Author Topic: Prof that Republicans are to blame for the fires in Cali (no lie, trust)  (Read 133 times)

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U.S. Rejected Davis on Aid to Clear Trees
 FEMA spent six months studying the governor's request, then turned it down hours before fires began, saying state was already getting funds.

By Gregg Jones and Dan Morain, Times Staff Writers

SACRAMENTO — The Bush administration took six months to evaluate Gov. Gray Davis' emergency request last spring for $430 million to clear dead trees from fire-prone areas of Southern California.

The request was finally denied Oct. 24, only hours before wildfires roared out of control in what has become the largest fire disaster in California history.

Rep. Mary Bono (R-Palm Springs), a leader in the effort to get federal assistance for fire prevention, questioned Thursday why the Federal Emergency Management Agency did not rule sooner.

"FEMA's decision was wrong," Bono said. "The timing couldn't have been worse.... We knew this disaster was going to happen with certainty. It was only a matter of when, and we were trying to beat the clock with removing the dead trees."

If Davis had received the denial earlier, Bono said, he would have had time to wage an appeal.

FEMA spokesman Chad Kolton said the agency denied Davis' request for an emergency declaration because California was already receiving more than $40 million from the departments of Agriculture and Interior to deal with a bark beetle infestation that has damaged thousands of acres of forest in the San Bernardino Mountains.

"Federal agencies were already engaged in a very substantive way," Kolton said. "Federal assistance was already being provided."

Davis' request, made in a letter to President Bush dated April 16, took months to process, Kolton said, because "we obviously wanted to consider this issue very carefully."

Members of the California congressional delegation were informed of FEMA's decision in an e-mail last Friday, after some of the fires were already burning. Kolton said Davis' Sacramento office was also notified of the decision verbally and in a faxed letter.

In that letter FEMA offered no explanation for why it had taken six months to rule.

"FEMA recognizes the difficulty that the state of California and affected local governments are facing," wrote Michael D. Brown, undersecretary for emergency preparedness and response.

"After a careful review of the information contained in your request, the authorities granted to [Department of Agriculture] and [Department of Interior], and the resources they have already committed to the state, it has been determined that the federal assistance through FEMA is not warranted."

Bono said she had no warning that FEMA was poised to reject the state's request. She said the Southern California fires — which so far have killed 20 people and destroyed 2,612 homes in San Diego, Ventura, Los Angeles and San Bernardino counties — underscore the need for changes in forestry management policies to more easily allow dead trees to be thinned from fire-prone forests. She said that even if the emergency declaration had been made and money approved, "there was no infrastructure in place to remove the trees quickly."

Jim Specht, a spokesman for Rep. Jerry Lewis (R-Redlands), said FEMA's reluctance to approve the request may have stemmed in part from the fact that the agency was being asked to declare an emergency essentially to remove dead trees — something that hadn't been the basis for any previous emergency declaration.

Lewis, a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee, said he lobbied Davis to seek the federal emergency declaration and $430 million.

"It's almost classic government," Lewis said in an interview outside the House chamber. "When you get below the third level in a bureaucracy, they don't believe it's going to happen until they see a fire rolling.... It's not a Democratic or Republican problem. It's a government problem."

Davis press secretary Steven Maviglio said the state's request was unusual in that it sought aid to prevent a fire disaster rather than respond after one occurred.

"FEMA is more of a reactive body than proactive body," Rep. Ken Calvert (R-Riverside) said. "We need to start putting resources into preventing these things before they happen."

Bono added: "Part of FEMA's charter is to mitigate for disaster and in this case they thought it wasn't the case, it wasn't part of their job — and look where we are because of that."

FEMA has the power to declare an emergency — clearing the way for federal relief — if a situation is deemed to be "an immediate threat to lives and property," Kolton said.

That was what Davis and other California elected officials maintained existed because of the large number of dead and dying trees caused by the beetle infestation.

"The point is we were searching for help from every possible angle we could get it, and FEMA was one," Bono said.

"The declaration, if FEMA would have given it, would have loosened up other money and made it easier for us to appropriate money, I believe. It would have been a starting point, sort of a triggering point for other money that would have been helpful."

Bono and Lewis followed up on Davis' April 16 request during a meeting with FEMA head Brown in July.

Davis administration officials became aware of the denial Friday, when Jeff Griffin, a top FEMA official in Oakland, called George Vinson, the Davis administration official who oversees homeland security.

In his letter to the president, Davis called on Bush to proclaim an emergency in Riverside, San Bernardino and San Diego counties because of "the severe fire threat caused by dead and dying trees resulting from several years of drought and a major bark beetle infestation."

The request followed Davis' declaration in March of a state of emergency in the areas where the fire threat had soared because of the dead trees.

Davis estimated that the cost of removing dead trees would be $125 million.

He also said the U.S. Forest Service needed $300 million to deal with the bark beetle problem on federal lands in the area.

"Most observers of the situation would agree that we are confronting an almost unprecedented scenario that demands immediate and concerted action from federal, state and local government agencies," Davis wrote.

Times staff writer Richard Simon contributed to this report from Washington.

As seen here, the greatest harm in terms of action, was non action. The link for prof.,1,4116024.story?coll=la-home-headlines

M Dogg™

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Re:Prof that Republicans are to blame for the fires in Cali (no lie, trust)
« Reply #1 on: October 31, 2003, 12:17:39 AM »
Also, Davis who's panicing was the reason for his recall when the energy crisis hit, has now found his stride.

Davis Responds to Fires as if Recall Never Happened

By Gregg Jones, Times Staff Writer
SACRAMENTO — Just weeks after voters effectively fired him, Gov. Gray Davis has thrown himself into the fight to contain Southern California's devastating wildfires and console its victims.

He has toured evacuation centers and visited burned-out neighborhoods. He has worked the phones to enlist assistance from neighboring states and the federal government, and been a near-constant presence on Southern California airwaves.

Some longtime critics are praising Davis for setting aside political considerations and for going out of his way to coordinate his response with Republican Gov.-elect Arnold Schwarzenegger. Davis and Schwarzenegger have talked by telephone every day this week and administration officials are briefing Schwarzenegger's advisors several times daily on developments, aides for both said.

"It would be very easy for Davis to be bitter and leave this all to subordinates or try to freeze Schwarzenegger out," said Dan Schnur, a Republican political consultant. "It would be the easiest thing in the world for Davis to say, 'It's somebody else's problem now.' But he seems to be putting just as much of himself into this as he would under more normal political circumstances. He's doing the right thing."

In interviews this week, Davis and his aides said his energetic response was motivated by a sense of duty to people affected by the fires and his belief that the disaster summons government's highest responsibility: the protection of its citizens.

At the same time, the politically attuned governor also senses an opportunity to improve his image with Californians as he prepares to hand over power in mid-November to Schwarzenegger, senior aides said. Seen by many Californians as a calculating politician who fumbled the biggest crises of his tenure, Davis is intent on demonstrating the professionalism that he believes many Californians overlooked during his nearly five years as governor, senior aides said.

In passing, Davis has described the challenge of the fires as a "mini-Giuliani moment," a reference to New York Mayor Rudolph W. Giuliani's leadership after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on his city, said two senior aides, speaking on condition of anonymity. Giuliani also was an unpopular lame-duck executive at the time; the election to replace him was scheduled for the day of the attacks.

"He's hoping that now the [recall] politics have passed, he'll be judged purely on his work," said a senior Davis aide.

As much as Davis might have hoped that the fires would be a politics-free setting for his final days as governor, that hasn't entirely been the case. Several Republican elected officials in San Diego, led by Rep. Duncan Hunter of Alpine and Assemblyman Jay La Suer of La Mesa, have blamed Davis for delays in getting military aircraft involved in the fight against the San Diego-area fires.

In an interview, Davis declined to respond to the potshots, noting that he understood the anguish felt by Hunter, who lost his home.

"I feel it's my duty to spend every last moment working with the people who will put these fires out and working with the people who will put Californians' lives back together," Davis said.

Davis aides dismissed the criticism and downplayed suggestions that the governor was angling for political redemption.

"He's pouring his heart and soul and head into stopping the fires and getting relief to people affected by the fires," said Davis Cabinet Secretary Daniel Zingale. "I know the governor has a lot of gratitude to the people of California for having had the opportunity to serve, and the way he expresses gratitude is through hard work."

Schwarzenegger's representatives have been quick to praise efforts by Davis and his staff to keep them fully briefed on the fires and aid efforts.

"From what I've seen, his response has been measured and appropriate," Schwarzenegger spokesman Rob Stutzman said of Davis.

That response has played out on two fronts: in private, where Davis has spent hours each day talking with officials from the state Office of Emergency Services, the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection, and other agencies and seeking assistance from fellow governors and federal officials; and in public, which has included visits to evacuation centers and fire-ravaged areas.

Davis has devoted much of his effort to creating one-stop centers where fire victims can fill out paperwork, deal with the required federal and state agencies, and receive other assistance. The first center opened Wednesday, and Davis hopes that the first federal checks will be distributed to fire victims by next week.

On Thursday, Davis visited injured firefighters in San Diego, stopped by the Office of Emergency Services' Southern California regional command center with Mike Brown, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, and gave several media interviews.

"He's doing what governors and mayors do," said Barbara O'Connor, director of the Institute for the Study of Politics and Media at Cal State Sacramento. "Crises demand leadership from elected officials. You have to be a rallying point for the services that government ensures."

For Davis, the chance to display leadership is ironic. His second term was cut short by a recall prompted largely by the perception that he had failed to respond effectively to the 2001 electricity blackouts and the state budget difficulties of the last two years — policy crises that demanded bold action. The Southern California fires mark the first major natural disaster — and a resulting opportunity to show forceful leadership — of his tenure as governor.

"The last memory of millions of Californians will be of him doing everything he can to fight fires and deal with the aftermath," said Davis press secretary Steven Maviglio.

Other analysts said it may be too soon for Davis to burnish his image with Californians.

"I think it's premature to rehabilitate," O'Connor said. "I think he is getting through the waning days and his goal is [get] through them in a professional manner and leave the state in as good as shape as he can."

For some of the governor's many detractors, Davis can't leave office soon enough. But despite his unprecedented repudiation by voters less than a year after winning reelection, Davis said he never considered heading for the golf course in his final weeks in office.

"There's no higher responsibility than to keep people safe and protect them from harm," Davis said.

Davis described the scenes of destruction in personal terms, recalling memories from his service in the Vietnam War.

"It reminds me of when I was in Vietnam and saw bombed-out villages — particularly Scripps Ranch," Davis said. "It was just horrifying. You'd see nothing left but the chimneys."

Seen by many Californians as cold and remote, Davis tried to make a personal connection with fire victims. In San Bernardino, he allowed a little girl to take his hand and show him around the remains of her house. At an evacuation center, he paused to play games with children.

"I am determined to speed relief to these families," Davis said. "I had to fight back tears because I know the rough road they have in front of them."

Davis has aggressively cultivated media coverage during his political career, but he has never been the sort of politician to engage in theatrical gestures. True to form, he hasn't donned firefighting gear for photo opportunities — as Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante did Tuesday — or joined helicopter crews on their sorties. His theatrics have been limited to shedding his tie and business suit for slacks and open-necked shirts as he toured fire areas.

"What we're seeing here is what we've always seen from Gray Davis as a public official," said Darry Sragow, a Democratic political consultant. "It has never been his style — and some would suggest this is why he's getting recalled — to get into a jumpsuit and get into a helicopter and help drop water on the fires, as some public officials would do. That doesn't mean he isn't doing his job."


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Re:Prof that Republicans are to blame for the fires in Cali (no lie, trust)
« Reply #2 on: October 31, 2003, 02:42:11 PM »
I told ya ;)


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Re:Prof that Republicans are to blame for the fires in Cali (no lie, trust)
« Reply #3 on: November 01, 2003, 03:06:00 PM »
good thing i am in the green party.... i just worry about trees....