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Post-Harvey: Will Texas Repeat Louisiana’s 2005 Money Grab?

Today’s Campaign Update

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

  • Now that Hurricane Harvey has finally passed, leaving behind in Houston and East Texas a level of devastation unprecedented in U.S. history, the political games around securing taxpayer money at the local, state and national levels to help pay for the rebuilding effort will begin.  Given that Harvey wrought destruction from Corpus Christi all the way up the coast through the Beaumont/Port Arthur/Orange Golden Triangle and into the Piney Woods communities of East Texas, we are talking about an area that is home to at least 8 million Texans.  Contrast this to Katrina, which, as terrible as it was, impacted New Orleans and surrounding areas that were home to just over 1 million Louisianans.
  • Normally in such situations, the most heated politics revolve around federal funds.  The federal government does have a disaster relief budget in its normal funding, but it will only be able to scratch the surface of a recovery and rebuilding effort that will be required for the nation’s 4th largest city and surrounding areas.  So, it will be up to the Texas congressional delegation to develop a proposal for a supplemental funding bill to shepherd through congress.  As we have seen in the past, such supplemental appropriations bills can become controversial, and vehicles for all members of congress to try to attach their own pet pork-barrel spending proposals.
  • In the wake of Katrina in 2005, the Louisiana congressional delegation, led by then-Senators Mary Landrieu andDavid Vitter, swung for the fences, bringing forward an initial proposal for a massive $250 billion appropriation that included funding for things like $35 million in marketing funds for the state’s seafood industry, $8 million for alligator farms and a $40 billion request for the Army Corps of Engineers, which normally spends about $400 million in the state.  This breathtaking money grab came after the George W. Bush Administration had worked with congressional leaders to push through $62 billion in Katrina-related recovery funding.
  • Twelve years later, now comes Hurricane Harvey, and a trail of devastation that is many times the size of the impact of Katrina.  Partisan politics in the nation’s capital were already polarized in 2005, but the situation today makes the politics of a dozen years ago seem like patty-cake by comparison.  A Texas delegation dominated by Republican members will have their work cut out for them in securing a supplemental appropriation that is sizable enough to truly help, and will need its Democrat members to work to secure vote from their own party, as many, many budget hawks in the GOP caucus will refuse to support any proposed legislation.
  • The Texas delegation will also need to strongly oppose efforts to turn a supplemental bill into a pork-barrel vehicle, as the national news media will be looking for any excuse to demonize members who represent a state that voted heavily for President Donald Trump.  Things could get especially uncomfortable for Senator Ted Cruz if he decides to become a sponsor for a supplemental, as he strongly opposed the supplemental bill for relief efforts for the Northeastern U.S. in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.
  • But as is the case related to any disaster such as Harvey, opportunities present themselves as well.  For example, the Texas delegation will have an opportunity to ally itself with the Louisiana delegation related to a supplemental, given that Harvey also caused widespread damage to the Eastern half of the Pelican State.  Care will have to be taken not to revive some of the hair-brained pork barrel stuff that made its way into the Landrieu/Vitter Katrina bill in 2005, but the alliance of the two state delegations would help to build a strong base of support in congress.
  • For the Trump Administration, the opportunity relates to the President’s campaign promise of a national infrastructure spending bill.  The President has often spoken of his desire for a bill in excess of $1 trillion over ten years to help rebuild the country’s decaying system of roads, bridges and other key infrastructure.  The scale of the devastation in Texas and Louisiana from Harvey could serve as an anchoring point to the building out of a comprehensive national proposal.
  • Never have so many major “shovel-ready” infrastructure projects presented themselves in any region of this country at any single time as we are about to see manifesting themselves in Texas and Louisiana in the weeks to come.  It’s still a little too soon for the politicians to begin talking about all of this now, but as the flood-waters recede and the true scope and scale of the devastation becomes visible to television cameras, the political gamesmanship will and should begin in earnest.

Just another day in everything is politics America.

That is all.

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Houston’s Local Leaders Getting Unfair Rap On Evacuation Decision

Today’s Campaign Update

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

  • My wife and I moved to Houston in June, 2004, at the insistence of the company I worked for at the time.  For 18 years prior to that, we had lived and raised our children in Arlington, home of the Texas Rangers and, more recently, the Dallas Cowboys.  We moved back to North Texas a year ago in order to be closer to our kids and grand kids, but during our dozen years in Houston, we developed a great and abiding love for that great city, which is now undergoing its worst flood event in modern times thanks to Hurricane Harvey.
  • Our move to Houston came just a few years after Tropical Storm Allison, the city’s previous record flood event, which made us mindful to select a home that lay outside the 100-year flood plain.  A year after we relocated, Katrina devastated New Orleans, and Houston opened its generous arms to tens of thousands of that city’s displaced residents, many of whom became permanent Houston residents.  Louisiana, San Antonio, Dallas and many other cities are returning that favor this week.
  • A few weeks later, we rode out Hurricane Rita as much of the city’s population needlessly evacuated, creating havoc on highways all over Texas.  Since then, we also hunkered down through Hurricane Ike and a series of severe flooding events.  Over those years and through those events, I learned a lot about how Houston works and doesn’t work, and developed a great deal of admiration for the area’s consistently high quality of leadership during such disasters.  All of which is why it irritates me to no end to see Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner and Harris County Judge Ed Emmett getting criticized for their joint decision to not evacuate Houston and surrounding areas in advance of Hurricane’s Harvey’s landfall.
  • Much of the criticism emanates from the fact that Texas Governor Greg Abbott made a statement last Thursday morning in which he advised citizens from Corpus Christi up to Houston to get to higher ground.  But in that same statement, he said he was leaving the ultimate decision on whether or not to issue a mandatory evacuation order up to Mayor Turner and Judge Emmett, which was appropriate. Sadly, much of the criticism directed at those two local leaders in recent days appears to be politically motivated, coming mainly from outsiders who know little about the situation on the ground.
  • Given Houston’s experience with Rita and Ike, along with other recent flooding events like the Memorial Day 2015 flood, both Turner – a Democrat – and Emmett – a Republican – agreed that the best course of action was not to evacuate, but to advise citizens to hunker down in place and keep the streets and freeways clear for search and rescue teams to operate if necessary.  There are several reasons why this was a completely justifiable decision to make.
  • The first reason is the unpredictability of storms like Harvey.  Even though forecasters were warning on Thursday that the storm could create the flooding we have since seen take place, we must remember that hurricanes are notorious for taking last-minute jogs to the north or south that render the projections of computer models laughably wrong.
  • That is what happened with Hurricane Rita in September of 2005.  Coming just a few weeks after Katrina, most Houstonians panicked and evacuated the city, even those whose homes sat on high ground.  The result was several hundred thousand cars on the roads trying to simultaneously leave the city that should have remained in their garages.  The result was complete gridlock throughout the eastern half of the State of Texas.  I knew one person who took 11 hours to make the drive from Alvin to Sugar Land, just 40 miles away, another couple who took 24 hours to make what is normally a 4 hour drive up to Dallas.
  • Hundreds of thousands of cars remained on these gridlocked roads when Rita made landfall, and had the storm remained on the course the computer models were projecting, a massive loss of human life could have taken place.  Luckily for travelers stuck on the highways, Rita made a last-minute jog to the north and ended up going into deep East Texas and Louisiana instead.  An attempt to evacuate 4 million people out of Houston on Thursday of last week could well have created a similar gridlocked situation as Harvey made landfall – there was no way to know.
  • When Hurricane Ike came through in 2008, again several hundred thousand Houstonians who would have been better off hunkering down decided to evacuate.  Luckily, road improvements and contra-flow lane provisions enacted after Rita helped to make the gridlock related to Ike a shorter-timed event.
  • People need to understand this about Houston:  it is not New Orleans, and comparisons being made between Katrina’s devastation of New Orleans and what Harvey is doing to Houston are asinine.
  • The first difference is one of scale:  In 2005, New Orleans was a city of about 500,000 residents.  There are 6 million people living today in the Houston metropolitan area.  Estimates at the time were that it would have taken about 36 hours to fully evacuate New Orleans, had Mayor Ray Nagin and Governor Kathleen Blanco just acted in time.  Unfortunately, they failed to do so, and disaster resulted.
  • The best estimates available today is that it would take four days to fully evacuate Houston and its surrounding suburbs.  Obviously, Harvey developed so rapidly that Mayor Turner and Judge Emmett could never have made the call in time.
  • Then there is the landscape:  Most of New Orleans lies below sea level, and the city has a long history of being inundated by significant hurricanes.  Katrina was terrible, but far from unprecedented.  In contrast, Houston is above sea-level.  Its flooding issues mainly take place in the low-lying areas that lie near the many creeks, rivers and bayous that run through and around the city, but the vast majority of homes are in reality safe from even this current unprecedented flooding event.
  • Finally, Mayor Turner and Judge Emmett face a problem of communication – most people simply don’t listen.  Local officials in 2005 were very clear in their pleas to Houstonians outside of the low-lying areas in danger from Rita to just stay home and ride out the storm.  Hundreds of thousands of perfectly safe people either did not hear those pleas or ignored them.  The same thing happened with Ike in 2008.
  • Thus, when faced with an option to try to advise only those in low-lying areas to evacuate, while pleading with everyone else to shelter in place, can we doubt that the Mayor and Judge knew what the likely result would be?
  • The reality here is that there was no “right” or “wrong” decision to be made last Thursday.  Governor Abbott’s advice was perfectly sound, and so was the decision-making by Mayor Turner and Judge Emmett.  It should be instructive to all the hindsight-judging critics out there that Governor Abbott and federal officials have all, to a person, steadfastly refused to criticize the decision not to order an evacuation despite having had multiple nationally-televised opportunities to do so.
  • Houston and its people are undergoing a major crisis right now, and officials at every level are doing everything they can to help address the situation.  Criticism coming mainly from people who really know little about the facts on the ground just make their jobs harder, and it needs to stop.

That is all.

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Can We Get That Whole CalExit Deal Moving A Little Faster?

Today’s Campaign Update 

(Because The Campaign Never Ends)

  • If we didn’t have Democrats, we’d have to make them up.Ok, I swear I didn’t make this up.  It’s a real story.  The far, far, far, far left wing of the far, far leftwing California Democratic Party is mounting a recall effort on their own Assembly Speaker because…wait for it…he isn’t far, far, far, far leftwing enough for them.  Wait, you say, Speaker Anthony Rendon is as far, far, far leftwing as it gets, right?  Well, no.  See, he needed to add one more “far” to that total of “fars”, and ram through a completely unworkable proposal to implement single-payer healthcare in the Golden State, a bill that would have utterly bankrupted the state’s treasury within a few years.  Of course, the leftist nitwits who pushed this bill and are now taking out their frustrations on the Speaker figure that when the money runs out in their own state, they’ll just petition the federal government to force taxpayers from the 49 other states to pay for their ruinous policies.  It’s the California way, after all.
  • Hey, can we get that whole CalExit deal moving along a little faster? – Speaking of the insanity that is California, CA Congressman Lou Correa is so unhinged that he now displays a painting of the Statue of Liberty wearing Muslim garb in his congressional office.  This isn’t political thought, this is mental illness.  But then, California is the state that gives us Nancy Pelosi and Maxine Waters, so, just par for the course, really.
  • At long last, this is what you’re sorry for having done?Caitlyn Jenner apologized to her dozens of fans for having been photographed wearing a “Make America Great Again” cap.  Of all the millions of things Caitlyn Jenner owes an apology for, wearing a cap of any kind is not among them.
  • Well, that’s a damn shame.Reuters reports that the Justice Department is not looking to charge journalists for knowingly releasing leaked classified information to the public.  Because no Republican can be counted on to do the right thing anymore.  Sad!
  • I am shocked, shocked to see temperatures falling in Australia! – I reported a couple of weeks ago about the scandal in Australia over the Bureau of Meteorology’s (BOM) effort to “revise” the national temperature data there to invent “global warming” where none is occurring.  Graham Lloyd at The Australian is now reporting that, now that BOM has been caught and forced to properly record actual temperature data rather than make it all up, temperatures Down Under are suddenly plummeting.  Go figure.  No one could have seen that coming!
  • Let the good times roll…or float… – Big news yesterday in New Orleans as heavy rains there overwhelmed the city’s utterly inadequate pumping system that is supposed to drain rain water off of city streets.  While the Times Picayune reported this as if it were some rare occurrence, I have personally been in New Orleans three times in the last 20 years in which the same thing happened.  And no, there weren’t any hurricanes coming through at those times.  The simple fact of the matter is that New Orleans – which I love – is 11 feet below sea level on average, and when it rains heavily, the streets are gonna flood.  This is not news, this is an inevitability.
  • Wait.  Is this question serious? Really??? – The mental midgets at Newsweek ran a piece with the following breathless headline:  “WHY ARE MOST POLITICIANS WHITE 52 YEARS AFTER THE VOTING RIGHTS ACT WAS SIGNED INTO LAW?”  Ummmmm…lessee here….hey, could it be because most people in America are white, even 52 years later?  Now we know why Newsweek exists only in bandwidth.  My goodness.

Just another day in praying for CalExit America.

That is all.

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