Preparing for disasters is a long-term process, which can conflict with the short-term perspectives that are common in government. How can preparations “outlast the 4-year terms of elected officials, the 2-year terms of elected officials, or the 30-second disasters that wreak havoc on our community?” asked Ellis Stanley, director of western emergency management services at Dewberry LLC, who moderated the third panel at the workshop. In addition, governance occurs at multiple levels, from the neighborhood to the federal level, requiring that the various elements of governance be integrated.
The questions that were raised for the consideration of the third panel, which included Charles Allen III, Bill Stallworth, Stephen Murphy, and Earthea Nance (Appendixes B and C), were somewhat more detailed than for the other panels:
1. Neighborhood Governance:
a. Who are the leaders of the self-organized communities (e.g., neighborhood, church, ethnic), how are they recognized, and how do they exert leadership?
b. What is the extent of communication, coordination, and planning between this local governance and the “official” local government?
c. What are examples of positive neighborhood leadership related to resilience to disasters in the Gulf Coast region? What are examples of challenges to increasing resilience faced by neighborhood governance?
2. City and County Governance:
a. Who is in charge of resilience in the city or county government, how do they promote resilience, and with what resources?
b. How do they interact with the other government bodies (neighborhood, city, county, state, and federal) and the private sector?
c. Is resilience considered during the city and county planning and prioritization processes?
d. What are examples of positive city and county leadership related to resilience to disasters? What are examples of challenges to increasing resilience faced by city and county governance?
3. State and Federal Governance:
a. How do the state and federal government contribute to the disaster resilience of communities?
b. What is the most important role of the state or federal government before, during, and after a disaster (besides sending money)?
c. What are the greatest barriers at the state and federal level to improving resilience to disasters?
4. General Governance Perspectives:
a. How do you emphasize, highlight, encourage, or promote the shared responsibility among governing bodies for increasing resilience (neighborhood, city, county, state, and federal; and from preparedness through response to recovery—full cycle)? What are the best approaches?
b. Once a “community” agrees to or adopts a goal of resilience, who sets “metrics” and determines appropriate roles for the different stakeholders sharing in the responsibilities?
c. What are the key connections between the private sector and the various governance bodies (neighborhood, city, county, state, and federal)?
WORKING CREATIVELY: CHARLES ALLEN III
Given the great needs and constrained resources available to recover from Katrina, government has had to do its work creatively, said Charles Allen, the director of the Office of Coastal and Environmental Affairs and an advisor to the mayor of New Orleans. Governments cannot do everything, but good things have happened in the community. Collaborations within government and public-private partnerships have been able to deliver on needs, despite an $80 million deficit in New Orleans.
In some cases, government also needs to support the work under way in communities without getting in the way of that work. As a former president of a neighborhood association in the Ninth Ward, he always appreciated government officials who would encourage and not block grassroots efforts. “They would try to support us every step of the way,” he said.
At the same time, grassroots organizations need to recognize that there is a role for government. “We used to get all sorts of complaints about trash collection. I said, ‘Board members, do you want to take on trash collection for the
Lower Ninth? We can’t do that.’” A much better approach is to work through government processes while also attempting to reform those processes. Allen recounted the advice of a friend: “Let’s stay in our lane, because the minute we get out of it, we’re going to get hit, and it will be a disaster when we can’t deliver on some of the high expectations that our residents and neighbors have for us.”
The city of New Orleans is working to establish an Office of Neighborhoods that can leverage the good work that is being done in neighborhoods. The office also can keep neighborhoods engaged with what is happening in city hall. The office could provide “an eye-opening learning experience for how city hall works.”
FROM CONTROL TO FACILITATION: BILL STALLWORTH
Bill Stallworth, a city councilman in East Biloxi, Mississippi, described the area that he represents as where “90 percent of the Asian population resides, 90 percent of the African American population resides, 90 percent of the Hispanic population resides, and 90 percent of the poor reside.” East Biloxi was devastated by Katrina. A 30-foot storm surge swept across the peninsula, destroying half of the city’s housing population and damaging everything else.
To aid in the recovery, Stallworth formed an organization that is now called the Hope Community Development Agency. Working with volunteers and other nonprofit agencies, it has rehabilitated more than 780 homes and has built 85 homes. The irony of East Biloxi is that it is surrounded by casinos, and when the neighborhood was destroyed there was an effort to convert it into condominiums and shops. “We had to work at curtailing that,” said Stallworth. The nonprofit agency held a workshop and interviewed hundreds of others to determine what local people wanted for their community. The organization also devoted effort to communications to impress upon government officials what needed to happen and how much progress has been made.
Government can make a person’s life easier, or it can make life a “living hell,” said Stallworth. Government has an influence on almost every aspect of a person’s life, from which hospital a person is born in to where that person will be buried. But government cannot do everything. It must learn not how to control things but how to facilitate. “How do we facilitate things getting done? That’s where we need to be.”
A great problem for community organizations, said Stallworth, is government bureaucrats who do not make decisions that need to be made, which is especially difficult when the bureaucrats are removed from the area where action needs to be taken. “They’re so worried about losing a dime that they can’t get a dollar out.” Regulations exist to deal with people who abuse the system. Collaborative efforts are needed to overcome this government paralysis. “You have to form groups that are willing to go and knock on the door,” said Stallworth.
BUILDING RESILIENCE AT THE INDIVIDUAL LEVEL: STEPHEN MURPHY
The New Orleans Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness works on emergency plans from the level of individuals to the entire city, said Stephen Murphy, the planning section chief of the agency. But the two levels are intimately connected, since resilient communities emerge from resilient individuals.
When preparing for disasters, knowing what to do when disaster strikes is the best defense, Murphy stated. Thus, to be prepared, people need to know what hazards exist and what to do when a disaster occurs. After Katrina, the city revamped its emergency plan, not only for hurricanes but for other threats. In the process, it drew on a wide variety of partnerships with the private sector, the public sector, other branches of government, faith-based organizations, community-based organizations, and other entities. The agency also reaches out to a very wide variety of organizations to provide information, including Voluntary Organizations Active in Disaster (VOADs), the American Red Cross, Catholic charities, senior centers, higher education institutions, federal agencies such as the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Federal Reserve Bank, and so on. Every year the content changes somewhat, but the underlying message is the same: “We’re trying to get the word out in a constant manner so that it stays in the forefront of their minds,” said Murphy.
One thing the agency has considered is the trigger mechanism for evacuation, since many people did not evacuate with Katrina. With Hurricane Gustav, 98 percent of the city was successfully evacuated, Murphy indicated. However, such evacuations are expensive, so the agency also has been studying the capabilities of the levee system and the possibility of retrofitting schools and other structures as shelters.
New Orleans received money through the Urban Area Security Initiative, which means that it has to meet certain federal requirements. For example, after September 11, 2001, the federal government instituted new initiatives, one of which calls for reconstituting business operations within 24 hours. Murphy said, “We’ve tried to educate our citizens and our businesses through our public-private partnerships to make them aware that this is a deliverable that the federal government has: … Let’s think about how to improve your business continuity and your continuity of operations.”
Preparedness needs to start at the level of individuals and families. “The first thing everybody thinks of in a disaster is, ‘Where is my child, my wife, my husband? Where is my family? Where is my mother who’s in a nursing home? What are they going to do?’” Educational platforms, meetings, and workshops can all build on this base to impart to citizens the knowledge of how to respond during and after a disaster.
BUILDING GOVERNANCE: EARTHEA NANCE
Earthea Nance, assistant professor of environmental planning and hazard mitigation at the University of New Orleans, has experienced three different perspectives on recovery in recent years. After Katrina, she founded a nonprofit environmental organization in the community looking at environmental issues. She then worked for 3 years as the director of disaster mitigation for the city of New Orleans. Most recently, she has been doing collaborative research at the University of New Orleans.
Many individuals, community organizations, businesses, and other groups have had to put their lives back together after Katrina, after other hurricanes with lesser effects, and after the Gulf oil spill. “It’s heart wrenching to watch their efforts be blocked by what we call red tape,” said Nance. People decide to move back into an area that may be affected by another storm. They sign up for programs that are available to them. But they are then stalled for years.
“How do we address this? Who is accountable for this?” asked Nance. “This is a question that has got to have some attention, because it’s not enough to blame whoever the politician is at that moment when some of these issues continue no matter who is in charge.”
A second problem with governance is what Nance called bureaucratic risk. This is when people at other levels of government or outside government decide that a particular government agency is so ineffective that they refuse to give money to it. In that case, other organizations can be created to avoid investing in the high-risk organization. “That’s a problem. I don’t know that anybody talks about it because it’s kind of embarrassing, but it’s a reality,” Nance said. Building governance capacity is essential to avoid such outcomes.
Nance described one possible approach to these problems, which is a program funded by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to educate every elected official in Louisiana about hazard mitigation and risk management. “The idea would be to have elected officials sit in a room and listen to other elected officials who have successfully led their communities toward higher levels of resilience.”