View Full Version : Alabama Governor (R) Praises Former FEMA Chief

11-09-2005, 06:05 PM
Ala. governor praises former FEMA chief


Associated Press

WASHINGTON - Alabama Gov. Bob Riley won gushing praise Wednesday from his former House colleagues for the way his state handled Hurricane Katrina, a dramatic contrast to the criticism directed at federal and Louisiana officials.

While Riley asked Congress to give states more flexibility - and money - when it comes to hurricane relief, he also defended Michael Brown, the former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency. Several lawmakers on the select panel investigating hurricane preparation vilified Brown at a September hearing for the delayed federal response.

"I had his cell phone; he had mine," said Riley, a Republican who left Congress to run for governor in 2002. "There was just a constant communication."

Riley said he and Brown spoke three to six times a day after the hurricane. He also talked to Homeland Security Michael Chertoff daily and President Bush at least three times, Riley said.

Although Alabama was spared the kind of devastation suffered by Louisiana and Mississippi, some lawmakers suggested the state's planning likely saved lives. Riley says he knows of no Katrina fatalities in his state, although two people died in a car accident the day it hit.

"We can learn a lot by what Alabama has done," said Rep. Bill Shuster, D-Pa.

Despite his praise for federal officials, Riley had plenty of advice on how to improve communication among the various levels of government. He said several FEMA regulations complicate effective preparation, which he says should be days ahead of a hurricane instead of hours ahead.

Rather than serving military-style meals ready to eat, he suggested using a portable generator to keep open one grocery store in a town, allowing evacuees to pick out their own food. That would buy the state a few days of time, he said, but isn't allowed by FEMA because the store is a private entity.

Riley also defended his state's decision to perform criminal background checks on adult evacuees housed temporarily at several state parks. FEMA advised the state not to do it, Riley said, but he rejected the advice. He said he believes two people with criminal backgrounds were identified and not allowed to stay at the park.

Riley said he disagreed with a proposal floated by the White House that would consider putting the National Guard under federal control and making the military first-responders to natural disasters.

"I think we've got one of the greatest presidents we've ever had, but he doesn't know Alabama the way I do," Riley said.

Along with the suggestions for a freer hand in hurricane decisions, Riley said states need a hefty helping of preparedness money. He called on Congress to free up homeland security grants, allowing them to be used on natural disasters, not just terrorist attacks. He also asked for more money on highways to provide swifter evacuation routes.

Riley complained that FEMA has commandeered the one cruise ship docked in Mobile for hurricane victims, costing the port significant daily revenue. He suggested it instead use a ship from a port that has several docks, although FEMA has responded that Mobile is best because of its proximity to where many of the victims work.

11-10-2005, 10:10 AM
Nice to see Alabama actually being praised for something. There IS a god!