Tuesday, September 06, 2005

All politics is local

John Tierney spreads around the blame for the debacle in New Orleans, and neither federal nor local officials are spared. The greatest lesson for cities, Tierney writes, is one they should have learned a long time ago: Never rely on the federal government:

In New Orleans, the mayor seemed to assume all that was beyond his control, just like the mayors in the 1960's who let the riots occur.

They said their cities couldn't survive without help from Washington, which proceeded to shower inner cities with money and programs that did more damage than the riots. Cities didn't recover until some mayors, especially Republicans like Rudy Giuliani, tried self-reliance.

Mr. Giuliani was called heartless and racist for cutting the welfare rolls and focusing on crime reduction, but black neighborhoods were the greatest beneficiaries of his policies. He was criticized for ignoring social services as he concentrated on reorganizing the Police and Fire Departments, but his cold effectiveness made the city a more livable place and kept it calm after Sept. 11.

Yet Mr. Bush, with approval from conservatives who should have known better, reacted to Sept. 11 by centralizing disaster planning in Washington. He created the byzantine Homeland Security Department, with predictable results last week.


Blogger djhlights said...

Comparing the natural disaster of a state where the largest death toll on record for a storm is 29 to one that destroyed the rough land mass equivalent to 1 and 1/2 times the size of Britian with a estimated death toll of over 10,000 makes David Brooks look like rocket scientist.

Plus this is just stupid conservative pandering.

"Mr. Bush made a lot of mistakes last week, but most of his critics are making an even bigger one now by obsessing about what he said and did."

Tierney makes me pine for the days of William Safire.

10:17 AM

Blogger Jonathan Potts said...

I probably should have qualified my endorsement of the column. There are few points to note; one is that the federal government assumed responsibility for disaster response in the wake of 9/11, which is why much of the blame should fall on them.

Much of what people predicted about the Homeland Security department has come to pass; it's a powerless bureaucracy, and Bush was probably right to oppose its creation in the first place. However, having caved to political pressure and established it, he had the responsibility to make it work.

The overriding lessons for cities, however, is that to whatever extent their resources allow, they need to assume responsibility for their own disaster preparedness.

10:49 AM


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