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Recovery As An Act Both Of Rebuilding & Imagination —After Hurricane Ike Post #4

It’s evident enough to anybody in Houston that what we will narrowly define as “recovery” is still some weeks away from being completed. The restoration of power, cleaning of debris, and repair of homes and business places will be an involved process. 

( Above–Conditions as they were one week ago)  

For many school kids however, the gig may be up. Houston schools and the large suburban Cypress-Fairbanks school district will at least be partially open on Monday. The snow days I got as a kid were better than hurricane days I’d say. The snow would melt with little enough damage to people’s homes and lives.

In Houston, many traffic lights are still out or blinking red. Conversations I overhear on the street or in restaurants are still about who has power and who does not. Power may be on in a home, but the cable TV might still be out. 

Reports today from the island nation of Haiti show the effects of this year’s tropical storms and hurricanes, including Ike, on this poor part of the world. Floods have washed away much of the crops.

While most in Houston have taken the effects of Hurricane Ike in good stride, I wish we had the ability to better place events and problems in the fullest possible context. I say this about myself as well. We often don’t have much sense at all about what is a real problem and what is just a hassle.

In Galveston, of course, conditions are much worse than just a hassle.

At the top of this post I said we will likely use what I term a “narrow” definition of recovery to describe efforts to help Houston, Galveston, and other communities impacted by Ike. I say this because so much work was already needed in our communities to make the Houston area a more decent place to live.

I can’t place much trust in the same leaders and in the same civic structure, such as it is in Houston, that has so often been nowhere to be found when people need help.  

It would be great to see in upcoming weeks potential candidates for Mayor of Houston in next year’s election, such as Peter Brown and Annise Parker, outline a vision for Houston that helps people move away from being one bad hurricane away from economic and personal disaster. We know that before any hurricane, many in our area lived in what might as well be termed disaster conditions of poverty and hopelessness.

In Galveston, rebuilding must involve all people. It can’t be about just those who can build new and bigger homes more suitable to a weekend community. People are going to need a better Galveston for everyday living.

Recovery is about the needed work to fix things that are broken and blown away. It is also about the imagination required to help make our area better than what it was before the storm.

September 20, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Politics | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Galveston & Rumors About Galveston—After Hurricane Ike Post # 3

Here is After Hurricane Ike post #3.

Today is the first full day I have power at home. It’s nice to make these posts at home instead of at the Downtown Houston Public Library. Though I very much appreciate the resources available at the library.

Today I was able to buy perishable groceries for the first time in over a week. In the days leading up to the storm I figured that power would be going out. As indeed it did. So I just bought water and granola bars. 

Now I have fruits, vegetables and milk at home. 

Here is the link to the Houston Food Bank.

Many are still without power. Life cannot be more normal again in Houston until people have power. Still, I bet there are some, if just the smallest number, who have used the time without power to renew a relationship, read something they might have never gotten around to reading, or to think out a problem.

Everybody needs power back and I know what a frustration it has been for so many, but I hope that for at least some it has also been an opportunity of a kind.

I got a comment on another post today from someone without power for a few days now in Columbus, Ohio in the aftermath of Ike.

The Houston Chronicle today offered up an unhelpful editorial about the failure of Galveston city leaders to as of yet devise a good plan for evacuated residents to come back and see their homes. As I said yesterday on this blog, Galveston officials seem overwhelmed. They need outside help.

I hope the Governor’s office or somebody with insight into the problems Galveston is facing, has offered assistance to Galveston city leaders. Galveston is a poor city of 50,000 people. They have just the resources and talent that they have. Hurricane Ike is a disaster of a scope beyond what Galveston on its own can manage.

Fellow Houston blogger Brains & Eggs has posted about rumors of many bodies being washed out to sea from Galveston and Bolivar Peninsula. I don’t believe these rumors. Some maybe died this way. But not hundreds or thousands.

Here is a report on how bad things are in Galveston right now.

Another Houston blogger, Julie Pippert, wonders about pollution from swamped refineries and chemical plants that may have sludged into Galveston Bay as a result of the storm.  

Julie, of course, is crazy. I recall all the ads on TV a few years ago saying how expansion of the Port of Houston would enhance the environment. All that ship traffic is good for the water. I say that whatever ends up in Galveston Bay is for the best. Mankind will be gone soon enough and Galveston Bay will have millions of years to recover.

Below is Bolivar Peninsula after Hurricane Ike.  

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Texas | , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

Four Days After Hurricane Ike, Our Electricity Is Back

Four days after Hurricane Ike we have electricity back at home. Please see above the hallway in our home. (We live in a bunker. Don’t you?) We won’t trip and fall down the stairs so much now that all those lamps are working again.

( Here is information about electricity.)

Below is an illustration of night becoming day. From four days without power, our internal rhythms had already reverted to this more basic measuring of time.

In fact, I regressed a great deal over the four days.  

No problems though. If you’re lucky enough not to have been fully wiped out by Hurricane Ike, civilization, as we loosely define it in Houston, will be back up and running in just a couple of weeks.

If you would like to make a donation for disaster relief, here is the web home of the American Red Cross.

September 18, 2008 Posted by | Houston | , , , , | 6 Comments

Galveston & Mayor White—After Hurricane Ike Post #2 From Downtown Houston Library

Some observations about Hurricane Ike and its impact on Houston and Galveston in the 31 minutes I have left on the computer at the Houston Downtown Public Library. Many people are at the terminals and others are waiting in line to use the computers.   

( Sorry for the absence of links here. Don’t have the time in this setting.)

The wife and I are now at five days without power since Ike. The wife and I and hundreds of thousands of others in and around Houston are without power. While I have little trust in the electric company,( or in the cable company or the phone company,) I do believe they are doing their best to restore power. In any case, the absence of power is a small burden in relation to the problems others have in Galveston and elsewhere.

It’s a small burden in relation to the problems people have around the world everyday.

It seems clear that officials in Galveston are over-matched by the task of letting folks back on the island to see their homes. The failure to order a mandatory evacuation in good time is an issue voters in Galveston can address later. For now, the Governor’s office or some wise man or wise woman should offer help to Galveston city officials to work this problem out. It felt yesterday that they were pretty much fending for themselves. They have so much work to do. They need some outside guidance.

I’m still waiting to pass a more solid judgement on FEMA. Though I don’t understand why the FEMA Director and the Homeland Security Secretary have not been here 24/7. Houston Mayor Bill White has clearly not been happy with some of FEMA’s early efforts. Though the Mayor has his own agenda of a statewide run in the next few years and his words and deeds must be viewed through the prism of his own ambitions. The Mayor surely does not want to be blamed for a poor hurricane response.

Houston and the Houston- area have so many poor people all the time. I guess it takes a disaster for their needs to be seen as meriting swift action. A disaster and the fact that many others have big problems at the same time. You can be certain that these folks will be forgotten again soon enough. It will take more than people volunteering to cut down a neighbor’s fallen tree limbs to give a more complete sense of community to this city.

It would be great to see so-called civic leaders and alleged community leaders and self-professed religious leaders call now for a kind of reconstruction of our city and its everyday acceptance of poverty and inequality. Just as we can we can rebuild structures, we can also change our minds and see a new and better city. 

Let’s also make sure we don’t forget the good folks in Beaumont, Orange, Bridge City and other places that took a hit from Ike. 

My time is running out. (In so many respects!) In the immediate sense my time is running out on this computer. Thanks for reading Texas Liberal and good luck.

September 17, 2008 Posted by | Galveston, Houston, Politics, Texas | , , , , , , | 2 Comments