Letters: September 16, 2005

Organization thankful for help with program

The Lower Sussex Team of Leukemia and Lymphoma’s Team in Training program would like to thank the Coastal Point and Sam Harvey for your excellent coverage of us and our cause. Not only did each one of us finish The Virginia Beach Rock and Roll Marathon in personal best times, but 600 out of 20,000 runners raised $1.1 million for the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society.

We want to thank all our supporters who so generously gave to this cause. Without the support of the community we would never be able to raise the money needed to continue to help find a cure. We will find a cure one step at a time.

Team in Training Athletes

Mary Harmon
Jill Taylor
Paul Grandell
Christal Grandell
Kim Chappell
Ruth King
Jo Hawthorne
Anita Lawson
Tim Greenwalt

Hurricane Katrina has become political game

A lot of Democrats have been working overtime to try and make the horrible aftermath of Katrina’s fury President Bush’s fault. If they could figure out a way to blame the storm itself on him I am sure they would do that as well.

With Rep. Nancy Pelosi’s assailing the chief executive as “oblivious in denial” to Sen. Harry Reid demanding “to know whether President Bush’s Texas vacation impeded relief efforts,” to Louisiana Sen. Mary Landrieu’s statement on ABC’s Sept. 4 edition of “This Week” stating, “I might likely have to punch him (President Bush) — literally…), to Tim Russert’s vitriolic grilling of Michael Chertoff on “Meet the Press” to New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin’s expletive-laced interview on radio station WWL-AM calling for the feds “to get off your asses,” the democratic charges have been coming fast and furious — and many have been quite inflammatory.

The president’s suggestion that everyone cool the rhetoric until the rescue mission is over has been largely ignored by those anxious to blame him for this catastrophic event. In retrospect they may rue their failure to do so. As events unfold and more and more of the facts emerge it becomes quite obvious this was more a state and local disaster-failure than a federal one.

The federal government is not the designated “first responder”. The state and local government is. The federal government must be invited to come in by the state government and that that didn’t happen immediately.

Louisiana Gov. Kathleen Blanco initially failed to formally ask for federal assistance, thus delaying federal resources that had been put on standby status before the storm in anticipation of an immediate call, a call that didn’t materialize for some time. In fact a growing question arose as time went on “as to where is the governor?”

While Mississippi Gov. Haley Barbour was up and down his state, taking a highly visible leadership role in helping to rally and support the citizens of his state Gov. Blanco was nowhere to be seen. Some who were close to her said she looked as if she was in some kind of a dazed state. Whatever the reason, she was not to be seen.

On the same “This Week” show that Tim Russert was grilling Michael Chertoff he was also interviewing Haley Barbour but instead of Kathleen Blanco being available a Louisiana parish president was standing in for her, not even the lieutenant governor but a parish president (there are 64 parishes).

Turns out his mother had died in the flood and he started crying during the interview which certainly created sympathy with the shows viewers. But more to the point there were no high-ranking Louisiana officials present for Russert to ask any embarrassing or pointed question such as he was directing at Barbour and Chernoff.

Why wasn’t the Louisiana governor available for such a high-profile television show? After all she had been the lieutenant governor for the previous eight years and should have been aware of the importance of being in the forefront of the recovery effort. This was almost a week after the storm and yet the democrats had the audacity to accuse Bush of being on vacation and slow in responding to the crisis.

But wait it gets even wilder.

The Investors Business Daily writes “senior Senator Mary Landrieu’s brother Mitch Landrieu is the Lt. Governor, while their father Moon Landrieu had not only been mayor of New Orleans but later became secretary of housing and urban affairs under President Carter.”

If anyone had clout in Washington, it would be this family and this swing-state senator. She could easily have traded her vote on a key issue or nomination for needed funding, a common practice in Washington. If funding for levee repairs was less than adequate, she was in a position to get more.

Likewise, ex-Sen. John Breaux was arguably the most influential senator in Washington during the Clinton years, and could easily have gotten more funding, if nothing else, in an effort to break the growing GOP hold on the South.

But if all money ever asked for was appropriated, as Breaux himself has said, everyone knew that the levee system was designed for a Category 3 hurricane, and not for a “once every hundred years” storm that could put New Orleans under 20 feet of water. And the track record of how money that was appropriated was actually spent is not good.

Despite Landrieu’s complaints of budget cuts and paltry funding, the fact is that over the five years of the Bush administration, Louisiana has received more money — $1.9 billion — for Army Corps of Engineers civil works projects than any other state, and more than under any other administration over a similar period. California is a distant second with less than $1.4 billion despite a population more than seven times as large.

In December 1995, the Orleans Levee Board actually boasted to the New Orleans Times-Picayune about all the federal money it had to protect the city from hurricanes. As a result, the board said, the “most ambitious flood-fighting plan in generations was drafted,” one that would plug the “few manageable gaps” in the levee system.

The problem was at the local level. The ambitious plan fell apart when the state suspended the Levee Board’s ability to refinance old bonds and issue new ones. As the Times-Picayune reported, Legislative Auditor Dan Kyle “repeatedly faulted the Levee Board for the way it awards contracts, spends money and ignores no-bid contract laws.” Blocked by the state from raising local money, the federal matching funds went unspent.

By 1998, Louisiana’s state government had a $2 billion construction budget, but less than one-tenth of one percent, or $1.98 million, was dedicated to New Orleans levee improvements. By contrast, $22 million was spent that year to renovate a home for the Louisiana Supreme Court.

Where did all the money go? Again, the Times-Picayune says much of the money went not to flood control, but to lawmakers’ pet projects, from $750 million for a new canal lock to a $2.5 million Mardi Gras fountain project that ran $600,000 over budget.

Nine months before Katrina, three top Louisiana Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness officials were indicted by a federal grand jury in Shreveport and charged, according to the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Western District of Louisiana, with offenses related to the obstruction of an audit of the use of federal funds for flood mitigation opportunities throughout Louisiana. No reason to wonder why. New Orleans is not called the Big Easy for nothing.

All those yellow school buses we saw on TV that were sitting in several feet of water had previously been designated in existing emergency evacuation plans to help carry out of the city, before the storm’s arrival, all the inhabitants who were unable to get out on their own. Yet the order to do so was never given by the mayor. Instead those who couldn’t get out of the city were sent to the Superdome after the storm had struck.

President Bush has stepped forward and said “To the extent the federal government didn’t do its job right, I take responsibility.” However, the same cannot be said for Gov. Blanco or Mayor Nagin. It is a critical distinction because the record is starting to show that state and local Louisiana officials were grossly derelict in their duties and no amount of their screaming at Bush is going to change that.

Note: The article quoted was from the Sept. 12 issue of the Investor’s Business Daily.

Allen Ide

Auction success was due to local community

We would like to thank Susan, Darin and the entire staff of the Coastal Point for their support with our Hurricane Katrina Benefit. The event would not have been such a huge success without the support and contributions of local business’s such as the Coastal Point. We had an overwhelming turnout, thanks to the cover story on Sept. 9, and the advertisement for the Benefit on Sept. 16. It’s great to have such a compassionate and generous local business community that seems to give selflessly whenever the need arises.

Darin and Susan went one step further and supported us on Sept. 17th at the auction. Even after a knee surgery on Friday, Darin was still there supporting the cause. I appreciate the help that everyone has given for this great cause.

I am sure the people receiving the support from the American Red Cross are thankful for, and blessed by, our contributions and donations. My prayers go out to everyone affected by Hurricane Katrina. My appreciation goes to everyone that donated and supported our benefit. Thank you Coastal Point for always being there for us, the locals!

Michelle Parrill
Fat Tuna Grill

How is the president taking this blame?

I am responding to Mr. Cleary’s latest tirade aimed at our president in the Sept. 16 Coastal Point.

Mr. Cleary is upset at this quote from President Bush, “No one could have predicted that the levees would break.” I personally see this as a reasonable statement that is certainly accurate.

Mr. Cleary, the key word here that you seem to have missed or ignored is “predicted” when, in fact, no one could have predicted nor did they predict that the levees would break. Yes, there has been speculation for years concerning the viability of the levees. But for you Bush haters to blame the president for the levees’ failure is simply another cheap shot.

Don’t get me wrong. The administration certainly has performed poorly in its original response.

However, let’s be more accurate in placing responsibility for the inexcusable way the whole storm and it’s aftermath was handled. The mayor of New Orleans and the governor of Louisiana are the primary screwups. Your beloved liberal media initially pointed the finger at the president, however, even they are now getting closer to the truth and appropriately placing blame where it belongs.

Your effort at satirical fiction writing is humorous, but as you can guess I would write it differently. I would recast the participants in your story line.

I would put President Clinton in charge of misery relief. With his superlative use of language he could convince the Katrina victims that they were fortunate to have had the experience. He might even look them in the eye and tell them that they did not have a hurricane.

I would also cast liberal media bigwigs and talking heads, elitist Hollywood leftists, and numerous Democratic leaders like Kennedy, Jackson and Sharpton, to name a few, in leading rolls as hosts to Katrina’s displaced.

In closing, I must say that I also disagree with Mr. Cleary’s opinion that we are first in embarrassment because of our leadership.

I can speculate on Mr. Cleary’s, i.e., the left’s, response had the president issued orders for the military to take control of New Orleans early in this fiasco. They would be rabid in their attacks citing states rights and a host of laws controlling the powers of the federal government.

President Bush’s leadership has not and probably never will be perfect but I remain firm in my belief that he was and remains the better of the choices that were offered for the presidency in the last two elections.

Thomas M. Keeley III
Ocean View

Local thespians are entertaining community

The Village Players is your local non-profit, community theatre group based in Ocean View. We came together in 2002 under the inspiration and direction of Harold Schmidt, a local author, playwright and employee of Carl Freeman & Associates.

Most of our productions take place in The Den or the Amphitheater in the Bear Trap community. Our first was a family-oriented variety dinner theatre show, “Under the Board Walk.”

In addition to what have become popular annual variety shows that provide the opportunity for any interested children and adults to perform on stage, the Village Players has also produced three original plays by our writer-in-residence, Harold Schmidt: “Wrinkles,” “Nessie and the Naked Ape” and “Character Analysis.”

In the fall of 2004, we undertook the challenge of an original musical, “Einstein’s Breakfast,” based on Harold’s childhood and his indomitable mother, Virginia, who also lives locally.

In December of 2004, we applied for and were granted our Recognition of Exemption from the IRS under section 501(c)(3).

We are pleased to announce that this fall, Sept. 30, Oct. 1 and 2, we will be partnering with Clear Space Productions to present “The Dining Room” by A. R. Gurney. It will be another dinner theatre in The Den.

Call (302) 537-5600 to make your reservation. At $35 for an all-inclusive show and dinner, tickets for this great evening are selling fast.

The Village Players is also planning its first full production season for 2006. It will be an exciting and varied theatrical experience that we know you will enjoy.

But to be successful we need your continued support and input. Specifically, we are looking for would-be actors, behind-the-scenes volunteers and, most importantly, our community in the audience. We are counting on you to help us grow and look forward to being your theatre at the beach! Let’s go on with the show!

Sharon Gambill
President, The Village Players
Board of Directors