The Edmond Sun

November 7, 2012

President shines in Sandy response

William F. O'Brien
Against the Grain

OKLAHOMA CITY — In 1973 Bruce Springsteen released his first album, “Greetings From Asbury Park.” That album had an image of a postcard from the New Jersey shore community of Asbury Park, and the songs on it dealt with the boardwalk on the Atlantic Ocean and the adjacent amusement park that brought people to Asbury Park.

One of the songs was titled “Fourth of July, Asbury Park (Sandy),” and it dealt with a woman named Sandy who is told by Springsteen that he is leaving Asbury Park and he suggests that she consider departing the area as well.

Much of the Asbury Park boardwalk that Springsteen described in his first album was swept into the Atlantic Ocean last week by Hurricane Sandy.

The devastation that was wrought upon New Jersey, New York City and the coastal areas of several other mid-Atlantic states by Sandy is similar to the images of New Orleans and Mississippi after Hurricane Katrina that were seen in 2005.

We are once again viewing rows of flooded neighborhoods and buildings that were destroyed by high winds and citizens being rescued from homes surrounded by water, and dazed survivors who often appear to be too stunned to comprehend the full extent of their loss. But, unlike the aftermath of Katrina, there have been no allegations made that the federal government was too slow to respond to the effects of Sandy, and elected officials from the federal, state and local governments are not blaming one another for failing to provide assistance to those who had been driven from their homes by the hurricane.

President Obama journeyed to New Jersey to survey the damage first-hand, and toured the shore area with New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie. The New Jersey governor attacked Obama’s leadership in a speech he delivered at the Republican National Convention earlier this year, and had campaigned for Mitt Romney on several occasions in recent months.

But at the end of their tour, he publicly praised the president for the leadership he has displayed in the response to Hurricane Sandy, and said that Obama “sprung into action immediately,” and that his presence in New Jersey was appreciated by the people of that state.

Obama spoke of how he had conferred with Christie on numerous occasions as Sandy descended upon the New jersey area, and that at his direction the Federal Emergency Management Agency, known as FEMA, had sent planes full of relief supplies to the region as soon as airports there could accommodate them.

The president also said that he instructed FEMA to cut all red tape to ensure that aid made its way to New Jersey, and that all phone calls from local officials to FEMA executives were to be returned within 15 minutes time. Hundreds of portable generators have been brought to the affected area by FEMA, and are bringing  electricity to places that are providing accommodations to those in the area who cannot return to their homes. The Pentagon, at the president’s direction, has airlifted 60 Southern California Edison utility trucks along with 100 utility workers  to operate them to the area to assist in getting power restored to the area.

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg also has praised the president for his response to the disaster, and endorsed his bid for re-election for that reason. In the aftermath of Sandy there are those who are questioning the wisdom of rebuilding the New Jersey boardwalks due to the possibility of future hurricanes descending upon the Atlantic Coast. But it does not seem likely that anyone will dispute that the federal government has a role to play in responding to disasters.

WILLIAM F. O’BRIEN is a retired Oklahoma City attorney.