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FEMA: Rescue me

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Be grateful that Hurricane Katia is headed to out to sea rather than toward New England since the Federal Emergency Management Agency appears to be the next agency in line for a beat down by Republicans in Congress.

On Tuesday, the Senate Appropriations Committee threw down the gauntlet, proposing a $6 billion increase in FEMA’s budget, outstripping the White House request by $4.2 billion and the Republican-controlled House request by $3.4 billion.

The federal government needs $1.5 billion to assist communities as they recover from Hurricane Irene. So far this year, President Obama has approved disaster declarations in 47 states with damage totaling $1 billion, the most in more than 30 years.

House Majority Leader Eric Cantor is the new  villain in the latest Washington budget firefight. Cantor  recently argued that every additional dollar that goes to FEMA’s budget should be offset by cuts elsewhere in the federal budget.

That proposal didn’t fly with the only real socialist in Washington, US Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont. Irene’s rains led to catastrophic damage in the Green Mountain State and an impasse over the FEMA budget was the last thing that Sanders wanted to hear.

There are malcontents under the Republican tent as well. New Jersey’s Republican Gov. Chris Christie, a someday presidential hopeful, also wants aid from Washington for his storm-ravaged state ASAP. In a clear declaration of pragmatism over conservatism, at least when it comes to disaster recovery spending, Christie declared: “I don’t want to hear about the fact that offsetting budget cuts have to come first before New Jersey citizens are taken care of.” House Republican lawmakers from hard-hit states like New York are also being forced to put the needs of their constituents above ideological purity.

Tea Party favorite Rick Perry, who abandoned a Republican presidential candidates forum in South Carolina last week to deal with wildfires in Texas, also plans to file a disaster request. Earlier this year, President Obama rejected a Texas request for federal aid to fight wildfires, leading Perry to speculate that the rejection was political.  (The state later appealed and got a partial reprieve.)

However, letting FEMA run out of money or go into an FAA-like state of limbo has the potential to do damage to the GOP’s limited government crusade. Most communities can count on the good works of private agencies like the Red Cross and the Salvation Army (even the Red Cross is strapped in places like the Pioneer Valley.), but when disaster strikes most Americans expect the federal government to step in with financial assistance. Only Washington has the billions to pump into state rescue recovery efforts.

To imagine what might happen to a community in the absence of a well-coordinated and financed federal response to a major natural disaster or man-made emergency, there’s already one word in the American lexicon that sums up the perfect debacle: Katrina.

                                                                                                                                                    --GABRIELLE GURLEY  


BEACON HILL

Dealing with staff shortages, court officials say they plan to reduce the hours for counter service and answering phone calls at 38 district courts, including Lowell and Woburn, the Lowell Sun reports.

Greater Boston catches up on some of the political stories that occurred since its August hiatus such as the push for legalized gambling and Mitt Romney’s challenge to President Obama on the economy.

The sentencing of former House speaker Sal DiMasi is tomorrow, and chief federal District Court Judge Mark Wolf has received advice urging leniency -- as well as harsh justice. In an emotional letter, DiMasi’s wife Debbie says sending the former speaker to prison “would be a death sentence for him.”

State Sen. Richard Ross accuses Gov. Deval Patrick and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft of working an “inside ballgame” to bring a casino to Foxboro. Spokesmen for Patrick and Kraft deny the charge. The town’s board of selectmen voted down a zoning change that would have allowed a casino in town after resident after resident testified against it, NECN reports.

Department of Public Utilities regulators plan to look into the response of National Grid and NStar to outages cause by Irene.

Attorney General Martha Coakley will consider whether to certify an assisted suicide ballot petition.

9/11 ANNIVERSARY

Time offers a powerful set of video interviews with more than 40 people who played a role in responding to 9/11 or dealt with its aftereffects.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, in an interview with WBUR, recalls 9/11.

In its continuing series on the tenth anniversary of the 9/11 terrorist attacks, the Globe looks at the millions of dollars in anti-terrorism funds that have been funneled to law enforcement agencies in the state over the past decade. Boston unveils its plans for commemorating the anniversary.

MUNICIPAL MATTERS

Just eight months after an officer on the city’s police force was killed in a shootout with a store robber, another Woburn officer is shot intervening on a jewelry store heist.  Officer Robert DeNapoli was expected to survive his wounds, while as many as three suspects remain at large.

The Methuen City Council seems to be in favor of increasing the next mayor’s salary from $80,000 to $100,000, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

Wareham Selectman J. Michael Schneider suddenly reappeared at the selectmen’s meeting last night after missing for more than a month but his explanation did little to fill in the blanks as to why he disappeared.

Wondering who Boston’s mayor is? These new bikes will tell you!

NATIONAL POLITICS/WASHINGTON

Bloomberg News reports that President Obama plans to seek a $300 billion jobs package that consists primarily of tax cuts, infrastructure spending, and direct aid to state and local governments. Republicans are already pushing back against the idea. Obama’s best chance of getting anything through Congress might be the already-in-effect payroll tax cut. The Wall Street Journal previews tomorrow’s jobs speech.

The right holds the moral high ground and it’s about time someone says so. So Jim Lacey says in the National Review.

ELECTION 2012

In an article for The Daily Beast, Yale law professor Stephen Carter makes the case for ending the debate circus that gives presidential candidates less time to answer questions than participants in a high school debate.

BUSINESS/ECONOMY

Northeastern economist Barry Bluestone urges a public-sector wage freeze and a new tax on corporate profits in a New York Times op-ed column.

An unusual collaboration at O’Hare International Airport creates jobs for former convicts, improves aviation, and helps rescue an endangered species. Click here for the buzzzzz.

Yahoo CEO Carol Bartz is fired – over the phone,  a Wall Street Journal blog reports.

Home heating oil prices are high.

The Associated Industries of Massachusetts business confidence index fell to its lowest level in a year, indicating a continued gloomy outlook on the economy by the state’s employers.

Bank of America can’t get rid of its CEO for buying Countrywide because it already did that, so the bank just fired these two folks instead.

Older Americans are reaching retirement age saddled with too much debt to quit working.

The Boston Herald inks a deal to leave Wingo Way for South Boston. Dan Kennedy wonders what the long-term lease for what appears to be more space than necessary means for Pat Purcell.

EDUCATION

University of Massachusetts Dartmouth Chancellor Jean McCormack, whose 12-year tenure is the longest in the school’s history, announced she will retire at the end of the academic year. Meanwhile, UMass Amherst opened the semester with a world record stir-fry.

Globe columnist Larry Harmon calls the proposed relocation of Boston Latin Academy to Hyde Park a horrible idea.

Charles Chieppo and Jamie Gass of the Pioneer Institute make the case for an MCAS requirement for US history in an op-ed piece in the Gloucester Times.

HEALTH CARE

House Majority Leader Ronald Mariano filed a bill yesterday that would force the state’s high-cost hospitals to reduce their prices before renewing contracts with health insurers and bar the insurers from signing contracts with lower-cost hospitals unless they raise their payment rates.

Paul Levy writes in the American Medical Association Journal of Ethics that the penalties for “wrong site” surgeries are ineffective in stemming the growing number of these cases that the medical community has labeled “never events.”

CRIMINAL JUSTICE

Peter Lucas, in his Lowell Sun column, slams immigration control by suggesting Whitey Bulger should have become an illegal immigrant because then nobody would have ever looked for him.

The Lawrence man accused of killing his girlfriend and her two children tells the police he emptied his .357 magnum into them because he was tired of his girlfriend’s complaining, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

The alleged killer of a South End teen had been released on a day pass from the Department of Youth Services to attend a Red Sox game at the time of the shooting, the Globe reports.

HISTORY

A “Scholars Commission” has released a 400-page report that claims to debunk the claim that Thomas Jefferson fathered a child with one of his slaves, Sally Hemings.

ARTS

Boston developer Ron Druker is giving the Museum of Fine Arts $5 million.

The fried bubble gum at the Texas State Fair makes the fried butter on a stick at the Iowa fair look like the equivalent of a boring mixed green salad, Time reports.


 

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