September 07, 2005
How the "CEO politician" model is supposed to work

Kevin Drum cites another example to bolster his thesis of George Bush as a bad CEO. As Rick Casey tells us, Houston Mayor Bill White is the gold standard for CEOs-turned-politician.

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.

The example that Casey cites of White and County Judge Robert Eckels ensuring that the evacuees know what's going on and have a voice in the process is excellent.

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.

He makes it look easy, doesn't he? By the way, as Houtopia notes, Mayor White has cancelled his kickoff celebration, which was scheduled for tomorrow.

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.

The members of the Louisiana Search and Rescue Dog Team have suffered extensive damage to their homes in Katrina. Help in Houston has information about how you can make a contribution for them.

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.

And via email from Skye Kilaen:

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.

Of all the Katrina-info-lists I've posted, this one at Go Fug Yourself is in the place I'd have least expected it. It's still a good list, so check it out and try not to waste too much time clicking on their other links.

UPDATE: Missed a couple of posts from The Jeffersonian on the cost of Katrina to SA, and the formation of the San Antonio Hurricane Relief Fund - info found here.

Posted by Charles Kuffner on September 07, 2005 to Hurricane Katrina | TrackBack

You're doing such a good job of linking to area relief efforts, Charles--thank you. My name is Susan Wade, and my brother is an Austin firefighter. He was in touch with the local Veterans for Peace group, and heard of a VfP group that drove from California to Louisiana last week and set up an aid station. They're in Covington, LA and were the first relief on the ground there. We organized supplies (they had only the first load they brought with them), and Daryl loaded his truck (camper shell and a huge luggage rack) and drove to Covington last Saturday night. He and a friend have been volunteering there ever since. VfP has collected supplies and sent more pickups to Covington from Central Texas.

I was able to talk with Daryl by cell phone (his service is spotty, of course) on Monday night. They're working with the Red Cross now. That day, re-supply had improved dramatically, and they're starting to feel like they're making headway.

Tonight, when I got home, there was a message from Daryl saying they've had word of a small town in Mississippi (Laurel) that's received no assistance yet at all. We're organizing supplies and drivers again. If any of your readers want to make a donation that they can be certain will go right now to people in desperate need because of Katrina, I know for a fact the VfP is doing that. They have a PayPal and credit card site set up. Here's the link:

If anyone else wants to go do unglamorous relief work, it sounds as if rural Mississippi is the place to go. I'll serve as a contact for direct info from Covington for any who are interested. Email is

Thanks again.

Posted by: Susan Wade on September 7, 2005 11:05 PM