Houston Chronicle columnist Rick Casey on the politics of hurricane rebuilding

In his column today Houston Chronicle featured columnist Rick Casey speculates about why Governor Perry is allowing the Texas Office of Rural Community Affairs (ORCA) to so badly misallocate federal hurricane disaster rebuilding funds.

Casey correctly describes ORCA’s bizarre plan to allocate $1.3 billion in disaster recovery funds not on the basis of the damage done by the hurricanes but instead on the basis of where the rain fell hardest and the wind blew strongest. The ORCA plan shifts funds away from places where homes were destroyed to rural counties where the cows got wet.

Casey speculates as to the reason…

For example, while U.S. Sen. Kay Bailey Hutchison led the state delegation to secure a total of about $3 billion in federal funds for Ike and Dolly, the governor, whom she is challenging in March’s gubernatorial primary, is in charge of distributing it.

The resulting plan looks much more like a “spread-the-wealth” plan than a plan based on actual damage.

And Perry’s base is stronger in rural East Texas than in the big cities and their suburbs.

The way the money is being distributed is also good for local politicians. It does not require them to follow federal guidelines on spending for housing, allowing them to fund more infrastructure projects.

Infrastructure projects generate more campaign contributions than hiring small firms to fix up the homes of poor folks, most of whom don’t vote.

I was among the first to complement the good job that Governor Perry did in managing the disaster rebuilding funds for Hurricane Rita. It looks like I’m going to have to get in line to point out what a poor job is being done managing the far larger rebuilding funds for Hurricanes Dolly and Ike.