Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Dallas say no way to 40,000 potential refugees from Houston.

Nation: Giggle at the code words and then see my translation of this Houston Chronicle piece.

"....AUSTIN - With hurricane season bearing down, a crucial part of the state's elaborate disaster evacuation plan has already hit gridlock: Dallas is balking at a request to harbor as many as 40,000 of Harris County's neediest evacuees. Texas officials, haunted by last year's images from New Orleans of poor and elderly citizens left behind in Hurricane Katrina's wake, have formed a plan in which coastal cities would be paired with inland destinations that would house "special needs" evacuees, those without the means or ability to escape on their own. ....At a recent meeting in Corsicana, an official with Gov. Rick Perry's emergency management division asked North Texas officials to reserve shelter for as many as 40,000 such residents from Harris County. But Kenny Shaw, director of the city of Dallas' office of emergency management, told the Houston Chronicle that sheltering that many needy, disabled or elderly evacuees — and possibly their pets — would be a stretch. "It would be a little bit of a chaotic situation if we got 40,000 people," Shaw said. "We are not going to be able to house anywhere near a 40,000 special needs population." The state can't make any city take special needs evacuees, meaning if "Big D" ultimately refuses to open shelters for them, they'll have to be transported even farther away to wait out the storm."
Translation: "Hell no we are not taking 40,000 refugees from your county to ours where our social, financial infrastructure would be under collapse. You think we don't read papers or hear stories about the crime, murder and tension brought on by the Katrina refugees?"
Houston's reaction The less-than-welcoming news from Dallas prompted a muted response in Houston. "I think these cities and the people of Texas will act in good faith," Mayor Bill White said Tuesday. He added that an evacuation is a huge logistical dilemma and it's "going to be a strain on all our resources." "I'm sure that people in Dallas-Fort Worth and the government will be working to make sure that there's an equitable burden," he said.
Translation: "Shit, they didn't fall for it."
Although there have been some long-term consequences for Houston from the influx of evacuees, many of whom have remained in the area, Frank Michel, a spokesman for Houston Mayor Bill White, said officials are comfortable with the decisions made last year. "There but for the grace of God and the direction of the wind goes Houston. We wanted to offer people the same assistance we'd like to receive," he said.
Translation: " We should have never taken in that many people, even New Orleans don't want them back. We're screwed now."
Shaw, however, said his understanding is there is no agreement yet to take in all of the estimated 40,000 Harris County residents with special needs. He said state officials have not requested a formal meeting with the city to discuss the plans in detail or ask for feedback. "At some point we need to sit down with the state and figure out where they are coming up with these numbers, and have them tell us how they expect us to house that many people if in fact they are going to send that many up here," he said. But Walt said representatives from the state and local governments attended meetings in April and May specifically to discuss the Harris County evacuation to North Texas. The sessions were coordinated by the North Central Texas Council of Governments, a voluntary association of local governments in the 16-county North Texas region. Shaw characterized those meetings, which he attended, as informal. Keith Wells, assistant emergency management coordinator for Tarrant County and Fort Worth, struck a more conciliatory chord on the issue, but he added that he doesn't yet know how much shelter capacity will emerge. "Obviously if something happens, we're going to do what needs to get done," he said. "Hurricane season's fast approaching. It's all moving very fast. A lot of these plans are in process. It has a lot of moving parts."
Translation: " We are screwed." I feel bad for Houston because in a perfect world, the plan would be ideal. Unfortunately, everyone has seen what happened to Houston and they don't want the same to happen to them.

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