Wednesday, March 01, 2006
By GERARD SHIELDS
Advocate Washington bureau
WASHINGTON — James Lee Witt is considered by many to be America’s master of disaster response.
Four days after Hurricane Katrina hit Aug. 29, Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco tapped Witt to serve as the state’s disaster consultant. Since that time, a platoon of his employees have descended on Baton Rouge trying to get as much federal disaster money for the state as possible.
So far, the state has paid Witt’s company $4.8 million. But they are hoping that those millions invested will translate into billions in disaster relief.
“It was quite clear from the outset that we needed someone who knows how to get us what we need,” said Andy Kopplin, executive director of the Louisiana Recovery Authority, an advisory board appointed by Blanco.
In 2002, Witt wrote a book about his experiences, “Stronger in the Broken Places: Nine Lessons for Turning Crisis into Triumph.” His mantra can be found on the first page, a prescient observation given the government failures in responding to Katrina.
“Procrastination is the archenemy of crisis management,” Witt wrote. “Sometimes a crisis becomes a crisis simply because somebody has failed to act.”
Witt, who charges $275 an hour — less than your average attorney, worked in Louisiana for free during the first weeks after the storm. And said he personally has stayed away from the state to keep their costs down.
“We’ve been blessed,” he said. “I really enjoy what I do.”
LPNS COMMENTARY: YOU MAY REMEMBER THE POLITICALLY INSPIRED EMAILS FROM MR. WITT'S STAFF INSTRUCTING THE GUV ON HOW TO DRESS FOR THE MEDIA DURING THE AFTERMATH. READ THE WHOLE STORY ON THE ABOVE LINK, IT IS VERY INTERESTING HOW AN ARKANSAS COUNTY JUDGE (IN LA. THAT'S A POLICE JUROR) ROSE THROUGH THE RANKS TO BE A TOP ADVISOR TO PRESIDENT BILL CLINTON.
KOPPLIN SAYS, "we needed someone who knows how to get us what we need.” Our question is, what are our paid lobbyists and members of Congress for?
WITT- "WE'VE BEEN BLESSED" IS QUITE AN UNDERSTATEMENT, ($4,800,000?).