Disasters: No Comparison

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Certainly California has done an excellent job for its wildfire evacuees, and the federal government has responded much more quickly than it did during Hurricane Katrina.

However, using this disaster -- and the resilience of the affected Californians -- as an opportunity to take a cheap shot at the Gulf Coast is beneath The Post. The Oct. 25 editorial "Not Another Katrina" said: "Californians have something that Louisianans . . . didn't have when they needed it most: leadership."

Californians have other things that Louisianans and Mississippians did not: running water, electricity, open stores, passable roadways and an engaged federal partner.


U.S. Representative (D-Miss.)


The writer is chairman of the House Committee on Homeland Security.


"Not Another Katrina" told only part of the story of why California has responded successfully to the devastating wildfires. Essential to a well-coordinated response are exceptional local government leaders who plan ahead.

Who are these people? They are city and county managers, fire chiefs, police chiefs, public works directors, public health officials and many others. Their success hinges on building strong relationships, forming robust mutual aid agreements and training together.

We saw the same professionalism on Sept. 11, 2001, when Arlington County responded to the attack on the Pentagon. Because of long-standing relationships with other local governments, state officials, the FBI and the Pentagon, there was no question that the county would take charge of the response and recovery effort.

The Hurricane Katrina response was a wake-up call. The Washington area and well-prepared states such as California enjoy a level of professionalism that we take for granted. But more than one-third of these state and local government professionals will be eligible to retire in the next five to 10 years. We must take steps now to ensure that we have the talent and skills to protect our communities in the years ahead.


Executive Director

Center for State and

Local Government Excellence


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