It's the unsung quality in political leadership, a pedestrian skill rarely mentioned by pundits or political scientists.
But it's absolutely essential in a crisis.
It is the ability to run a meeting, and Houston Mayor Bill White has it.
Around the table are elected officials and key city and county staff, as well as executives from KBR, CenterPoint Energy and the Wedge Group, church leaders, American Red Cross and FEMA executives, and heads of the Houston Food Bank and the United Way.
One group represented at the table is something of a surprise: The Metropolitan Organization.
TMO is part of a network of community organizations that works under principles originally developed by the late activist Saul Alinsky. It and its sister groups across the state are known for their willingness to forcefully confront public officials on issues affecting low-income citizens.
Eckels and White had the good sense to agree to put to use the group's skill at listening to traditionally disenfranchised people. Beginning Saturday, they allowed TMO organizers and leaders into the Astrodome.
"We figured there were a lot of people in the Astrodome who had been leaders in New Orleans," said Renee Barrios, TMO's lead organizer. "We decided to organize them. We announced over the loudspeakers that all church and neighborhood leaders should come to a particular section up in the stands."
About 50 came up, she said, to talk about the problems and issues the residents were facing. The number has grown to about 100 in the days since, and those go out and talk to other residents about their concerns.
So Barrios sits at the table to voice the concerns of the evacuees. The notion that their concerns should be heard is both obvious and rarely executed.
On to the roundup: Would you believe that FEMA has a rap song for kids on its website? About disaster preparedness? I swear, every passing day reveals to me more and more just what geniuses they are at The Onion for not throwing up their hands and saying "We surrender! We can't compete with this reality!" Link via TAPped.
Linkmeister points to an array of reports from a doctor working with evacuees inside the Astrodome. It's compelling stuff.
Looking for benefit concerts? The Hand Stamp blog has what you need to know. This weekend, the action is at Numbers and The Proletariat. More info in this article - I've got to check out the "New Orleans Happy Hour" on Thursdays at Cosmos Cafe, which is right in my neighborhood.
Via email from the Jay Aiyer campaign:
Can you send out a plea for volunteers to come to the Jay Aiyer Campaign office at 6634 Southwest Freeway (Hillcroft and 59) ASAP and bring their laptops if possible? People are being sent to the campaign office from the motels (which do NOT HAVE internet access) to do their FEMA registration. Volunteers are needed to do their data entry and the process for them. We have wireless access. We also have extra computers that can be used if you don't have a laptop. We need help tonight and tomorrow. The number to call is 713-266-2005. Please help if you can - apparently these people were sent to the office by an elected official who knew of the internet access. Thanks.
I've been working the Texas 211 line, as a volunteer and also drafted during the day from my regular state agency job. One of the most frustrating requests has been how to replace lost IDs, since people can't get jobs, apartments, or replacement Social Security checks without them. We just didn't know what to tell people.
Finally found this.
No fee, just need to mail or fax the form.