"FEMA has been criticized for paying nearly $30 million in claims in Miami-Dade, which escaped a direct hit, and for paying for funerals in deaths unrelated to the hurricanes. Also, 30 of 133 FEMA inspectors checked reportedly have criminal records, with such offenses as drunken driving and drug possession. FEMA Director Michael Brown said criminal records don't automatically disqualify inspectors. Rep. Robert Wexler, D-Delray Beach, wants Mr. Brown fired."
What's that you say? Allow the paper to clarify: From the May 13th Editorial Page of the Palm Beach Post
Take 82-year-old Joan Clay, who lost her trailer home in Ocean Breeze Park. As The Post reported last week, the Martin County woman is stuck in the FEMA bureaucracy that so hindered response to last summer's storms. Ms. Clay thought the $14,000 she got was to help cover the difference between her losses and what her insurer paid. She spent it on a new home. Now, FEMA wants the money back, saying it was paid by mistake.
So while Ms. Clay, who really was a storm victim, fights the system, Mr. Brown continues to defend the $30 million-plus in payments to Miami-Dade County, where there were no victims. "There was damage" in Miami-Dade, Mr. Brown insisted Wednesday, again citing supposed 90-mph winds there that no measuring system has verified. What about all those mistaken payments, including money for more funerals than there were deaths?
Hearing poll results showing that 30 percent of people in storm-prone areas aren't prepared, Mr. Brown demanded that they "take some individual responsibility." He might start by setting an example. Mr. Brown and his agency keep ducking questions about payment problems by hiding behind privacy laws. Nothing, though, prevents the release of payments by ZIP code or by contractor.
Gov. Bush put out his spin, saying, "As well as we did" in 2004, "we are going to do it better." Let's hope that chance doesn't come. As for the "we," he's right that lots of locals -- civil servants and civilians -- responded heroically. But many of those people didn't have kind words for FEMA and the state. The first person who needs to do better is Michael Brown.
Mind you these are editorials in spring of 2005 about hurricanes that occurred in 2004. Now -- how long do you think it will take FEMA to clean up Nawlins? I just want to know how long it will take them to admit there are thousands of folks stranded at the New Orleans Convention Center.