The Watering Hole, Monday, June 17th, 2013: Small Gummint/Big Gummint: A Love/Hate Story

It’s been two months since the tragic fertilizer plant explosion in West, Texas. Currently, town leaders and residents looking for financial assistance in rebuilding seem to be involved in navigating a maze to acquire that funding. Of course, first the people of West who had insurance coverage have to start there, while other funding sources must wait in the wings to pick up where the insurance leaves off. But that’s where the real maze starts.According to the local ABC News affiliate, WFAA.com:

“…more than $5 million in private donations has funneled into accounts set up at the town’s two banks, as well as a variety of relief funds through agencies like the Salvation Army, Baylor University and the Waco Foundation.
The Waco Foundation has collected the largest amount to date, close to $1.4 million. Executive director Ashley Allison…admits only about $20,000 of the $1.4 million has been handed out.

Baylor hasn’t yet distributed a single penny.

The Salvation Army told News 8 most of the money it has put into West so far was to cover operational expenses of their relief efforts on the ground.

So what accounts for the holdup?

Town leaders have been pushing for most of the private donations to be channeled through a newly established non-profit organization called the West Long-Term Recovery Center. The center is trying to attain a 501(c)3 designation so it can fully operate as a charity and start helping distribute the private money that the relief funds and banks have collected.

“It is a process, we know that,” said interim executive director Karen Bernsen.

The Internal Revenue Service will ultimately decide on approving the center’s designation. An application was filed last month, but there is no timetable for approval.”

But no one is going to pay attention to mundane details about local West town government, when there’s an opening to complain about a ‘big gummint’ agency. As USAToday.com reported,

“According to a letter obtained by The Associated Press, FEMA said it reviewed the state’s appeal to help West but decided that the explosion “is not of the severity and magnitude that warrants a major disaster declaration.””

From wacotrib.com, responses to FEMA’s decision:

“Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott was critical of the federal response.

“…once the cameras have stopped rolling, President Obama’s FEMA has denied our state and our neighbors the necessary opportunities to rebuild critical infrastructure in the town, including an entire school.””

West Mayor Tommy Muska: “… In my opinion, the federal government is looking for the state to pony up and the state is looking at the federal government to pay.””

“U.S. Rep. Bill Flores…said he will urge fellow Texas Congress members to sign a letter urging the president to reverse the decision.”

Texas Sen. Brian Birdwell,
R-Granbury, said in a statement he also was “stunned” at the ruling and pledged to work with Perry, Flores and U.S. Sens. John Cornyn and Ted Cruz toward winning an appeal.

Governor Perry’s office: “The day of the West memorial service, President Obama stood in front of a grieving community and told them they would not be forgotten. He said his administration would stand with them, ready to help. We anticipate the president will hold true to his word and help us work with FEMA to ensure much-needed assistance reaches the community of West.”

Even though the main headline of the majority of articles was “FEMA denies aid to West, Texas”, most of them did, at least, admit that:

“FEMA has, however, provided emergency funds to individual residents.” ~ WFAA.com

“FEMA said last week more than $6.5 million has been approved for nearly 800 residents impacted by the fertilizer plant explosion on April 17.” ~ WFAA.com

“Though FEMA is denying aid to the city, agency representatives note that millions of dollars have gone directly to residents in the form of grants and low-interest loans.” ~ wacotrib.com

So, does anyone else besides me find it ironic that Texas, a state whose Republican leaders extol States’ Rights and despise all ‘big gummint’, especially the IRS and FEMA, now is looking to that same ‘big gummint’ for taxpayer-funded relief? Let’s see who, if any, amongst them, suggests that the federal government should cut spending elsewhere in order to ‘balance’ the FEMA aid that Texas requests.

Finally, there’s this pointless, obviously slanted piece by Mike Sackett of USA Today. Here’s a couple of excerpts:

“Federal agencies investigating the cause of the blast that killed 15 and injured 200 would do well to include in their findings the federal government’s pivotal role in making the stuff that exploded. That might change FEMA’s attitude.”

[The “federal government’s pivotal role”? Making ammonium nitrate into bombs in WWII! Darn gummint!]

~ and ~

“I suspect that as long as the National Security Agency’s domestic spying scandal sizzles in the glare of public scrutiny, federal investigators in Texas will loll in the shade, taking their sweet time investigating the explosion in West.”

[And I suspect that Mr. Sackett is pulling stuff out of his ass here.]

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