Haley Barbour, the Republican governor of Mississippi, finally turned his ire on Washington yesterday over the Hurricane Katrina recovery.
Barbour, whose support in the early days gave President Bush at least a little political cover, took aim at Congress, not his friend in the White House. It seems Barbour would like for Congress to hurry up and approve a $35.4 billion aid package. Testifying on Capitol Hill, the governor said he was thankful for the help so far, but still:
“We are at a point where our recovery and renewal efforts are stalled because of inaction in Washington, D.C.,” Barbour said, “and the delay has created uncertainty that is having very negative effects on our recovery and rebuilding. It is taking the starch out of people who’ve worked so hard to help themselves and their neighbors.”
Even those measured words mark a change for Barbour. In contrast to his Democratic counterpart Kathleen Blanco in Louisiana, he made a point after the storm of saying that President Bush and FEMA were doing the best they could.
On September 1, just days after the hurricane, he told CNN the feds had been “tremendous partners”:
“The federal government came in here from the first minute–in fact, in advance. They have been tremendously helpful, whether it’s the Coast Guard, the Corps of Engineers, FEMA.”
(It’s worth noting that a company owned by the wife of a Barbour nephew has turned up seventh on the list of 88 Mississippi businesses for getting contracts with FEMA, at $6.4 million. The governor denies any knowledge of the matter and everyone involved says nepotism had nothing to do with it. According to the Wednesday story in the New York Times, Rosemary Barbour, who was born in Guatemala and now lives in Jackson, “is certified by the United States Small Business Administration as a disadvantaged small-business owner.”)
And just yesterday, two coastal Mississippi counties received $20 million to help with cleanup.
Judging from this headline in the local Sun-Herald, there’s plenty left to do: “Rotting meat still there: Homeowners must request assistance.” That assistance is to come from a firm the city of Gulfport hired to complete the job, but:
Despite promises to have thousands of pounds of rotting chicken and pork removed Wednesday from West Gulfport homes, piles of the decomposed meat were still strewn across lawns there late that day.
Residents have been waiting for 14 weeks to rid their neighborhood of thousands of pounds of raw chicken and pork bellies that were dumped on their property when Hurricane Katrina slammed into South Mississippi.
The company in question says it can’t take the decomposing innards out of private yards until the homeowners ask that it be done. A little more paperwork, a little more time: In the Katrina recovery, it’s just more of the same.