September 03, 2005
Strayhorn: Use the surplus

Just as a reminder, the Chron has a section of full Katrina coverage, which I expect will be around for a long time, and a separate RSS feed for that section.

Volunteers Needed At Astrodome, Convention Center

Houstonians want to help and their help is needed at two of the state's largest evacuation centers, Local 2 reported Friday.

Volunteers are needed at the Astrodome. They should go to the Main Street Yellow Lot.

Volunteers will work 10-hour shifts covering all hours after a one- to two-hour training session.

Donations are no longer needed. Please do not drop them off at the Dome until requested.

City officials also asked for volunteers at the George R. Brown Convention Center in downtown Houston, which was turned into a shelter.

Those interested should go to the Polk Street parking lot. Volunteers will work four-hour shifts.

The following items are also needed. Donations should be dropped off at Exhibit Hall E.

* Toiletry Items
* Towels
* Blankets
* Sheets, Bedding
* Cots
* Air Mattresses

Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn has announced that Texas is currently running a surplus and that it should use that money to assist Katrina evacuees.

Texas has realized a $1.2 billion surplus in the past three months from higher oil and natural gas prices and sales taxes, which could be used to help pay for hurricane relief costs, Comptroller Carole Keeton Strayhorn said Friday.

Strayhorn said Gov. Rick Perry should immediately call a three-day special legislative session so the money can be appropriated to help pay for increased costs for education, security and health providers dealing with more than 150,000 Katrina refugees.

"Texans have huge hearts, and thankfully we've also got the money to provide real, lasting relief to the schools, cities and counties that have opened their doors to the refugees of this horrific natural disaster," she said.

Strayhorn is challenging Perry in next year's GOP primary.

There's no need for a special session at this time, said Robert Black, a spokesman for Perry. He said the federal government will be paying for 100 percent of costs incurred by Texas.

President Bush on Friday granted Perry's request for an emergency declaration, making Texas eligible for a portion of the $10.5 billion in federal aid passed by Congress.

Mark Sanders, a spokesman for Strayhorn, said it's unclear what the federal government is going to do to help Texas communities, but the state money is a sure thing.

Have you listened to that radio interview with New Orleans Mayor Ray Nagin? Apparently, it got a response.

Less than 24 hours later, the mayor found himself aboard Air Force One, face to face with the president at Louis Armstrong New Orleans International Airport. He repeated his criticisms, he said in an interview Friday night, and got a positive response from the president.

"He said he was fully committed to getting us the resources we need," Nagin said in the tattered Hyatt hotel next to the Superdome. "I told him I knew we could work together, and he said he understood."

In their two hours together, first on Air Force One and then during a flyover of the city in the president's helicopter, Nagin said Bush did not mention the radio tirade until the mayor himself brought it up.

"I told him: 'I said some things yesterday that may have offended you, and if they did, I apologize. But if you were in my shoes, what would you do?' " Nagin said. "He said he had heard I had said some things, but that he really didn't understand all of it. And then he said: 'You and I are OK.' "

Nagin grinned, adding: "The president loves frankness."

Asked if his radio interview, in which he unleashed profanities and vulgarities, had produced the reaction he was seeking, Nagin replied, "I guess it had some effect and got things to a turning point."

Nagin is a Democrat, but he endorsed Bush in 2004. Just so you know.

What kind of effect is the inlux of evacuees having on Texas' Health and Human Services Commission? Father John has a report.

The question that has to be asked at this point is, what things would be like if the Houston region had 30% of the staff it currently has, with fewer and smaller offices than it has today? You may say that this is a once in a life time event, but we had similar (though admittedly smaller scale) crises in 1994 and 2001, due to local area flooding. In those cases, we had the staff to handle the job, but we would not have been able to have handled it with the staff the agency plans on down-sizing to.

One thing's for sure, National Guardsmen do not know how to work a Food Stamp case, and issue benefits on an EBT Card.

There are a lot of people who never thought they would be applying for Food Stamps that were standing in line today. No one along the Gulf Coast should be too sure that it won't be them, one of these days.

Keep your eyes on this story over the next few weeks and months.

Via Hope: About 5000 evacuees are coming to Austin.

The refugees, who will arrive by bus from Houston or New Orleans, will be first be directed to the Delco Center an Austin school district student activity center in Northeast Austin to be evaluated and given information about local services. From there, they will be bused to the Toney Burger Center in South Austin, where the Red Cross has set up an emergency shelter.

The Burger Center, which has a capacity of 500, has seen only a trickle of refugees spending the night since it opened earlier this week. Once that shelter is full, officials will open the Austin Convention Center, a facility with a capacity of 5,000.

Austin residents, here's how you can help. Amanda has more, with information for other cities as well. Ray in Austin has information about a benefit concert at Shoal Creek Saloon.

Here's a new Houston blog with information on grassroots relief efforts. You can email information to if you want your own announcement posted there.

City Council Member Adrian Garcia is holding a barbecue on Monday to raise funds for Katrina relief.

Where: Bella Vista Church, 807 E. 36th Street, Houston, TX 77022

When: Lunch will be served at 1 p.m.


* Meat and side dishes for the lunch such as beans, potato salad, bags of chips, drinks
* Toiletries such as toothpaste, hygiene products, deodorant, baby wipes, diapers
* School supplies
* Volunteers to help set up, clean up and to help distribute donated items

Donations can be dropped off at the Heights Storefront on Friday or brought to Bella Vista Church on Monday from 9 a.m to 12 noon. For those of you donating food items or bringing food on Monday, please contact me as soon as possible so that I can track these items. Please pass this on to anyone interested.

Thank you, in advance, for your willingness to help those who have suffered loss due to Hurricane Katrina. Help us show what makes District H a great place to live.


Another new Chronicle blog: In Exile, written by Abram Himelstein, who had taught inner city children to write in New Orleans until forced to flee by Hurricane Katrina. He's now staying with family in Houston.

Tulane University has cancelled its fall semester. They will accept credit from any regionally accredited university for students who take classes elsewhere. Rice has already announced that they will waive tuition for Tulane students (via Ginger). And my alma mater says it will be enrolling displaced students as well.

Finally, Patrick passes along word that our fellow Trinity classmate and Beard Award-nominated food writer Paul "Pableaux" Johnson made it out of New Orleans safely. That's very good news.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 03, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

I think Perry's right, provided he and the state are committed to providing the resources. The state just needs to provide the resources now and worry about reimbursement later. I'm sure the president, a Texan, won't leave his home state hanging. The special session, IMO, will just cost money that can be put to much better use right now.

You know, he's not a popular guy here and I don't typically care for him either, but I have to give Perry a lot of credit and accolades for his handling of matters in the aftermath of Katrina and her refugees. So far he's done just about everything right, and if this was a side of him we saw more often, maybe the term "compassionate conservative" wouldn't seem like an oxymoron to so many people.

Similar credit goes to Mayor White as well as other Texas big city mayors and the corresponding counties. As much as so many levels of government has bungled the rescue, relief and recovery efforts to the east of us, Texas government at all levels has been at its best.

Posted by: Tim on September 3, 2005 11:00 AM