MICHAEL BROWN: FEMA’s nimble. We’re only 2,500 people. We can move on a dime.
STEPHEN COLBERT: Uh-huh. And what dime were you standing on during the hurricane?
— From Brown's 2006 appearance on The Colbert Report
People are still saying now, as they said then, that what went wrong in New Orleans a decade ago was all my fault. They were wrong then, and they are wrong now. There were many dark moments in those three weeks on the Gulf Coast, and FEMA and the federal government certainly made some mistakes, but perhaps the worst part was being held responsible for the things that I didn’t control at all.If you've heard Brownie revise history over the years, there's little new here, except a new chorus of blaming the media (of which, it should be pointed out, he's now a member). "My mishandling of the press during the disaster response was among my greatest mistakes," he writes, citing CNN's Anderson Cooper and Time magazine as two of the worst offenders.
Today government needs to affirmatively reassert its commitment to the all-hazards approach to disasters. Whether a disaster is man-made, natural or the result of terrorism, the response is the same. And the federal government must not become a first responder. The more state and local governments become dependent upon federal dollars, the weaker and more dependent upon the federal government they will become.Those who want more Brownie on Brownie can listen to his talk show Friday afternoon at 3 p.m. New Orleans time, where he promises more hot takes and hard truths.
Why is that important? Disasters happen every day. The federal government should be involved only in those disasters that are beyond the capacity of state and local governments to handle. Centralized disaster response at the national level would destroy the inherent close relationship between citizens and those who save their lives and protect their property in times of everyday disasters. We must not allow that to happen.
I used the hurricane as a metaphor for the urgent and dramatic change needed in Chicago: at City Hall, at the Chicago City Council, at Chicago Public Schools. Our school system is about to go bankrupt, and the city’s pension costs and other massive debts have squeezed out money for basic services.The original column, McQueary wrote, came after a Trib editorial board meeting with Mayor MItch Landrieu, who was in Chicago to talk about the city's recovery — and, presumably, the Katrina10 commemoration, which is designed to both memorialize the tragedy and put forward the city's best face at a time when we once again have the world's gaze.
I wrote what I did not out of lack of empathy, or racism, but out of long-standing frustration with Chicago’s poorly managed finances.
Residents overthrew a corrupt government. A new mayor slashed the city budget, forced unpaid furloughs, cut positions, detonated labor contracts. New Orleans' City Hall got leaner and more efficient. Dilapidated buildings were torn down. Public housing got rebuilt. Governments were consolidated.Unmentioned: billions of dollars in federal recovery money and insurance payouts, which had a lot to do with what progress we've made; bootstraps and volunteerism only goes so far. Dumping that kind of money into Chicago, even without a tragedy, would probably perk up things there as well.
An underperforming public school system saw a complete makeover. A new schools chief, Paul Vallas, designed a school system with the flexibility of an entrepreneur. No restrictive mandates from the city or the state. No demands from teacher unions to abide. Instead, he created the nation's first free-market education system.
Hurricane Katrina gave a great American city a rebirth.
Envy isn't a rational response to the upcoming 10-year anniversary of Hurricane Katrina.
But with Aug. 29 fast approaching and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu making media rounds, including at the Tribune Editorial Board, I find myself wishing for a storm in Chicago — an unpredictable, haughty, devastating swirl of fury. A dramatic levee break. Geysers bursting through manhole covers. A sleeping city, forced onto the rooftops.
PHOTOS: St. Roch Market vandalized overnight (2)
PHOTOS: St. Roch Market vandalized overnight (1)
The French Quarter has become something of a Jurassic Park for Creole cuisine, a contained area in which to see shrimp rémoulade, oysters Rockefeller and other giants of a former age in all their lumbering glory. At Arnaud’s, Antoine’s, Galatoire’s and Tujague’s, evolution stops at the kitchen door.
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