Silver Lining in the Rain Clouds: Talk Gets Cheap When Action Matters

New Orleans   Yes, friends and neighbors, it really does often depend on whose ox is getting gored. Another case in point and providing abundant proof lies in the water brought by Harvey.

Harvey was an equal opportunity disaster compared to Katrina. Rich and poor neighborhoods in Houston, whether Belaire or half-million dollar suburbs, went under as did the 5th Ward. Republicans and Democratic voters were swimming for their lives.

All of the talk and lip-flapping after Katrina that slowed funds as conservatives and Republicans yammered about corruption and how the recovery money would be spent, can’t be heard. Much of the same accompanied Sandy when it hit the New York /New Jersey area when Texas Senators and other wingers wanted to claim the recovery package was larded with pork, referring to money that was earmarked for repair of infrastructure and prevention for the future.

Republican leaders are already preparing a $6 billion package of immediate relief for Texas-Louisiana disaster areas as a first order of business when they return to session in September. After Katrina, we were marching on Congress in December more than three months after the storm for a $4 billion package, and they were fighting us. The lessons from other countries, Japan for example, facing similar disasters, is that you have to move money immediately. I’m not bitter, but that doesn’t mean I don’t remember.

Does it go without saying that New Orleans and New York City were Democratic strongholds, while southeast Texas and southwest Louisiana are seen as Republican redoubts, regardless of how blue the city of Houston itself votes? Maybe, but let’s just say it anyway.

President Trump is all over this as well, like white on rice. He’s already been to Corpus Christi and Austin, and is heading to the Lake Charles, Louisiana area. VP Pence was hanging around the Beaumont area throwing fallen branches on a pile. He wants to see if he can pretend to be able to manage something in this disaster, since he can’t seem to handle the disaster he has made of his original swampland target in Washington.

With proof positive of the need for a robust government response, we are now saved from any of his cavalier and foolhardy talk about shutting down the government. The proposed whack at the FEMA budget is being rewritten as an increase instead. The only wall that is likely to get funded now is a seawall. There’s even speculation that Trump may have to back off of DACA and the Dreamers because so many live in Texas. He may even have to clinch his teeth on his immigration hateration and drum beating, since recovery efforts depend so vitally on immigrant labor, papered or not, to fill gaps in overwhelming cleanup and construction needs.

Who says there isn’t a small thread of silver lining in this horrid devastation of rain clouds?


Twelve Years Since Katrina, and Water Rising in Houston May Teach New Lessons

Houston flooding

New Orleans   A tiny frog hopped out from under the dryer in our kitchen this morning to mark the 12th anniversary of Hurricane Katrina and the wet water wonder world engulfing us today.

It’s still dark outside though close to 9 in the morning with a steady rain pouring since the predawn from our share of Tropical Storm Harvey that continues to inundate the Gulf Coast and has turned Houston’s bayous into small rivers and whole neighborhoods into lakes. The papers compared the differences and similarities between Harvey and Katrina. We had a record storm surge. They have a record rain that eventually may top 4 feet in some spots and has already equaled the average annual rainfall amount in others.

Local 100 represents school workers, but the schools have all been closed and won’t open until after Labor Day at best. We know from Katrina that some schools, as well as other public and private buildings, may be so damaged that it may be months, not days before they reopen. Where I was supposed to stay tonight in Houston on my original travel schedule reports that they have electricity, but no water, making it a campground of sorts. Chaco and I were going to catch our almost annual Houston Astros game tonight and tomorrow night against the Texas Rangers, but that game is now being played in St. Petersburg, Florida at the Rays stadium. All of my Houston work is now pushed to the end of next week, when we hope everything has dried out and things are back to normal.

We know from Katrina though that the so-called “new” normal is simply an expression that things can never be as they were before. Hearing the New Orleans mayor report that one pump in the city caught on fire and has been taken off line and trying to assure the citizens here on the Katrina anniversary that we can handle 10 inches of water if it falls between Tuesday and Friday is hardly comforting. Of course there is a “but,” as in, but if a rain “band,”as they now call them, stalls over us, many areas are in trouble.

The never normal is now coming to Houston just as it did to New Orleans, but maybe there’s a bigger difference than the papers have listed. Houston is not a majority African-American city, and is a thriving, economic engine throughout their metropolitan area growing great guns. Land is worth more, and there is more wealth. New Orleanians saw that in the response and welcome of the Houston to our refugees.

Looking for a silver lining to this climatic catastrophe, perhaps Houston will marshal the will and resources to grab the bull by the horns and finally do something different to prepare for the next time, rather than refusing to learn – or afford – the lessons of this time. Breaking out of the denier mode and forging a new path would be a gift in Houston for all Texans, and for all of the rest of us it would also show the direction and force us to follow.