Friday, July 11, 2014

Perceived pattern of federal disaster relief favoritism


There seems to be a pattern of favoritism in the issuance of federal disaster declarations and federal disaster relief funding.


Obama promises federal disaster relief for California droughts
Obama promises federal disaster relief for California droughts | PHOTO CREDIT: Wiki Commons

In late spring, 2011, Arizona battled some large and disastrous wildfires. Among them was the Monument Fire. Federal assets were deployed to assist, mostly because the fires affected national forests. However, aid to affected communities not on the federal land was largely denied. Among those affected areas was historic Tombstone, Ariz. Tombstone’s Allen Street is a major tourism site for the state as well as a modern town. The fire and mudslides caused by fighting it destroyed keyAllen Street Gunfight, Tombstone, AZ, 2010
Allen Street Gunfight, Tombstone, AZ, 2010 | PHOTO CREDIT: G. C. Matuszak
water lines that supply water to Tombstone. The federal government refuse to assist in fixing those lines. In addition, they told Tombstone that vehicles and power tools could not be used to rebuild the water lines. Workers used hand tools. Burros and horses transported materials and equipment to the work sites.
This happened around the same time as Jan Brewer and Barack Obama were squaring off over immigration and border security issues.  The incidents could be coincidental. They could also be an intentional power-play.

In late Oct. 2013, severe flooding hit several counties in central Texas. Perry issued a disaster proclamation and requested a national level disaster declaration. The US Small Business Administration agreed to process grant and loan requests for some of the affected residents and businesses. However, further federal disaster relief funds weren’t approved. Obama denied the request. Perry appealed. Perry renewed the state-level proclamation on Dec. 12,2013. Obama eventually approved the appeal on Dec. 20, 2013.

The severe winter storms that ravaged much of the country in early Dec. 2013 affected Texas among the several states. Arkansas, one of Texas’s neighbors, applied for a federal disaster declaration at approximately the same time Perry did. Arkansas was awarded a disaster declaration and federal disaster relief funding on Jan. 6, 2014, for the same storm. South Carolina has already received a presidential disaster declaration for the early Feb., 2014 storms.  On Mar. 12, 2014, Perry had to file an appeal due to Obama denying his initial Dec. 5, 2013 request.

The current Texas drought has lasted over 30 months. Rick Perry initially declared the state of emergency on July 5, 2011. He continues to renew the proclamation regularly, with the latest renewal issued on Feb. 14, 2014. (Perry also renewed the proclamation on Mar. 14, 2014) The Obama Administration has issued no federal disaster declarations for the drought. He has not issued any official declaration for California, either. However, on Feb. 14, 2014, the same date Perry renewed Texas’s drought proclamation, Obama he boasted about federal assistance to those suffering from drought conditions in a speech in California:
And that’s why, last month [Jan. 2014], Governor Brown declared a state of emergency, directing state officials to prepare for drought conditions.  And together, our administrations launched a coordinated response.  Secretary Vilsack, who is here today, declared 27 counties as primary natural disaster areas, making farmers and ranchers eligible for emergency loans.  And over the past two weeks, his team at USDA and Mike Connor’s team at the Interior Department have released new funds for conservation and irrigation; announced investments to upgrade water infrastructure; and partnered with California to stretch the water supply as much as possible.
Today [Feb. 14, 2014], I’m want to announce new actions that we can take together to help these hardworking folks.
First, we’re accelerating $100 million of funds from the farm bill that I signed last week to help ranchers.  For example, if their fields have dried up, this is going to help them feed their livestock.
Second, last week, we announced $20 million to help hard-hit communities, and today, we’re announcing up to $15 million more for California and other states that are in extreme drought.
Third, I’m directing the Interior Department to use its existing authorities, where appropriate, to give water contractors flexibility to meet their obligations.
And fourth, I’m directing all federal facilities in California to take immediate steps to curb their water use, including a moratorium on water usage for new, non-essential landscaping projects.”
So there exists a perception of favoritism in these disaster declarations. The states with governors who are more outspoken in opposition of many of the Obama Administration’s policies appear to have greater difficulty in attaining federal disaster relief funds. When the funds come, they seem to take longer and require multiple appeals before the declarations are granted.

On Feb. 24, Obama issued what some consider to be a veiled threat directed at conservative and republican governors.  Among the governors who remain more outspoken against administration policies are Jan Brewer, and Rick Perry.

Though no direct evidence proves any favoritism, the appearance is one of despotism. It begs the question “Are these delays in disaster declarations part Obama making good on that ‘veiled threat’?”. The pattern almost seems to reveal one of a dictator granting his mercy only after those who don’t agree with him have begged, pleaded, and been put in their place.