Texas Argument Over FEMA Funds to Fight Wildfires

Great editorial from the Fort Worth Star-Telegram on the denial of FEMA funds for the Texas Wildfires.

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Texas’ argument about a federal disaster declaration  doesn’t help wildfire victims

Posted Thursday, May.  05, 20112 Comments PrintShare  ShareReprints

Topics:Disasters

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‘ & –>    The political firestorm over the Obama administration’s decision not to  declare Texas a disaster area has spread almost as fast as the wildfires that  ignited it.

Gov. Rick Perry, who in April requested a federal disaster declaration to  cover 252 of the state’s 254 counties, has been joined by the state’s two U.S.  senators and other politicians in expressing outrage over the denial, suggesting  the decision has more to do with politics than sound judgment.

The governor notes that in the past six months there were more than 9,000  Texas wildfires that scorched more than 2.2 million acres and destroyed more  than 400 homes. He also points out that the president was quick to declare  portions of Alabama a disaster after ravaging tornadoes — the worst outbreak  since the 1930s — ripped through the South last month.

The fire destruction in several Texas counties was devastating by any  measure. That does not necessarily make virtually the entire state eligible for  a federal disaster declaration. Palo Pinto County, one of the hardest hit in  recent weeks, would not qualify for federal disaster aid, County Judge Davie  Nicklas said, because the vast majority of the homes destroyed were vacation  houses rather than primary residences. “We’re still researching whether we’re  missing out on other kinds of help because they didn’t declare a disaster,”  Nicklas told the Star-Telegram. “But right now it  doesn’t look like we’ll take a big hit because of it.”

Although an argument can be made for specific counties to be designated  disaster areas, it is not constructive for state officials to engage in yet  another public spat with Washington.

It also is not productive, civil or appropriate to compare the situation in  Texas with the tornado tragedies in Alabama and five other states that claimed  at least 340 lives and destroyed more than 10,000 homes and businesses. The case  for the Lone Star State should be made on its own merits.

In Perry’s letter to the president, dated April 16, the governor asked that  the entire state — minus San Patricio County along the gulf in South Texas and  Wood County in East Texas — be declared a major disaster “as a result of  wildland fires … beginning December 21, 2010, and continuing.”

One can concede how federal authorities could find the request overly broad,  even exaggerated.

It’s important for indignant state officials to acknowledge that Texas  received every federal fire management assistance grant it requested between the  end of February and now. The Federal Emergency Management Agency approved 25  grants that will reimburse 75 percent of the state’s firefighting expenses. FEMA  said it is prepared to assist in Texas should other fires break out, but that  Texas is capable of responding to the needs of those affected by the blazes thus  far.

Perry and state lawmakers must recognize the disconnect between demanding  more federal assistance for wildfires while at the same time passing bills in  the Texas House and Senate that cut $34.2 million from the Texas Forest  Service’s wildfire program. That’s a 40 percent reduction. Asking the feds to do  more while the state does less is a questionable tactic for success.

Rather than continue the public standoff with the administration, Texas  officials should conduct an accurate assessment of needs in each affected county  to determine if there are large numbers of families and specific circumstances  that meet the criteria for federal assistance. If the findings merit the  declaration, then submit another request.

People aren’t helped by political posturing regardless of who’s doing it.

Read more: http://www.star-telegram.com/2011/05/05/3054548/texas-argument-about-a-federal.html#ixzz1LbraZV3b

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About delashmit

Dr. Walter H. Delashmit (MCHS 1962) retired from Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control on 1 January 2007 after 25 years at Lockheed and 39 years in the aerospace industry. He is presently doing consulting for the Neural Decision Lab (Arlington, Texas). In addition from August 2007 until June 2009, Walter was an Adjunct Faculty Member at the University of North Texas teaching Advanced Electrical Engineering Courses. In addition to graduating from MCHS, Walter has a BSEE from Christian Brothers University (1966) graduating cum laude, a MSEE from with a minor in mathematics from the University of Tennessee (1968) and a Ph.D. in electrical engineering from the University of Texas at Arlington (2003). Walter has worked at Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control (1982-2007) developing "smart" missile systems, at the Pennsylvania State University Applied Research Laboratory (1976-1982) developing advanced torpedo systems, at Martin Marietta Aerospace (1972-1976) developing advanced cruise missile technology and at TRW Systems (1969-1972) working on the Apollo and Skylab Programs, including Apollo 13. Walter received a copy of the Presidential Medal of Freedom from NASA for his work on Apollo 13 and received the Lockheed Martin Missiles and Fire Control Presidents Performance Award for his work on developing and implementing Improved Software Processes. He has also received many other awards. Walter is a Life Senior Member (LSM) of the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE), a member of Eta Kappa Nu (Electrical Engineering Honor Society) and Tau Beta Pi (Engineering Honor Society). Walter has 40 peer reviewed technical publications in advanced Technical Journals and Conferences. He also regularly reviews articles for consideration for publication in advanced technical journals. Walter is an avid runner and completed the Boston Marathon in 1998. Walter and his wife Janice live in Justin, Texas. Walter has 2 sons, Mark Robert Delashmit and Rick Alan Delashmit, a grandson Christian Reeves Delashmit and a granddaughter Victoria Alexis Delashmit.
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