Thursday, January 1, 2009

What motivated FEMA to make payment for debris removal?

An editorial in the Palm Beach Post has an interesting opinion about the motivation for FEMA to finally make a payment to a county in Texas for removal of hurricane debris:
Here's a little bit of good news from 2008 that should carry over to 2009 and beyond: FEMA mended its ways.

At least a little.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency still struggles with the big things - such as taking care of Texans after Hurricane Ike. But last month FEMA finally wrote checks to St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie to cover $2.4 million of the cost of debris removal after Hurricanes Frances and Jeanne clobbered the area in 2004.

FEMA at first denied the payments because the debris was removed from private roads in gated communities. But city and county officials contended, correctly, that the trash was a fire hazard and could block emergency vehicles. Besides, the people in gated communities pay federal taxes like everybody else.

Why did FEMA see the light? A political scandal might have played a part. The agency in October paid $3.4 million to Martin County while continuing to stiff the others. Turns out that soon-to-be former Rep. Tim Mahoney had an affair with a Martin County official seeking the payment. After that, FEMA had to pay St. Lucie County and Port St. Lucie or look really bad.

If a fear of looking really bad actually motivates FEMA now, the new year already is looking up.

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