Skip to comments.Nagin gets mixed reviews (Nagin/Busses Alert)
Posted on 10/23/2005 3:32:40 AM PDT by abb
Evacuation plans, Superdome use criticized 4 Sunday, October 23, 2005 By Gordon Russell Staff writer
Managing what is being called the biggest natural disaster in American history is a thankless task certain to invite criticism.
And Mayor Ray Nagin has certainly had his share since Hurricane Katrina came ashore.
On a recent national TV appearance, presidential historian and Tulane professor Douglas Brinkley called him "a very lame, ineffectual, wrong-headed mayor for this time," adding for good measure that Nagin has "no leadership abilities" and suggesting that some of his failures in the wake of the storm were "criminal."
Allan Katz, a consultant and talk-show host whose treatment of local politicos leans toward the adoring, called Nagin's performance "abysmal." Political columnist Clancy DuBos, an unabashed Nagin fan in pre-Katrina days, joined the pile-on, saying: "This is no time for quirkiness, this is no time for amateurism. We need a plan and we need a vision. And Nagin doesn't have either one right now."
National media outlets, from CNN to The New York Times, also have questioned Nagin's leadership, comparing his performance unfavorably with that of former New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
But others are more charitable, and some downright admiring. They note that the performance of federal and state governments -- both in command of far more resources than impoverished New Orleans -- left much to be desired.
(Excerpt) Read more at nola.com ...
For Doug Brinkley to say some awful negative things...its pretty serious. Lets face it...if you rounded up half the governors and mayors in the US...they wouldn't have done much better than Nagin. You get voted into office as a popularity contest...not on leadershipp skills. Thats the sad part about this entire story. And the governor of LA....isn't much better.
I liked Nagin as mayor of NO. That emotional finger-pointing session was the first sign, to me, that he was in way over his head in this situation.
"We talked many times about commandeering tour buses and school buses," Tullier said. "There's plenty of stuff out there to put people in, but when push comes to shove the bus drivers are trying to get their own families out of town and can't be counted on."
Two options: Get a passenger from each bus to volunteer to drive, or convince the driver to use the bus as the means of transportation for getting his family out of town. There are certainly ways of solving the lack of drivers problem.
Instead, most of the RTA's buses were moved to a facility on Canal Street that officials thought -- wrongly -- would be safe from floodwaters. Some buses positioned on the riverfront were high and dry, but as the waters rose, getting them to the evacuees became a problem, and, according to Nagin, drivers weren't available anyway.
You don't wait until the water's rising during or after a hurricane to try to bus people out. By then it's far too late for that.
Howell, like Nagin, said she doesn't think the city could have done it. "There was not enough money to plan for this scenario, because this may or may not have happened," she said.
Maybe they could have used the salaries and benefit money of some of those phantom police officers.
"Mayor Nagin was not able to have his 'bullhorn moment,' " Xavier University political scientist Silas Lee said. "There was a big difference: Giuliani was able to rally the citizens and the nation against a common enemy. In this case the enemy was Mother Nature, and it's harder to rally people against Mother Nature."
You mean the enemy wsan't President Bush?
The gov. of LA is, IMO, a whining idiot whose bad governance is becoming more apparent by the day. Same with Nagin.
The situation with the governor is much worse. In her case, the people had a choice between Blanco and Bobby Jindal. Jindal is an exceptionally bright, energetic, capable leader. The difference between the two was painfully obvious, yet the people in this state elected Blanco by a narrow margin. In Nagin's case, he was the better choice. That was it.
"They note that the performance of federal and state governments -- both in command of far more resources than impoverished New Orleans -- left much to be desired."
Well, it's like Texas Governor Rick Perry said in the aftermath of Hurricane Rita, that's why we have STATE AND LOCAL GOVERNMENTS ; to handle situations like this close to home.
Did all the whiney butts who complained about George W. not doing enough for the people of New Orleans get that?
OK. So they had a plan. They did not use the plan, but I guess they had one. I have yet to read what the "plan" said about where to take these 100,000+ people. Were they to live on the busses till they got the all clear?
Here's another bus story that was in the Baton Rouge paper today.
Records, interviews reveal some of why storm relief took so long
By MARSHA SHULER
Capitol news bureau
Where were the buses?
No image of the post-Katrina calamity is stronger than the tens of thousands of urban storm survivors awaiting rescue for days.
Stranded residents at the Superdome, Convention Center, a Metairie interstate intersection and a Chalmette port grew restless and combative as temperatures soared, people died around them and getting basic necessities -- food and water -- became a daily battle.
"They wanted to know where help was. So did we, quite frankly," said Louisiana National Guard Maj. Ed Bush, who shared the nightmare at the downtown Superdome with up to 20,000 stranded people.
Hurricane Katrina slammed into southeast Louisiana early Monday, Aug. 29. Evacuation buses didn't start showing up in large numbers until Thursday. And some people didn't get picked up until Saturday afternoon.
What happened in between? Why did it take so long? Here are some answers, based on interviews and limited public records made available:
# New Orleans Regional Transit Authority buses weren't available. Most were flooded by the same waters that trapped residents. Buses that could have taken people out of the city before the storm did not.
# Buses that the Federal Emergency Management Agency promised reportedly within hours of Katrina's landfall weren't actually ordered until early Wednesday.
# State government didn't have transportation assets to send. It would take days to mobilize a fleet of school buses from throughout the state.
# There was no emergency plan for moving people before or after the hurricane -- just a general framework that was yet to be fleshed out.
It's been almost two months since Katrina. But questions continue about pre-Katrina preparation and post-Katrina response.
The Advocate made public records requests for documents from key state and federal players and agencies. But little information has been provided about what happened immediately before and after the hurricane and the levee breaks that flooded the city.
Gov. Kathleen Blanco refused to release documents requested from her office, citing a state law that shields her office from disclosure.
Blanco's executive counsel, Terry Ryder, said late last week that the governor's office is complying with requests for similar documents from two congressional committees. The many documents are being compiled, and they will be made public, he said.
Federal officials as of last week had not produced records involving the roles played by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and former Federal Emergency Management Agency director Michael Brown and their offices.
But interviews, research of emergency operations plans, and some public documents reveal that the emergency response planners knew what had to happen in the wake of a hurricane that brought such destruction.
It was the delivery of the response -- who, what, when, why and how, as state Office of Homeland Security operations chief Lt. Col. Bill Doran puts it -- that was missing for the gigantic operation that had to occur.
Two weeks before Hurricane Katrina put its indelible mark on Louisiana, and New Orleans in particular, a group of emergency planning officials finished general planning for a disaster similar to that about to unfold. It was the fictitious Hurricane Pam. Federal, state and New Orleans officials were involved in the FEMA-funded project.
Some of the general planning bore fruit, agreed Doran and state medical director Dr. Jimmy Guidry, who participated in the planning exercise.
For instance, the state Department of Wildlife and Fisheries was ready with boats and the U.S. Coast Guard with helicopters for rescue operations as soon as Katrina's winds dropped enough -- not the numbers that would eventually be required, but a quick response.
And responders were ready to set up medical needs shelters and knew what federal resources to tap. Guidry already had sites in mind and medical supplies on standby. He quickly activated a national medical network, with out-of-state hospitals ready to accept patients that would have overwhelmed local facilities.
But the rest of the planning was still a work in progress: How do you move that many people? Where do you take them? How do you get food, water and other essential supplies to tens of thousands of people needing evacuation as well as those trying to help them? How do you handle the basic logistics?
Up to 90 percent, or 1.2 million, of the area's population heeded evacuation warnings, officials estimate. Absent that, the death toll over 1,000 in Louisiana would have been far greater.
But many residents either couldn't or didn't want to evacuate. They became the basis of a real-life exercise that tested the nation's emergency response system.
The Superdome's population was about 10,000 Sunday night, Aug. 28, the day before Katrina hit. The numbers doubled quickly after the storm as more survivors showed up and survivors rescued from rooftops and watery streets were dropped off.
"It was horrible, absolutely unlivable," said Bush. It was a daily struggle to get food and water, but people did, he said. There were six deaths -- including one drug overdose and a suicide jumper, he said. There were fights, but no little girl with a slit throat as was widely reported, he said.
Meanwhile, at Interstate 10 and Causeway Boulevard in Metairie, a State Police trooper reported finding "a large number of hostile evacuees" Tuesday, long before crowds swelled to as high as 10,000. The hostility, the trooper wrote, "could be attributed to the long wait to be rescued and the long wait to be transported to various shelters."
He went on to suggest the obvious: To avoid future hostile situations, get transportation and shelters lined up more quickly.
As thousands of storm survivors waited for transportation out, hundreds of nearby New Orleans transit system buses couldn't be used.
New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin said that, before the storm hit, the buses were moved to higher ground that traditionally didn't flood. But this time the area, like 80 percent of New Orleans, did flood.
Even if the buses hadn't flooded, Nagin said, drivers would have been in short supply because many left town.
FEMA pre-positions supplies ahead of storms so it can be ready to respond quickly afterward. Pre-Katrina water, MREs (meals ready to eat), cots, pallets of tarps, blankets and plastic sheeting were stored as close as Camp Beauregard near Alexandria and as far away as Atlanta, Ga.
Buses are not among the pre-staged supplies.
Within hours of Katrina hitting on Monday, FEMA promised to deliver buses, according to Blanco.
On Tuesday, Blanco aide Leonard Kleinpeter recalled, the governor asked him to start trying to arrange for use of school buses.
FEMA relies on the U.S. Department of Transportation, which has a contract with a provider to locate for-hire buses and other types of transportation and get them to staging areas.
Federal transportation records show FEMA gave the agency the go-ahead at 12:45 a.m. Wednesday, Aug. 31. Five hours later, buses were being dispatched from points around the country to LaPlace, 25 miles west of New Orleans, and by midnight some 200 buses had arrived.
By the end of Thursday, there were 657 buses on hand. By Friday there were 935 buses and by Saturday 1,094 buses.
In congressional testimony earlier this month, U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Mineta blamed FEMA for holding up his department's efforts to move people out of New Orleans. He said buses that arrived in the first wave Wednesday sat there because FEMA didn't give orders to move.
"What we heard from drivers who arrived at the rallying point in the first hours of the first day was that dispatch operations of the buses were being handled on a piecemeal basis," said DOT spokesman Brian Turmail.
Questions to FEMA in Washington, D.C., about the bus situation went unanswered.
By Wednesday morning, Blanco's school buses weren't showing up either.
"Some districts wanted to go ahead and have school. They thought 'It's a hurricane. It's over. We can start school tomorrow,'" Kleinpeter said.
At nearly midnight Wednesday, Blanco issued an executive order commandeering school buses. "We had to move," Kleinpeter said.
"There was no time for negotiation," with school systems, said Ryder, who drafted the order as well as one issued the next day that allowed more types of people to drive the buses.
Blanco's office called Capital Area Transit System CEO Dwight Brashear Wednesday evening as the bus order was being crafted to seek his help coordinating bus rescue missions. He reported for duty at the state emergency operations center early Thursday morning.
That same morning, the state Department of Education official who deals with transportation issues, Donna Nola-Gainey, was called in to make phone calls and get commitments for buses.
"Instead of waiting for a call from school districts to say what's available, we became more aggressive," said Brashear. "Our goal Thursday was getting commitments and getting 1,000 buses coming toward us."
More buses started arriving Thursday, and the numbers continued to increase into Friday, he said.
Nola-Gainey said education officials estimate that approximately 700 buses were dispatched from all over the state. Brashear, who coordinated the movement of the buses with the 5th Army division, puts the number closer to 1,000 buses.
Some 15,000 to 20,000 people were moved using the school buses, according to data received from school systems.
The highway coaches FEMA brought in were being used to transport people to shelters in Houston, Dallas and other cities outside Louisiana, Brashear said. Some school buses made the long hauls into Texas too, he said. But those were exceptions, he said.
"If you got on a school bus, chances are you were headed to the airport and being airlifted out of there," Brashear said.
The first FEMA buses to start moving the crowds didn't show up until Thursday about 10 a.m. at the Superdome, Bush recalls. About 70 buses were filled and sent off. Then it was several hours before others showed up, he said.
But the activity started stepping up and by Saturday evening the Dome rescue was pretty much finished. More people kept showing up even into Sunday needing transportation out, Bush said.
At I-10 and Causeway Boulevard, the once sea of evacuees was pretty much cleared by 1:15 p.m. Saturday, according to news accounts.
By week's end, the wait for a way out was also over for those who had made the New Orleans Convention Center an impromptu shelter and those who had to be ferried, then bused, from the St. Bernard port.
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LOL. Good point.
And yet it was a federal employee that the Times Picayune wanted fired-and they got it!
Not following the plan was criminal neglect or dereliction of duty at the very least IMHO. The blame looks like a pyramid: the locals form the base, state officials in the middle, and feds at the top deserve the least blame.
Didn't he say more casinos?
Isn't that a plan?
.....the people in this state elected Blanco by a narrow margin. ........
It's not Bush's fault. It's the peoples fault.
The following picture from the AP shows buses during the day on Wed. picking up people on I10. Would love to know whose buses they were.
Since LA couldn't arrange local transport I think it was pretty good to get busses there in < 24 hours. Remember we all woke up Tuesday morning thinking NO was in good shape.
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