Monday, September 05, 2005

Open Letter to Barack Obama, Senator Illinois

September 5, 2005

Senator Barack Obama
John C. Kluczynski Federal Office Building
230 South Dearborn St.
Suite 3900 (39th floor)
Chicago, Illinois 60604

Dear Mr. Obama,

I, like most of my fellow Americans, was stunned, transfixed, one might say, as the human drama played (and continues to play) itself out in New Orleans in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. And I like most of my fellow citizens, be they black or white, or yellow or read or varying shades in between, are asking ourselves how could government at the local, state, and federal levels fail so catastrophically at one of its core functions: protecting the populace, and providing leadership in times of national crisis.

The most vexing problem—as I see it—in New Orleans, as well as Biloxi, Gulf Port and other communities devastated by Katrina, was and is the inability to evacuate the populace to a central location wherein food, water, adequate housing, and medical care could be provided.

It is clear that the government needs to establish and maintain—via FEMA and or American Red Cross personnel—a series of at least three, but as many as six, inland Regional Emergency Evacuation Centers (REEC). These government run and equipped centers could be used in case of dire national emergency to house large numbers of citizens, most of which would need to be evacuated from our nation’s cities. And by large, I mean in excess of 75,000 people. Not only could these emergency evacuation centers be utilized for natural calamities, but man-made emergency’s as well; e.g. (NBC) nuclear, biological, or chemical attack.

The REEC’s would need the ability to house and service up to 75,000 people in relative comfort, and provide basic modern human habitation needs; i.e. hot meals, clean running water, personal hygiene facilities, communications, limited transportation, financial services, security and entertainment. These centers could also be utilized and staffed by the American Red Cross.

I am well aware that the above is a large and some might say overwhelming task, but fortunately the country already has the infrastructure in place to make REEC’s a reality: abandoned, or soon to be abandoned military bases. These facilities, especially large bases, are and were small cities onto themselves, designed to support large military contingents and their families, and can provide, with limited additional monetary outlay, the necessary services to support a large population of displaced citizens.

All large military bases have barrack for single enlisted and officer personnel that could be used to house individual citizens, as well as single family homes that could be used for displaced families. Medical, dining, recreational, shopping, and communications facilities, electrical, facilities management, and sewage are also part of military establishments. In short closed, or soon-to-be-closed military bases would make the ideal REEC’s. All of the necessary food, water, and medical needs could be stockpiled at the REEC’s. The REEC’s would be staffed by skeleton crews of FEMA personnel when not otherwise in use.

Establishment of the REEC’s would represent a common-sense, economical solution to a very vexing problem facing our nation, one that is clearly demonstrated by the ongoing events along the Gulf Coast. The evacuated citizens are being dispersed throughout the nation, with little hope of returning to the lives they once knew. Still others are wandering around the devastated area, homeless, and hopeless. A place to be and recover from the event that tore their lives asunder would only hasten the healing process and return them the bosom of society, productive citizens.

It is clear from the disaster of the past week, that the local, state and federal governments still lack a cohesive plan for sheltering, protecting, and caring for American citizens when disaster visits our shore. This to me is inexcusable so long after 9/11. Is the Department of Homeland Security just a hollow shell? With this round of base closing we have a chance to restore the ordinary citizen’s faith in the government, by establishing and funding REEC’s.

Its time to think outside the box; its time for visionaries and leaders to take the field and show the world that the globe only superpower is not run by a bunch of arrogant incompetent fools. Government has failed the people of the Gulf Coast by not being prepared, and by inept leadership. You Mr. Obama and the other visionaries of the U.S. Congress have it within your power to effect a change by adopting my proposal, or at least giving it considered thought. Can we as a nation afford another New Orleans? Don’t the American people deserve better?

With Regard,

Vincent Martin
Aurora, IL 60504

o Richard Durbin, Senator, Illinois
o Dennis Hastert, Representative, 14th District, Illinois & Speaker, U.S. House of Representatives.
o Michael Chertoff, Secretary, Department of Homeland Security
o Michael Brown, Director, Federal Emergency Management Administration