The Edmond Sun

Nation & World

November 16, 2012

Obama seeks to avoid Katrina comparison with Sandy response

NEW YORK — President Barack Obama on Thursday promised residents of New York and New Jersey hit by superstorm Sandy that they will get a coordinated federal, state and local effort to rebuild their devastated neighborhoods.

After touring damaged areas of the New York City boroughs of Queens and Staten Island, Obama announced he's appointing Housing Secretary Shaun Donovan to lead reconstruction once the immediate relief needs are met.

"We are going to be here until the rebuilding is complete," Obama said after meeting with residents and relief workers on Staten Island, repeating a vow he made to residents of New Jersey in the days after the storm made landfall.

The storm hit Oct. 29, just before the presidential election and the federal response, spearheaded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, was shadowed by past disasters, particularly that which followed Hurricane Katrina in 2005.

A sign in the bayside township of Broad Channel, Queens, last week read, "FEMA PLEASE HELP US."

The sign is similar to the pleas Katrina survivors spray- painted on plywood seven years ago during what lawmakers criticized as a slow and botched response by FEMA. Eager to avoid such comparisons, the administration has dispatched thousands of FEMA workers to canvass still-dark apartments and tell survivors about the help available to them while the agency coordinates a federal aid effort.

"No excuse is going to satisfy the person who doesn't have power or a place to stay," said Mike Byrne, who's leading FEMA's effort in New York. "We just have to get beyond the obstacles and get to the solution whatever it takes."

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who joined Obama aboard Marine One for a helicopter tour over damaged areas, said earlier this week that FEMA's financial assistance "does not come close to making up" for the economic damage.

He's seeking about $30 billion in federal assistance to help the state recover. White House press secretary Jay Carney told reporters traveling with the president that the administration hadn't yet seen the specific request.

Along with Cuomo, Obama was joined on the tour by New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano and Donovan. The mayor is founder and majority owner of Bloomberg News parent Bloomberg LP.

Obama stopped FEMA disaster recovery center set up in the parking of New Dorp High School on Staten Island. Volunteers from around the country were helping distribute boxes of toiletries, food, blankets and cleaning supplies to about 100 local residents.

 "We got the whole country represented here," Obama said. "We're proud of you guys."

The president also toured a street where many of the homes were damaged or destroyed.

"We've got some work to do and I want you to know I'm here to do it," Obama said to a crowd outside a boarded-up church.

As Obama spoke on Staten Island, cameras were trained on microphones in New Orleans where Attorney General Eric Holder was readying to formally announce that BP Plc had agreed to pay the largest criminal fine in the country's history for the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill. It was a split-screen reminder of the lessons Obama has learned in responding to disasters and harnessing the full power of the federal government to react.

While FEMA's response to the storm generally has won praise, there have been snags. Although the agency has helped organize gasoline and diesel deliveries, fuel shortages persist.

The agency is beginning to grapple with some of the biggest problems left in the storm's wake, such as permanent housing for displaced people and debris removal.

The criticism of FEMA lacks the vitriol aimed at the agency as New Orleans residents in Katrina's aftermath endured looting, rapes, days on sun-beaten rooftops and dead bodies festering in the streets. Since then, the agency has overcome congressional calls for its dissolution and reinvented itself.

"FEMA's a very different organization than it was," Sen. Joseph Lieberman, a Connecticut independent who heads the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, said in an email. For Sandy, "it was proactive, and it didn't used to be."

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a prominent Republican ally of Obama's election opponent, Mitt Romney, has lauded FEMA's attention to the state's needs and the president's response.

The destruction of Sandy, a 900-mile-wide storm, was concentrated along the New Jersey coast and the five boroughs of New York. The death toll is more than 100.

Estimated insured losses are about $20 billion, according to Charles Watson, director of research for Kinetic Analysis Corp., a risk-assessment company based in Silver Spring, Md.

While the scale of Sandy's destructiveness is far less than Katrina, which killed 1,833 people and was spread over 90,000 square miles, the storm has tested FEMA's capabilities, emergency managers said.

The experience of FEMA's leadership, including Administrator Craig Fugate, the one-time head of Florida's emergency-response agency, has contributed to that success, said Ellis M. Stanley Sr., former general manager for the Los Angeles Emergency Preparedness Department.

"The primary difference" with FEMA after Katrina "is leadership," he said in an e-mail. "Not only are storm victims getting assistance quicker, the survivors are better engaged."

   

1
Text Only
Nation & World
  • Blackmon.jpg Local cops arrest NFL player on marijuana complaint

    The Edmond Police Department has released the incident report related to the arrest of ex-Oklahoma State star and current NFL player Justin Blackmon.
    Blackmon, 24, a product of Plainview High School in Ardmore, is a 6-1, 210-pound wide receiver in his second year with the Jacksonville Jaguars. At Oklahoma State University, he was a two-time Biletnikoff Award winner as the country’s best collegiate wide receiver.

    July 24, 2014 1 Photo

  • A Q&A on ‘Obamacare’ Court Rulings

    On Tuesday, two federal appeals courts issued conflicting rulings on the legality of tax subsidies being provided to people who bought “Obamacare” health insurance policies in Oklahoma and 35 other states.
    Here’s a look at the rulings’ potential impact in Oklahoma.

    Q: I’m confused. What did the courts rule today?
    A: A three-judge panel of the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Washington, D.C., decided that the government can’t provide tax subsidies for Affordable Care Act plans purchased in 36 states where the federal government is operating the health insurance exchange. Oklahoma is one of the 36 states. A few hours later, the U.S. Court of Appeals circuit in Richmond, Va., issued a conflicting ruling that upheld the legality of the health-care law’s tax subsidies.

    July 22, 2014

  • June healthy month for Oklahoma jobs

    Nearly 10,000 new jobs in Oklahoma were created in June, according to the U.S. Labor Department.
    Gov. Mary Fallin said Tuesday the state experienced one of the largest increases in employment in the nation in June. More than 9,600 additional people joined the state’s workforce in June.
    The unemployment rate in June dropped to 4.5 percent, its lowest ratio in six years. June’s rate was down a percentage point from 4.6 percent in May and April, according to the Oklahoma Employment Security Commission.

    July 22, 2014

  • Former OSU line coach having impact on Texas staff

    It was quite possibly the biggest coaching coup of the offseason and Oklahoma State was at the wrong end of it — former Cowboy offensive line coach Joe Wickline joining the staff for Charlie Strong’s Texas Longhorns.
    “It’s always good when you go hire staff and you look at just getting the right people within your program. And, a lot of times, guys know a lot of Xs and Os, but it’s all just about developing a player,” said Strong, Tuesday during the Big 12 Conference Football Media Days. “Joe and I, we’ve coached together at two different places. But just with him being within his conference and knowing the conference, he’s been a great asset.”

    July 22, 2014

  • UCO campus 3.jpg University of Central Oklahoma recognized as having friendly work environment

    The Chronicle of Higher Education named the University of Central Oklahoma as one of the “2014 Great Colleges to Work For.” Central is the only higher education institution in the state recognized on the list and one of only a handful of institutions in the nation given the distinction of being named to the Honor Roll for being cited most often among all the recognition categories.          
    Central joins Duke, Baylor and Notre Dame on the list of the 10 universities named to the large institution honor roll.

    July 21, 2014 1 Photo

  • Sparring justices find little disagreement at the opera

    Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg revealed a different view of U.S. Supreme Court on Saturday when she described about her passion for opera, one she shares with Justice Antonin Scalia.

    July 21, 2014

  • Experts: Ukraine airliner disaster has implications for U.S. security

    Use of surface-to-air missiles by extra-military personnel to shoot down civilian aircraft may be an emerging threat to the United States, a terrorism expert said.
    On Thursday, Malaysian Airlines Flight MH17 took off from Amsterdam and was shot down over Ukraine near the Russian border. Nearly 300 innocent lives were taken — men, women, children, infants — who had nothing to do with the crisis in Ukraine, President Barack Obama said during a statement on the conflict in front of reporters at the White House.

    July 18, 2014

  • Rabbi, UCO professor provide Middle East perspectives

    Hours after Israel launched ground operations in the Gaza Strip, the leader of a metro synagogue and a UCO professor who was raised in the West Bank shared their thoughts about the escalating conflict.  
    During the latest cycle of violence sparked by the kidnapping and deaths of three Israeli teenagers that Israel blames on Hamas, the Jewish nation launched air strikes against Hamas targets in the Gaza Strip.

    July 18, 2014

  • spts-OC Rhein Gibson British Open.jpg OC alum Gibson holes pressure putt on 18, makes cut at British Open

    It was the biggest putt of Rhein Gibson’s life — which is saying something for a guy who once shot a world-record 55 — and the Oklahoma Christian alum and Edmond resident responded the way he has so many times before.
    A four-time NAIA All-American while at Oklahoma Christian University, Gibson made the 15-footer for a birdie on No. 18 as darkness descended at Royal Liverpool Golf Club, capping a 2-over-par 74 and allowing him to make the cut in the world’s most prestigious tournament.

    July 18, 2014 1 Photo

  • spts-Senior Open Josh Cook hands on hips.jpg ‘Cook’-ing up a championship golf course

    When the practice rounds began at the U.S. Senior Open July 7, the ramblings were almost non-stop.
    From the players who live at the course to professional golfers from across the ocean and diverse parts of the globe, the consensus was that Oak Tree National was in tremendous shape and the players were keyed up to compete on it.
    “The golf course is fantastic,” Oak Tree resident Bob Tway said on the first day of competition July 10. “It’s hard, but it’s fantastic.

    July 18, 2014 2 Photos