

The most vexing problem—as I see it—in New Orleans, as well as Biloxi, Gulf Port and other communities devastated by Katrina, was and is the inability to evacuate the populace to a central location where food, water, adequate housing, and medical care could be provided.

It is clear that the government needs to establish and maintain—via FEMA and or American Red Cross personnel—a series of at least three, but as many as six, inland Regional Emergency Evacuation Centers (REEC). These government run and equipped centers could be used in case of dire national emergency to house large numbers of citizens, most of which would need to be evacuated from our nation's cities. And by large, I mean in excess of 75,000 people. Not only could these emergency evacuation centers be utilized for natural calamities, but man-made emergency’s as well; e.g. (NBC) nuclear, biological, or chemical attack.

The REEC's would need the ability to house and service up to 75,000 people in relative comfort, and provide basic modern human habitation needs; i.e. hot meals, clean running water, personal hygiene facilities, communications, limited transportation, financial services, security and entertainment. These centers could also be utilized and staffed by the American Red Cross.

I am well aware that the above is a large and some might say overwhelming task, but fortunately the country already has the infrastructure in place to make REEC's a reality: abandoned, or soon to be abandoned military bases. These facilities, especially large bases, are and were small cities onto themselves, designed to support large military contingents and their families, and can provide, with limited additional monetary outlay, the necessary services to support a large population of displaced citizens.

All large military bases have barrack for single enlisted and officer personnel that could be used to house individual citizens, as well as single family homes that could be used for displaced families. Medical, dining, recreational, shopping, and communications facilities, electrical, facilities management, and sewage are also part of military establishments. In short closed, or soon-to-be-closed military bases would make the ideal REEC's. All of the necessary food, water, and medical needs could be stockpiled at the REEC’s. The REEC’s would be staffed by skeleton crews of FEMA personnel when not otherwise in use.

Establishment of the REEC's would represent a common-sense, economical solution to a very vexing problem facing our nation, one that is clearly demonstrated by the ongoing events along the Gulf Coast. The evacuated citizens are being dispersed throughout the nation, with little hope of returning to the lives they once knew. Still others are wandering around the devastated area, homeless, and hopeless. A place to be and recover from the event that tore their lives asunder would only hasten the healing process and return them the bosom of society, productive citizens.

It is clear from the disaster of the past week, that the local, state and federal governments still lack a cohesive plan for sheltering, protecting, and caring for American citizens when disaster visits our shore. This to me is inexcusable so long after 9/11. Is the Department of Homeland Security just a hollow shell? With this round of base closing we have a chance to restore the ordinary citizen’s faith in the government, by establishing and funding REEC's.

Its time to think outside the box; its time for visionaries and leaders to take the field and show the world that the globe only superpower is not run by a bunch of arrogant incompetent fools. Government has failed the people of the Gulf Coast by not being prepared, and by inept leadership. You Mr. Obama and the other visionaries of the U.S. Congress have it within your power to effect a change by adopting my proposal, or at least giving it considered thought. Can we as a nation afford another New Orleans? Don’t the American people deserve better?


With Regard,


Vincent Martin
Aurora, IL


CC:
~Richard Durbin, Senator, Illinois
~Dennis Hastert, Representative, 14th District, Illinois & Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives.
~Michael Chertoff, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
~Michael Brown, Director, Federal Emergency Management Administration

Posted by V. Edward Martin at September 5, 2005 5:05 PM
Comments
Comment #78247

Vincent,

Howdy neighbor! Excellant letter. Thank you very much for a great idea and especially for writing our representatives.

Posted by: jo at September 5, 2005 5:55 PM
Comment #78254

So let me see if I understand this idea.

We should fund and staff and have standing by as many as six giant centers that could at a moment’s notice house as many as 75,000 people each in relative comfort?

Would this have helped the people of New Orleans? Nope. They wouldn’t or couldn’t leave their houses. Is accomodating 75,000 sufficient in the case of major emergencies? Nope.

How often would these things be used? Once a decade? Once a century? Never?

Sounds to me like huge empty Howard Johnsons of dubious purpose—or in other words, huge cash-guzzling white elephants.

Posted by: sanger at September 5, 2005 6:27 PM
Comment #78256

Sanger,

Or you could look at it like a convenient warehouse for all the supplies we have elsewhere paying for storage. They would also provide a base from which to conduct drills which are a vital part of emergency managment. You can theorize all day how things will go but until it is actually applied it’s just that.. a theory.

Posted by: jo at September 5, 2005 6:33 PM
Comment #78262

Sanger-
You could keep these things on skeleton staff until a disaster approaches, which wouldn’t necessarily be that rare an occurrence. Certain shifts in Atlantic currents, coupled perhaps with higher water temperatures are making hurricanes of great strength a much more common occurence. Remember all the hurricanes that hit Florida last year? We should get use to at least a Category Three hitting us every year, if not worse.

V. Edward Martin-
Whether this is a workable idea or not, I applaud your creative thinking. I wouldn’t mind folks on my column or the Red Column pitching in on their ideas, either.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 5, 2005 7:26 PM
Comment #78264

Sounds like a good idea. Donn’t know how workable it is though.
One thing bothers me though. Why use them only for towns of 75,000 or more? Donn’t the people of smaller towns deserve to use them too?

Posted by: Ron Brown at September 5, 2005 7:38 PM
Comment #78277

Sanger—

My plan would call for the evacuation of large numbers of people before a large hurricane like Katrina makes landfall. The poor in New Orleans had no place to evacuate to; people of more means did. Are their lives worthless because they are poor? We are supposed to be a superpower, and one of the richest nations on earth, and a Christian nation to boot.

Even if the REEC’s are used only once in the next 20 years, if they help save lives, aren’t they worth the expense? And if a hurricane like Katrina made landfall once, it can certainly happen again and again. Are we as a nation willing to let such a calamity happen again in the name of saving a few bucks?

What would you solution be?

Ron—

Of course smaller towns would be able to utilize them too.

Posted by: V. Edward Martin at September 5, 2005 9:06 PM
Comment #78278

It might just be a good idea. i don’t know how many people are aware that one of Spain’s Canary Islands, off the coast of Africa, is composed of a rock strata that will slide into the Atlantic. The only unknown is when it will happen. When it does, it will generate a tidal wave which will race across the Atlantic and deluge the Eastern seaboard of the US, along with many parts of Europe. The height of this wave will wash inland destroying cities and causing massive death tolls. It will be biblical in scale.

http://www.benfieldhrc.org/tsunamis/mega_tsunami_more.htm

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at September 5, 2005 9:13 PM
Comment #78285

Paul-
I’ve heard of this one. The unfortunate part is that there really is not going to be too much warning when that finally happens, and even then, you will likely be trying to evacuate Hundreds of millions when the time comes. It might be somewhat easier if the calamity were something like the comet hit from Deep Impact! But then again, it’s so rare that the chances are it won’t happen in our lifetimes.

Posted by: Stephen Daugherty at September 5, 2005 9:32 PM
Comment #78287

I hope you’re right Stephen. I’ve seen a documentary produced I think by the BBC, and the scientists on that program said that it could happen at any time. Lets keep our fingers crossed on this one!

Posted by: Paul in Euroland at September 5, 2005 9:44 PM
Comment #78296

V. Edwards, the reason I don’t like the idea is that the problems we encounter during natural disasters are primarily logistical. It’s not so much a lack of supplies and a lack of places for refugees to go—it’s the inability to MOVE supplies and people around in the first place. That’s the nature of a disaster—flooded roads and incapacitated commuter services, to say nothing of downed communications.

FEMA, as well as agencies such as the Red Cross, already have giant stockpiles or emergency supplies around the country, but distributing them after a disaster is a logistical nightmare.

If we had this giant centers—even the maximum number you suggest of six—how can we ensure they’d be anywhere near a disaster area? And how will people even get there?

Those who got stuck in New Orleans were unable or unwilling to leave primarily because they lacked transportation before the disaster. After the disaster, it was too late.

In this case, we have an effected area the geographical size of England.

Instead of centralizing supplies and resources in one place, what’s really needed are better systems of pinpointing manpower and supplies at the precise places they’re needed. We can do it now within 2-4 days, but that’s just too slow and too late for many of the worst hit.

Posted by: sanger at September 5, 2005 10:12 PM
Comment #78349

Even though the Centers are a good idea, the program is unfesiable for several reasons. First the cost of building and maintaining these places add to our taxes and given the Political Will of the Citizens to lower taxes and shrink government it will not fly.

Second, where would you build this Centers so that they are close enough that you are not moving 1,000’s of citizens hundreds of miles and still out of harms way? Third, would it not be reasonable to conclude that these Centers would become targets themselve in an event of a Terrorist Attack?

Logistics and Boots on the Ground was not the problem even in NO. However, America does need to make it very, very clear once again who is the SOB in Charge. Lack of Communications, Lack of taking The Bull by the Horns, and a Total Lack of Common Sense by All Humans in the area before, during, and after Katrina needs to be addressed. Lets try next time to keep the Lawyers out of the mill and just let Working People do their freaking job.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 6, 2005 2:33 AM
Comment #78350

V. Edward,

This is one where I agree with the “states rights” people.

Emergency contingency plans are best left up to the local officials. The federal government should have the final authority to appove of disapprove of local emergency plans, but I presume that local authorities would probably have the best solutions to a natural or man-made disaster that displaces thousands of residents.

New Orleans, and every major municipaltiy, should have such a contingency plan operational at a moment’s notice.

Posted by: Chuck Hanrahan at September 6, 2005 2:43 AM
Comment #78353

Chuck,
All Local and State Agencies are required by Law to a comprehensive contingency plan approved & registed in Washington D.C. The problem which will have to be looked into is why they did not work. Could it be that Homeland Security Director Mr. Chertoff never had any of them train under The National Response Plan as being reported?

No, President Bush and America better be lucky that this was a Natural Disaster instead of a Bio-Chemical or Dirty bomb attack that would spread as time went by. 4 years after 9/11 and the Republicans still can not protect our Citizens from harms way. The question to the American Citizenary is what do we have to do to get the attention of Washington that Politics as usual is died.

Posted by: Henry Schlatman at September 6, 2005 2:59 AM
Comment #78393

After the deficits start to hit home, the money FEMA has left should be able to buy some tin sheets for roofing, a few snickers for food, and some old newspaper for sanitation.
Unless, of course, Louisiana declares jihad on the US. Then they should be able to get a few billion dollars a month, even after the Cheney/Halliburtan skim.

Posted by: Dave at September 6, 2005 12:49 PM
Comment #78401

V. Martin
Excellent idea
I love all the comments from people who are reluctant due to cost.
The recent “Transportation Bill” funding has been brought up recently — comparing all the money that went for PORK even as the funding for the Corps of Engineers work in New Orleans was cut.
All that PORK money would have more than funded what you are suggesting (including the planning necessary for evacuating the needy citizens to these locations PRIOR to the storm (when the infrastructure is still intact).
And then — OH MY GOSH THE HERESY — we could repeal the tax cuts!!!
Ahh, but then the wealthy might not have their 2nd, 3rd, ——- 50th home to “Evacuate to” in case of emergency!!!

Excellent idea V Martin, good work.
(and most of the “obstacles” that the critics raise can EASILY be addressed and taken care of — I especially love the criticizm from those WHO DID NOT READ YOUR POST!! — obvious when they comment on the cost to build — wait — YOUR SUGGESTION is to USE EXISTING FACILITIES BEING ABANDONED!! )

Posted by: Russ at September 6, 2005 1:22 PM
Comment #78415

Sanger,

(scratching head), the U.S. military once mobilized as the best and largest airlift capability in the world; enough said about logistics.

Those people evacuated not only from New Orleans, but from all along the Gulf Coast are being dispersed throughout the U.S.; wouldn’t it make more sense to keep them closer to home where at least they can return to their home without too much effort if and when the need and or desire arise? And from a medical standpoint it makes more sense to have the displaced all in one area; it just make them easier to treat, and serves to isolate and disease they might have contracted.

Those who are unwilling to leave the city are on their own…

Henry—

Please read my post again, wherein I advocated using closed, or soon-to-be-closed military bases to house the REEC’s.

Chuck—

We all see where states rights got the people of New Orleans. The state turned rather quickly to the federal government for help. That is a reality that will not change in the future.

I agree that every major (and minor) municipality should have a state sponsored evacuation plan, but the reality is that most do not. And if they did most states lack the resources the federal government can bring to bear when large numbers of citizens are concerned.

Posted by: V. Edward Martin at September 6, 2005 2:27 PM
Comment #79802

V.Martin, Your letter was/is needed. We need more Americans to get the ball rolling by thinking of other possiblitieds so in the future if/when another disaster arises we will be ready. Having at the very least a plan and designated areas can make a big differnce. We also must have leaders who recognize what their communities need. I hate to admit this but Mayor Naggin failed in that aspect. In an area where 100,000+ plus of the citizens did not have means to evacuate an effective leader would have used public transportation buses/public school buses as a way to evacuate those who wanted to go but had no other means. I hope this sparks the conversation to do it!

Posted by: FreeThinker4Life at September 11, 2005 9:36 PM
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