Sunday, September 11, 2005

Santorum Scrambles to Creat Katrina Cover-up - Blame the Victims and Protect Bush Cronies - PittsburghLIVE.com

Santorum suggests Katrina panel - PittsburghLIVE.com: "Santorum suggests Katrina panel"

By David M. Brown
TRIBUNE-REVIEW
Saturday, September 10, 2005

President Bush is weighing a proposal to create a temporary federal commission with its own director to coordinate reconstruction efforts in Gulf Coast states devastated by Hurricane Katrina, U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum said Friday.
Santorum, the third-ranking Republican in the Senate, said he spoke with Bush about the concept on Thursday at the White House.

"I referred to it as 'The Marshall Plan for the Gulf Coast.' He seemed to like the idea," the Penn Hills Republican said in an interview with the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. "Ideally, this would be a presidential initiative with a presidential appointee."

The Marshall Plan was the U.S.-led program established for rebuilding western Europe following World War II.

A spokesman for the White House did not respond to a request for comment yesterday.

The scope of the Katrina disaster across Louisiana, Mississippi and Alabama "far exceeds anything" previously handled by the Federal Emergency Management Agency, Santorum said. "So that's why I think it requires a lot more special attention."

The worst previous disaster in terms of people put out of their homes resulted from the Northridge earthquake that struck near Los Angeles in 1994, displacing about 30,000 families. In Katrina's wake, reports indicate at least 400,000 families were displaced, Santorum said.

"We need some federal organization that cuts through the red tape, that puts together a plan, and that works on all levels of government to be able to deal with this issue," he said.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who oversees FEMA, "can't spend the next two years in the Gulf trying to help the recovery of that region," he said. "It's not his job. He has national responsibilities."

Also, FEMA's proper role is providing immediate relief to disaster victims, not overseeing a lengthy recovery plan, he said.

"We need to get the regular team out of there, and someone who is going to be there for the long term, in there. (That person) would most likely be head of this new organization that would be set up to help the recovery effort," Santorum said.

FEMA has been criticized for its slow response to the disaster. Friday, Chertoff relieved FEMA Director Michael Brown of on-site command of rescue and recovery efforts and called him back to Washington, D.C. Chertoff avoided questions about whether the move was the first step toward Brown's departure from the agency.

Santorum noted there are precedents for his plan to create a new agency to oversee reconstruction of the area. For example, the Hoover Commission helped reorganize the executive branch after World War II and the Korean War, he said.


Santorum couldn't say what his plan might cost.

Mary Comerio, an authority on post-disaster reconstruction and professor at the University of California, Berkeley, called the proposal "an interesting idea for the public sector -- for roads, schools and levees," but "a terrible idea for private property and homeowners."

A new federal agency dealing with housing assistance "will get in the way and slow it down," said Comerio, author of the 1998 book, "Disaster Hits Home: New Policy for Urban Housing Recovery."

"I do think there needs to be some targeted investment in low-income and affordable housing," she said. "We have a government agency that provides that kind of funding -- (the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development). Rather than creating an alternative, we should use people who actually know something about housing."

On Thursday, Congress approved $51.8 billion for relief and recovery from Katrina, after earlier approving $10.5 billion in federal aid.

U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy, R-Upper St. Clair, said yesterday that members of Congress are discussing ways to monitor the spending.

"Although no one hesitated to send the money, leadership wants to set up a mechanism to track the money," he said."

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