Wednesday, February 22, 2006
By Christine Harvey
St. Tammany bureau
U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal said he wants to make sure Slidell isn't forgotten as Congress prepares to consider the next supplemental budget with regard to Hurricane Katrina, worrying that the bureaucracy within federal government is hindering the city's ability to rebuild.
Jindal, R-Kenner, spent Tuesday morning touring some of the most devastated parts of Slidell with Mayor Ben Morris and City Councilman Ray Canada. The city officials took Jindal through several neighborhoods, including Dellwood and Westchester Estates, and stopped to show the congressman the damage the storm wrought at Salmen High School and Our Lady of Lourdes Catholic Church.
"We're tired of being forgotten, and we're tired of being messed with," said Morris, who chauffeured Jindal around the city in his pickup truck, complete with a "got fema?" bumper sticker.
Workers removed storm debris from the canal in the months following Katrina but left the tree limbs and trunks piled along the banks because of bureaucratic red tape surrounding the project.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency initially told city leaders to stop the project because it would not pay for the work, but then said the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost, Jindal said. Now, FEMA is saying the city will have to pay a 25 percent match for the debris removal.
Jindal said he hopes to persuade FEMA to finish the job in Slidell and plans to look into changing the rules on cost-sharing. In addition, he wants to see if the city can use block grant money from the state to pay its match for the debris removal.
Jindal, from his perspective, said FEMA is broken, but laid part of the blame for the lingering problems in Slidell at the feet of the state and the other federal agencies involved. Jindal called it a "ridiculous situation" and noted that the work to clear the debris from Slidell's waterways should be finished by now.
Jindal said it's important when considering future disasters, both natural and manmade, to ensure there is a clear chain of command, to choose leaders who are willing to act when necessary and worry about the paperwork later, and to empower front-line employees to make critical decisions.