james-lee-witt

Kathleen Blanco is MOVING MOUNTAINS

On September 4, Kim Fuller, press consultant from Witt Associates, sent an email to various Kathleen Blanco aides. It included the following:
"Gov. Blanco might dress down a bit and look like she has rolled up her sleeves... I have some great Liz Claiborne sports clothes that look kind of Eddie Bauer, but with class, but would bring her down to level of getting to work... She would look like a woman, but show she is MOVING MOUNTAINS".
Now, you can buy a MOVING MOUNTAINS t-shirt, women's tank top, and coffee mug and support this site at the same time.

FEMA wants $3.7 billion from Louisiana for services rendered

FEMA has sent LA a bill for "its share of hurricane relief". Governor Kathleen Blanco says she can't pay it.

...Staffers for the governor "about fell over" Wednesday night when they received the Federal Emergency Management Agency's estimate of the state's costs for hurricanes Katrina and Rita, said Mark Merritt, a consultant working for Blanco.
FEMA projects that it will spend a total of $41.4 billion in Louisiana, about $9,000 per resident. Federal law requires state and local governments to pay a portion of disaster relief costs. That share can be as much as 25%. The $3.7 billion estimate is roughly 9% of FEMA's projected costs in Louisiana.
The $3.7 billion represents just under half of the $8 billion the state spends per year and comes as the extensive flooding around New Orleans has severely undercut tax revenue. The state is in the midst of heavy cost-cutting to whittle down a projected $1 billion shortfall...
Merritt is a former FEMA official who now works with former FEMA director James Lee Witt, an adviser to Blanco on hurricane recovery. Merritt said the scope of the disaster far exceeded anything envisioned when the relief agency was created. He called the costs "astronomically unprecedented..."

Bush is required to get the money out of the states, but Congress can (and probably will) waive it.

The James Lee Witt, Innovative Emergency Management, Hurricane Pam axis

As previously discussed, JLW was originally part of team put together by IEM to create a "Catastrophic Hurricane Disaster Plan" for New Orleans. The June 3, 2004 press release on this is here:

IEM, Inc., the Baton Rouge-based emergency management and homeland security consultant, will lead the development of a catastrophic hurricane disaster plan for Southeast Louisiana and the City of New Orleans under a more than half a million dollar contract with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
In making the announcement today on behalf of teaming partners Dewberry, URS Corporation and James Lee Witt Associates, IEM Director of Homeland Security Wayne Thomas explained that the development of a base catastrophic hurricane disaster plan has urgency due to the recent start of the annual hurricane season which runs through November.

Madhu Beriwal, the President & CEO of IEM:

received a Special Merit Award from the Louisiana Emergency Preparedness Association for "her outstanding contribution to the civil defense agencies of southeast Louisiana in the development of the Hurricane Survival Plan."

Oddly enough, as explained here with screengrabs, that press release was removed from their site. Then, it was put back.
On Sep. 3, Blanco hired Witt to head her response.
There are many more links about this here.
Could someone please put all this together into a coherent whole? Thanks.

NYT: James Lee Witt still cleaning up

The NYT offers a report on James Lee Witt in "FEMA Leader Under Clinton Makes It Pay":

...Soon after the storm hit, the State of Louisiana signed up with Witt Associates, a disaster consulting firm. Within days, Mr. Witt had become a fixture at the state's emergency operations center in Baton Rouge, advising the governor and sleeping in a trailer. He even figured out a way for FEMA to reimburse the state for his firm's fees, which the company estimates at $4 million to $6 million over the next year.
In Mississippi, Witt Associates swung into action to assist employees of Pinnacle Entertainment, whose Casino Magic Biloxi had been blown off its moorings and into a parking lot. Days later in New York, Mr. Witt appeared at a news conference with another client, the Allstate Corporation, to promote creation of a catastrophe fund to ease the financial burden on insurers...
..."James Lee Witt is giving his seal of approval to some companies, and I question whether that is appropriate as you leave government," said Danielle Brian, executive director of the Project on Government Oversight, which studies government contracts. "He is lending his credibility as a public official to help companies advance in Washington."
...Former President Bill Clinton helped enlist as partners former Transportation Secretary Rodney Slater and Gen. Wesley Clark, the former NATO supreme commander and Democratic presidential candidate. Former Treasury Secretary Robert E. Rubin reviewed the business plan. Former Senator John B. Breaux, Democrat of Louisiana, said he put in a good word for Mr. Witt with Louisiana officials. And former FEMA officials, with their own networks of contacts, are on his payroll...
...Some jobs undertaken by the onetime FEMA chief, though, could raise questions about his new role. After 9/11, his firm was paid more than $970,000 by the State of New York and concluded that evacuation plans at the Indian Point nuclear plant, plans FEMA had approved under Mr. Witt's watch, were inadequate. Last year, his company helped Louisiana officials respond to a FEMA audit, saying they had mishandled federal disaster money.
And when FEMA contracted last year to conduct a disaster-response exercise called Hurricane Pam for New Orleans, Witt Associates was identified as a subcontractor but ultimately was not asked to do any work because its fees were too high...

9/3: Blanco hires James Lee Witt

BATON ROUGE, La. (AP) -- Arkansan James Lee Witt, the former head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Bill Clinton, joined the Louisiana government Saturday to help direct the recovery from Hurricane Katrina.
Witt, who ran FEMA from 1993 to 2001, said he will stay as long as he as needed.
"He will sit at the table for me, and he will be my voice at the table," Gov. Kathleen Blanco said...
... Blanco said that, when she told Mike Brown, FEMA's current head, that she hoped to hire him, "he said, `That is absolutely the right thing to do. He will make a huge difference.'"
At the National Hurricane Conference in March, Witt said putting FEMA under the Homeland Security Department hurt its ability to deal with natural disasters.
On Saturday, he said, "Now's not the time to point blame at anyone."
Witt was head of the Arkansas Office of Emergency Services when Clinton was Arkansas governor.

James Lee Witt not lobbying for Allstate

For now that is: "Witt's firm postpones Allstate job".

The firm counseling Gov. Kathleen Blanco on hurricane relief efforts has temporarily set aside another client -- the nation's largest private insurance company -- to avoid a possible conflict of interest.
While working for Louisiana, James Lee Witt Associates will not lobby Congress on behalf of Allstate Insurance Co., company vice president Barry Scanlon said Tuesday...
"We're suspending any work … for the duration of the time we're working with the governor, just so there's not even an appearance of a conflict of interest," Scanlon said...
The state's contract with James Lee Witt Associates, released late Monday evening, lays out a schedule of rates for company employees ranging from $50 per hour for a data entry clerk to $275 per hour for counseling from the company's namesake and leader James Lee Witt...

James Lee Witt uncomfortable with wider military role in disasters

A local paper has a subscriber-only article:

A former director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency said Friday that he's uncomfortable with President Bush's proposal to give the armed forces a broader role in disasters after the federal government's handling of Hurricane Katrina's aftermath.
James Lee Witt, an Arkansas native who is advising Louisiana's governor on that state's recovery from the Aug. 29 storm, said governors shouldn't have their powers taken away from them during a natural disaster.
Witt said he mostly agrees with the proposals the president made during a live nationally televised address from New Orleans, but he disagrees with the idea of expanding the military's role.
"A governor of a state is responsible for the people of a state," Witt said in a telephone interview from Louisiana. "I don't think it's necessary to tax the military with even more than what they're already doing. "
Witt, who served as FEMA director under President Clinton for eight years, said he also had hoped the president would have proposed restoring the federal agency to its Cabinet-level status. In 2002, a reorganization put FEMA under the newly created Department of Homeland Security.
"I think it would have been a different response" if FEMA was a Cabinet-level position, Witt said. "Anytime you take away not only leadership, but you also take programs and assets out of an agency, it really does hurt them in the sense of having capability to fulfill their role. I think that hurt them."

(Excerpt via talkleft, so hopefully the full article will become available soon.)

Bubba blasts Bush over Katrina, poverty, lack of omnipotence...

Bill Clinton has criticized Our Leader Bush for his response to Katrina on Sunday's "This Week". Your job is to determine why. Is this an attempt to help heal the Bush administration, with perhaps another Bush appearance in which he'll shovel out even more money? Surely, Clinton wouldn't turn on his new best friends in the Bush Family, so something else must be up.
Thus spake Bubba, per AFP:

"If we really wanted to do it right, we would have had lots of buses lined up to take them out"...
He agreed that some responsibility for this lay with the local and state authorities, but pointed the finger, without naming him, at the former director of [FEMA]...

"We"? As in Nagin and Blanco?
Oddly enough, the NYT omits the bus part:

"It's like when they issued the evacuation order... That affects poor people differently. A lot of them in New Orleans didn't have cars. A lot of them who had cars had kinfolk they had to take care of. They didn't have cars, so they couldn't take them out."
"This is a matter of public policy... And whether it's race-based or not, if you give your tax cuts to the rich and hope everything works out all right, and poverty goes up and it disproportionately affects black and brown people, that's a consequence of the action made. That's what they did in the 80's; that's what they've done in this decade. In the middle, we had a different policy."

Evacuation would seem to be a local issue, no? Perhaps Clinton should have been asked about the welfare mindset and whether that played a part in people staying in place. Note also that some people never heard about the evacuation order. Once again, Bush can't be in all places at all times.

While not using the name of Michael D. Brown, the FEMA director who resigned last Monday after criticism of his performance in the Katrina disaster, Mr. Clinton praised the performance of his FEMA director, James Lee Witt, and said Mr. Witt had been especially sensitive to the needs of low-income people because "both of us came out of environments with a disproportionate number of poor people."

Experts: Bush already has enough military powers, he just failed to use them

The article "Key military help for victims of Hurricane Katrina was delayed" says that Bush already had enough military powers to do what was necessary, he - and Michael Chertoff - simply failed to act quickly enough. The military has taken part in past disasters, and that's allowed as long as they don't perform police activities.

..."If the 1st Cav and 82nd Airborne had gotten there on time, I think we would have saved some lives," said Gen. Julius Becton Jr., who was the director of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under President Reagan from 1985 to 1989. "We recognized we had to get people out, and they had helicopters to do that."
...Between 1992 and 1996, the Pentagon provided support in 18 disasters and developed five training manuals on how to work with FEMA and civilians in natural disasters...
... Several emergency response experts, however, questioned whether Bush and Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff understood how much authority they had to tap all the resources of the federal government - including those of the Department of Defense.
"To say I've suddenly discovered the military needs to be involved is like saying wheels should be round instead of square," said Michael Greenberger, a law professor and the director of the University of Maryland's Center for Health and Homeland Security...
..."Everything he did and everything he has said strongly suggests that [the National Response Plan] was never read," Greenberger said of Chertoff...
... Former FEMA Director James Lee Witt, who served under President Clinton, believes that the Bush administration is mistaken if it thinks there are impediments to using the military for non-policing help in a disaster.
"When we were there and FEMA was intact, the military was a resource to us," said Witt. "We pulled them in very quickly. I don't know what rule he (Bush) talked about. ... We used military assets a lot."
Jamie Gorelick, the deputy attorney general during the Clinton administration who also was a member of the commission that investigated the Sept. 11 terror attacks, said clear legal guidelines have been in place for using the military on U.S. soil since at least 1996, when the Justice Department was planning for the Olympic Games in Atlanta.
"It's not like people hadn't thought about this," Gorelick said. "This is not new. We've had riots. We've had floods. We've had the loss of police control over communities.
"I'm puzzled as to what happened here," she said...
... "I see no impediment in law or in policy to getting them there," [ Scott Silliman, a former judge advocate general who's now the executive director of Duke University Law School's Center for Law, Ethics and National Security] said. "We could have sent in helicopters. We could have sent in forces to do search and rescue and to provide humanitarian aid. Everything but law enforcement."
... "They're trying to say that greater federal authority would have made a difference," said George Haddow, a former FEMA deputy chief of staff and the co-author of a textbook on emergency management. "The reality is that the feds are the ones that screwed up in the first place. It's not about authority. It's about leadership. ... They've got all the authority already."

Other parts of this article were covered in "Levee break, military response timeline".

James Lee Witt works for Louisiana; to lobby for Allstate

WASHINGTON (AP) - The former FEMA director hired by Louisiana to help lead its Hurricane Katrina recovery effort has registered to lobby for an insurance company that wants Congress to create a natural disaster "catastrophe fund."
James Lee Witt and his firm, James Lee Witt Associates, registered Tuesday to lobby for Allstate Insurance Co. Their mission: "to draft and introduce model legislation creating a natural disaster catastrophe fund," the registration says.
Witt's lobbying for the fund comes while he's on the payroll of the state of Louisiana. Gov. Kathleen Blanco hired him earlier this month as a consultant to advise her on the state's hurricane relief work.
Witt headed the Federal Emergency Management Agency in the Clinton administration. His Washington firm lobbies on disaster issues for several clients.
Witt's experience at FEMA was among the reasons Allstate hired him, company spokesman Michael Trevino said.
"He's an expert," Trevino said...

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