Thursday, December 14, 2006

Still doing a heckuva job!

Houston Chronicle

A federal judge lambasted the Bush administration Wednesday for failing to obey orders to restore housing assistance to thousands of evacuees from Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in Texas.

"Let me make this clear," U.S. District Judge Richard J. Leon told lawyers for the Federal Emergency Management Agency. "Tell FEMA that I'm expecting them to get going on this — like immediately."

Storm evacuees in Houston and elsewhere sued the agency last summer, complaining that their federal rental assistance payments were cut off without adequate notice or a reasonable way to appeal the decision. Many of the evacuees received conflicting information in correspondence and telephone conversations with FEMA, and others still have no idea why their aid was denied.

Leon, who ordered FEMA to pay up two weeks ago, said he's not buying the agency's excuses for why it has done nothing to comply with his order. He also accused FEMA of misrepresenting his order in filings to the U.S. District Court of Appeals, a higher court that is considering the administration's request to block Leon's order until it can be appealed. The appeals court's decision is expected next week, but in the meantime, Leon said, his ruling stands.
And three cheers for Houston Mayor Bill White (who worked in the Clinton Administration, btw):

...Leon said if the agency could not simply "cut and paste" information from the evacuees' electronic files into letters to the evacuees, it should do the work manually. He calculated that 10 FEMA employees, perhaps working overtime, could write 5,400 letters in say, two weeks — the exact amount of time that has passed since he signed his order.

"We're not putting a man on the moon here. ... I'm not looking for a doctoral dissertation," the judge said. "I'm looking for a couple of paragraphs in plain English."

Leon said that by Monday's hearing, he expects FEMA to have called Houston and other Texas cities to see if they will accept the federal funds and distribute them to the evacuees.

Michael Kirkpatrick, an attorney for the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now, which sued FEMA on behalf of the evacuees, said Mayor Bill White already has agreed to do whatever is necessary to help the evacuees collect their money.
By the way, there's a need to hurry, and to not forget:

Timing is critical, Leon said, because the federal housing assistance program expires at the end of February unless Congress or President Bush takes action to extend it.
Maybe this is the time to bring up the gospel reading for the 3rd Sunday of Advent:

Luke 3:7-18 -
John said to the crowds that came out to be baptized by him, "You brood of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the wrath to come? Bear fruits worthy of repentance. Do not begin to say to yourselves, 'We have Abraham as our ancestor'; for I tell you, God is able from these stones to raise up children to Abraham. Even now the ax is lying at the root of the trees; every tree therefore that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire."

And the crowds asked him, "What then should we do?" In reply he said to them, "Whoever has two coats must share with anyone who has none; and whoever has food must do likewise." Even tax collectors came to be baptized, and they asked him, "Teacher, what should we do?" He said to them, "Collect no more than the amount
prescribed for you." Soldiers also asked him, "And we, what should we do?" He said to them, "Do not extort money from anyone by threats or false accusation, and be satisfied with your wages."

As the people were filled with expectation, and all were questioning in their hearts concerning John, whether he might be the Messiah, John answered all of them by saying, "I baptize you with water; but one who is more powerful than I is coming; I am not worthy to untie the thong of his sandals. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. His winnowing fork is in his hand, to clear his threshing floor and to gather the wheat into his granary; but the chaff he will burn with unquenchable fire."

So, with many other exhortations, he proclaimed the good news to the people.

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