Texas State officials and FEMA in open war over Ike recovery

It sounds increasingly like open warfare has broken out between Texas officials and FEMA over the Hurricane Ike recovery efforts. As evidence consider these quotes from state officials from an AP story last week…

“It’s a tragedy, what’s going on down there,” Jack Colley, the state’s director of emergency management, told the Senate Transportation and Homeland Security Committee during a hearing on hurricane recovery.

Colley suggested that FEMA should be removed from the federal Department of Homeland Security and placed under presidential oversight.

“They have been extremely insensitive, in our opinion, to the concept that somebody cannot drive 100 miles a day to keep their job,” said Kevin Hamby, general counsel of the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs. “They don’t seem to care much if we lose these communities down there.”

Hamby said that more than six weeks after the hurricane, fewer than 200 trailers are available for people to live in on their property while their homes are being repaired. Hamby said that Federal Emergency Management Administration officials had promised 300 trailers a week.

This open fighting represents a departure from the traditional restrained public approach the state has taken to relationships with federal agencies. It seems to be in response to the extreme anger and frustration local elected officials in Southeast Texas have directed at both state and federal government. State officials seem intent upon redirecting the local anger away from themselves and toward the federal government.

The fact that intergovernmental relations have deteriorated so quickly in the wake of Hurricane Ike does not bode well for the prospects of quick and smooth long-term recovery and rebuilding.