Cheat-Seeking Missles

Monday, September 19, 2005

Gulfport's Response Worth Studying

A five-click WaPo report in details Gulfport's response to Katrina. It's both uplifting and depressing.

Uplifting given the ingenuity of the locals to take matters into their own hands and fight for their city and their survival, depressing given the ineptitude of the federal response. Here's examples of each:
Worst of all, the city was running out of fuel. Generators were about to fail, rescue vehicles were running out of gas. One local hospital radioed that it was on backup power and had no water, and that looters were circling.

[Mayor] Warr turned to his chief of police, Stephen T. Barnes. There was a private fuel transport vehicle -- Warr doesn't remember whose -- parked in a lot behind a chain-link fence. Warr had the lock cut. "Can we hot-wire it?" he asked.

Barnes said, "I wasn't cut out to be a crook; that's why I went into law enforcement."

"Well, can we get someone from the jail to do it?" Warr asked.

Thirty minutes later, the truck was sitting in the City Hall parking lot. That was just one episode in Warr's life of petty crime over the past three weeks.

And of federal ineptitude:

On one occasion, Warr, the Gulfport mayor, arranged for trucks of ice and water to be sent to local shelters, where evacuees had gone 36 hours with nothing to drink. He discovered that FEMA had ordered the trucks held at a distribution point at the Stennis Space Center in Hancock County. "The trucks were sitting for a day and half out there, idling, waiting to be told to come on in to town," he says.

Gulfport is badly in need of generators to keep its pumping stations working; sewage was beginning to come out of manhole covers, and Warr feared an outbreak of disease. He put in an order for 157 generators with FEMA and did the paperwork. Then he got a call from Washington. The voice on the other end of the line told him that the generators couldn't be sent without a specific address.

"Send them to City Hall," Warr said he replied. "I've got 157 places they need to go."

He never got the generators.

It's the simple difference between a noble person who doesn't fear consequences and a small person who is consumed by that same fear. Unfortunately, Big Government is full of the latter type, as Katrina has shown so clearly.