Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Mayors Testify on FEMA Response to Gulf Hurricanes

Magazine article Nation's Cities Weekly

Mayors Testify on FEMA Response to Gulf Hurricanes

Article excerpt

Last week, mayors from cities heavily impacted by Hurricanes Ike and Gustav testified before the Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Ad Hoc Subcommittee on Disaster Recovery. In their testimony, Galveston, Texas, Mayor Lyda Ann Thomas, Shreveport, La., Mayor Cedric Glover and Houston Mayor Bill White painted a picture of a federal response that had improved drastically from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita, but still had a way to go.

Mayor Thomas praised the work of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) in the City of Galveston. "Had it not been for FEMA the city would not have recovered as well as it has to allow me to leave only 10 days after the storm."

However, the reviews were mixed when it came to the recovery effort.

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Mayor White criticized FEMA for having too many "standard operating procedures," claiming better coordination with Houston could have helped more people quicker. "We ask you, we beg you, to customize the federal authority for agencies so they can tailor their responses to the nature of the disaster, and the capability of our local government."

There was a strong consensus on FEMA's preparation before the storm. Mayor Glover, whose city of Shreveport is "where many of the evacuees seek shelter" when hurricanes hit the Gulf Coast, said, "Clearly, the evacuation itself went well. State and federal assets were marshaled in unprecedented numbers to assure that most people got out of harm's way, especially in the New Orleans area and the adjacent coastal communities."

"Communication between FEMA and the State of Louisiana appeared to be much improved over Katrina and Rita," Mayor Glover said. However, he expressed that more needed to be done. "My mother hates it when I put it this way because she's a retired school teacher--it doesn't quite meet her grammatical standards--but the way I've termed it is that it's better but not better enough. …

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