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Ian McColgin
11-14-2007, 12:19 PM
From the gang that can't manage a war of aggression against a weak nation -- Wait. What if the war is doing exactly as intended: Making beaujcoupbucks? Perhaps this FEMA bit is really a tip of the scandal about how they have targeted FEMA $ to favored vendors. Maybe the corruption of our constitution is not so much for power as for money. Maybe, as with Musselini's, the emerging US fascism is about making a klyptocracy.

New Orleans Aquarium Fights Red Tape

By JOHN MORENO GONZALES
Associated Press Writer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) -- In what some see as another bureaucratic absurdity after Hurricane Katrina, FEMA is refusing to pick up the cost of restocking New Orleans' aquarium because of how the new fish were obtained: straight from the sea.

FEMA would have been willing to pay more than $600,000 for the fish if they had been bought from commercial suppliers. But the agency is balking because the Audubon Aquarium of the Americas went out and replaced the dead fish the old fashioned way, with hooks and nets. That expedition saved the taxpayers a half-million dollars but did not comply with FEMA regulations.

"You get to the point where the red tape has so overwhelmed the process that there's not a lot you can do to actually be effective," Warren Eller, associate director of the Stephenson Disaster Management Institute at Louisiana State University, said of FEMA's actions.

Katrina knocked out power to the tourist attraction at the edge of the French Quarter in August 2005, and the staff returned days four days later to find sharks, tropical fish, jellyfish and thousands of other creatures dead in their tanks.

Aquarium officials wanted to reopen the place quickly. So even before the $616,000 commitment from the Federal Emergency Management Agency came through, they sent a team on an expedition to the Gulf of Mexico, the Florida Keys and Bahamas, where they caught 1,681 fish for $99,766.

Despite the clear savings, the dispute has dragged on for 17 months.

"FEMA does not consider it reasonable when an applicant takes excursions to collect specimens," FEMA quality control manager Barb Schweda wrote in a 2006 e-mail. "They must be obtained through a reputable sources where, again, the item is commercially available."

FEMA's refusal to reimburse the aquarium is grounded in the Stafford Act, the federal law governing disaster aid that has been criticized as inadequate for Katrina recovery. The Stafford Act says facilities can only be returned to their pre-disaster condition, not improved. Under those rules, the aquarium would have to buy fish of the approximate age and size of the lost specimens.

State experts and others counter that acquiring thousands of duplicates in the marketplace is nearly impossible, and a waste of public money.

"You can go out in the commercial market and buy a clownfish. You can also go out and capture it. And if you're capturing fish to fill an aquarium, it is much more cost-effective. Talk about being good stewards of the taxpayer dollar," said Rick Patterson, a specialist with James Lee Witt Associates, a firm that mediates Louisiana's disputes with FEMA. The firm is led by Witt, FEMA director during the Clinton administration.

Mark Smith, a spokesman with the Governor's Office of Homeland Security and Emergency Preparedness, complained that all too often, FEMA does not reward innovation or cost-saving ways to rebuild.

"It's relatively typical that when Louisiana, or an applicant, finds a unique way to solve a problem that FEMA comes in and throws a flag and says, `No, you can't do that,'" Smith said.

Local officials have complained that FEMA has applied the rules with maddening literal-mindedness, insisting on itemizing smashed buildings down to every last light fixture, doorknob and hinge when awarding rebuilding aid.

Bob Josephson, FEMA's director of external affairs in Louisiana, was alerted to the case by The Associated Press and reviewed it recently. He suggested FEMA may have made a mistake, but did not promise quick resolution.

"There are approximately 35,000 projects in the system and although we work very hard to ensure we get them right the first time around, undoubtedly, some will be misjudged," he said.

About a dozen aquarium staffers went fishing, snorkeling and scuba diving between January and May 2006, catching tiny highhat fish, yellowtail snapper, jackfish and others. The staffers worked 12-hour days but put in for only eight hours a day, according to invoices.

The catch was placed in a 1,000-gallon tank fitted to a flatbed trailer for the trip to New Orleans. TV crews and a local newspaper reporter tagged along on some trips but paid their own bills.

Most of the fish were caught in Florida waters for one-fifth the price charged by online vendors and specialty stores - suppliers FEMA recommended using.

"That is exactly the most prudent way to do it," Steve Feldman, spokesman for the Association of Zoos and Aquariums, said of the fishing trip.

The aquarium also received donations from other institutions, including stingrays from Sea World in Orlando, Fla.

With the aquarium's 900,000 annual visitors a linchpin of the city's tourism-dependent economy, the state asked FEMA in May 2006 for rebuilding help for the private institution even though the fish had already been caught. It is not unusual for the state to ask for assistance after a project has been completed.

The fish were put on display in mid-2006 and have proved to be healthy. But the aquarium had to lay off 80 percent of its workers after Katrina and attendance is only 70 percent of what it was before the storm, spokeswoman Melissa Lee said.

"When those numbers drop, the revenue drops," she said. "That's money that could go to feeding animals and increasing staff. That's money we need back from FEMA."

The firm mediating the dispute has pressed on with its effort to secure FEMA help, arguing that salmon hatcheries in Oregon and lab rats in Texas were replaced with FEMA money after disasters hit there in 1994 and 2001.

The New Orleans case has been appealed to FEMA offices in Texas and Washington. The dispute could wind up in federal court.

2007 The Associated Press.

Kaa
11-14-2007, 12:23 PM
If you think that's something new or unusual, may I point you to this recent thread?

http://www.woodenboatvb.com/vbulletin/upload/showthread.php?t=72022

Kaa

Ian McColgin
11-14-2007, 12:36 PM
Did my push button go wrong? I got the thread from A C-B that had Wellington's dripping sarcasm to the pettyfloggers back in London. I don't get the relevance of that to the Bush administration's unprecedented looting of our commonweal.

Kaa
11-14-2007, 12:51 PM
Did my push button go wrong? I got the thread from A C-B that had Wellington's dripping sarcasm to the pettyfloggers back in London. I don't get the relevance of that to the Bush administration's unprecedented looting of our commonweal.

Bush administration looting of the commonwealth?

The piece you cut-and-pasted deals with bureaucrats being stupid and inflexible while applying rules -- I really don't see how you go from the FEMA insistence that you MUST follow the 517-step dance detailed in form 236-B/0976, section 2013, paragraph 27A, subparagraph 3/z or you get no money from them -- from here to the "looting of our commonwealth".

Kaa

Ian McColgin
11-14-2007, 01:19 PM
Ah, I see the comparison and it's apt to that extent. However I also see that this strange application of the Stafford Act is the result of federal rule changes promulgated by the Bush administration, complete with vendors lists. Therein lies the step from an example of bureaucratic incompetance to utilizing incompetance for profit.

I generally go for cock-up over conspiracy - do not attribute to malice what can be explained by stupidity - but European and American fascisms have shown how to combine stupidity with theft on a grand scale. Not exactly an organized conspiracy as opportunism. Which is why my intro. It appears that my view of the administration is less charitable than some. I am content to disagree on that for the time, as the evidence for my view mounts.

George Roberts
11-14-2007, 01:36 PM
FEMA requires people to follow the rules because those who do not typically cheat.

---

SCUBA diving for a week appears more like a paid vacation than a job.

Kaa
11-14-2007, 01:44 PM
Therein lies the step from an example of bureaucratic incompetance to utilizing incompetance for profit.

I am confused. The Congress distributes public money for private proft every day in huge amounts. All the earmarks, all the subsidies, all the sweetheart no-bid contracts, all the tax deductions -- all that is politicians funneling money to their cronies, supporters, old boys, mistresses, voters, etc. etc.

On this colossal scale FEMA and the Stafford Act are peanuts, not even small fry. And, of course, all that's been going on forever, and will continue to go on after the Bush administration.

I mean, did you just discover that being a friend of the government is a quick way to get rich?

Kaa

Kaa
11-14-2007, 01:45 PM
FEMA requires people to follow the rules because those who do not typically cheat.

*rolls eyes*

Kaa

ljb5
11-14-2007, 08:56 PM
...The Congress distributes public money for private proft every day in huge amounts. All the earmarks, all the subsidies, all the sweetheart no-bid contracts, all the tax deductions -- all that is politicians funneling money to their cronies, supporters, old boys, mistresses, voters, etc. etc.

On this colossal scale FEMA and the Stafford Act are peanuts, not even small fry. And, of course, all that's been going on forever, and will continue to go on after the Bush administration.

I mean, did you just discover that being a friend of the government is a quick way to get rich?...

After decades of screaming that only the Democrats do it and claiming that Republicans would put a stop to it, the new conservative position is to brag that they do it more and worse than ever before. :rolleyes:

JTA
11-14-2007, 09:06 PM
Hmmm,
So if I go buy the fish from the aquarium for 100k, sell them back to the aquarium for 600k. They bill FEMA 600k and everyone is happy.
I'm in, anybody want some of this action?

Jack
P.S. As I told someone the other day, Every FEMA horror story you have heard is true, what you haven't heard is the thousands of stories where FEMA has done a lot of good.

George Roberts
11-14-2007, 10:18 PM
The problem runs along the lines ---

The aquarium spends $100K on catching fish and then bills FEMA $600K for the fish. After all $600K is the fair market value of the fish.

The aquarium owners are enriched by $500K and everyone here claims foul.

ljb5
11-15-2007, 05:51 AM
The problem runs along the lines ---

The aquarium spends $100K on catching fish and then bills FEMA $600K for the fish. After all $600K is the fair market value of the fish.

The aquarium owners are enriched by $500K and everyone here claims foul.

You either didn't read, or didn't understand the article.