Texas Governor Blasts FEMA, Creates Hurricane Recovery Commission

November 21, 2008

Texas Gov. Rick Perry has established the Governor’s Commission for Disaster Recovery and Renewal, an advisory panel of public and private sector experts who will create a plan to assist Texas communities with recovery efforts after a natural disaster, according to a release issued by the governor’s office.

Perry also has directed the Texas Department of Transportation to immediately begin assisting with debris removal in Southeast Texas.

“Two months after Ike’s landfall, Texans are still sleeping in cars or tents outside of padlocked trailers,” Gov. Perry said. “Mounds of debris are piled up in coastal communities, creating health hazards while Washington remains mum about whether it will provide the same level of resources it did for Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina. These situations clearly demonstrate that the federal government’s recovery system is broken. I am confident this new commission will find solutions to these challenges as well as create a plan to speed recovery and accelerate economic development.”

The commission’s initial charge will be to find ways for the state to mitigate the housing shortages occurring in coastal areas. Currently, thousands of residents whose homes were destroyed in the wake of Hurricane Ike have been left homeless, as FEMA has been slow to provide temporary housing alternatives. The commission will also assist with seeking full federal reimbursement for recovery, including debris removal.

In the long term, the commission will develop a report to identify critical elements to help communities fully recover from the effects of recent disasters; develop processes, protocols and standards to prepare for future disasters; and pinpoint strategies to rebuild affected communities. The commission’s final report to the governor, lieutenant governor, and speaker of the Texas House of Representatives is due June 30, 2009.

The governor also reiterated the state’s request for 100 percent federal reimbursement for debris removal, a request that has gone unanswered for a month.

“This commission will be essential to securing the same degree of reimbursement that was awarded to Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina,” said Gov. Perry. “The notion that Texas should use its hard-earned surplus dollars to cover costs that fall under the federal government’s responsibility is outrageous. The idea that Washington would shower 700 billion taxpayer dollars on mismanaged Wall Street firms, then penalize a state that has exercised tough fiscal discipline by leaving it to cover the bill of the costliest disaster in its history is preposterous.”

Gov. Perry named former Harris County Judge Robert Eckels chair of the commission, which will consist of 31 members to be appointed by the governor in the coming weeks, including representatives from the private sector, foundations, and local and state government. County judges from Aransas, Brazoria, Calhoun, Cameron, Chambers, Galveston, Harris, Hidalgo, Jackson, Jefferson, Kenedy, Kleberg, Liberty, Matagorda, Nueces, Orange, Refugio, San Patricio, Starr, Victoria, and Willacy counties will serve as ex-officio members.

The governor noted that although local officials are best equipped to assess the impact of disasters on their residents and to develop recovery plans for their communities, local governments alone do not have the resources needed to help a community fully recover from the devastating effects of a hurricane or major tropical storm, or to adequately prepare for future disasters.

During the 2008 hurricane season, the Texas coast was battered by three hurricanes and a major tropical storm within a 90 day period, resulting in the simultaneous designation of all Texas coastal counties as presidential disaster areas for the first time in the state’s history.

Source: Texas Governor’s Office, www.governor.state.tx.us/

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