It seems to me that the more passionate you are about something the more you should let it set before blogging in an attempt to not put your foot in your mouth. I've been stewing over this one three days. So nearly a month later and (in some places) the mess still sits. Why? Perhaps it isn't messy enough yet.
I read with interest an article yesterday about the City of Birmingham, who has yet to begin their wide-spread storm cleanup. The main sticky point is that Mayor William Bell does not want to hire the Corps of Engineer to do the cleanup as some others have. Both Bell and Councilman Johnathan Austin have issues with the Corps. Bell talked to Congressman Bennie Thompson from Mississippi who said that the Corps has a poor record of encouraging minority participation. Austin says that the Corps has no personal interest in what happens in the city.
Setting aside those two specific issues for just one moment, let's look at what could be. I believe it was Council President Roderick Royal who pointed out earlier in the meeting, if the Corps cleaned it up the cost to the city was 0% with a private company the cost was 15%. I believe the number is more like 10% w/Corps, 25% w/private company, but regardless while the total figure is unknown at this time, any idiot can figure out the 0 (or 10) percent of anything is less than 15 (or 25) percent of the same amount. One estimate I saw indicated that Jefferson County's costs could equal their sewer debt. Fifteen percent of that is still not chump change. Speaking of Jefferson County, they are using their own personnel to oversee the cleanup. Even that would be cheaper than paying a private firm to oversee it. Back to Birmingham, how many times in the last year have we had to hear about budget woes? The city is not made of money though it spends like it is.
Part of my disgust with this article is that the Corps lives in communities all around the state. They participate in civic functions, elections, and all kinds of activities. They are members of the community just like everyone else. Well, except maybe the politicians. The Corps people have volunteered to set aside their current workload to assist the special mission that this cleanup is. They get paid the same money they would if they remained in their own house, went to their regular job, did the same things after work, and lived their lives as if nothing had happened. Instead these workers volunteered to set aside their lives temporarily to work on an important project for their community or sometimes a community they don't live in.
Anyone who believes that it is a wiser decision to spend 2 and a half times as much to accomplish the same end doesn't run in the circles I do. That must be a different segment of the community. Seems to me those people have a disconnect and no personal interest (regardless of their job title) in the community. That screams of personal interest in the company being hired.
Mayor Bell has a past history with the firm he has chosen. He is unwisely spending the city's money by hiring them, and I hope that whatever amount he is putting in his pocket is worth it to him for selling out the city. And if he does not have an arrangement where he is getting money from the overpriced firm he did not have to hire for a job that he could have done for free or reduced rate then he is even dumber than that.
So why is it Bell found a congressman from Mississippi? His district is not adjacent to Alabama or the affected area. Thompson is over a district that includes the Delta area. You know the spot, where there is flooding in the rural area to keep from flooding the populated urban area. Just like the agreements made when the floodgates were built. So a Congressman from an area angry with the Corps for doing what they said they would do, intimates that the Corps has a bad track record. The Corps that is bound by the federal government to operate in a certain manner. Said manner being to encourage minority and small business participation. Why did Bell have to go so far for an opinion that mimics what he hoped to uncover? Same reason community-disconnected Austin throws out the unsubstantiated claim that people who volunteer to put their lives on hold to serve a capacity that assists other communities. It all boils down to what Ben Franklin said when he tried to justify why a self-proclaimed vegetarian ate meat: "So convenient a thing it is to be a reasonable Creature, since it enables one to find or make a Reason for everything one has a mind to do."
UPDATE 30 May 11: Governor Bently has talked with FEMA and convinced them to extend the deadline from 12 Jun to 12 Jul. This is a good thing, as counties and municipalities now have another month of government cleanup help. On a not so good note, someone at the federal level has decided that instead of paying 90% of the cost for those using federal cleanup resources and 75% for those using private, it will now pay for 90% of the cleanup regardless. Now the argument gets a little stickier, because the actual cost of the cleanup oversight comes into play. Once all the numbers have been revealed, we will all learn what our share cost us that went directly to Bell's buddies, because it will be more than what it cost to hire the Corps.
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