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THE STORM [home page]
ray nagin

A former vice president of Cox Communications, Ray Nagin was elected mayor of New Orleans in May 2002. In this interview, he details the chaos and devastation he confronted in the days following Katrina's landfall and answers questions about why the city appeared to be unprepared for the Category 4 hurricane, despite days of warning. He also talks about his frustrations in dealing with Gov. Blanco, the bureaucratic rules he encountered in getting help from FEMA and whether race might have been a factor in the government's slow response to New Orleans' plight. In discussing the efforts to coordinate and find leadership for the response effort, he talks about a meeting that took place on Air Force One on day five of the catastrophe. There, Nagin tells FRONTLINE, a "dance" was going on between the president and the governor over who had ultimate authority. "And finally I just stopped and said: '… With all due respect, Mr. President, if you and the governor don't get on the same page, this event is going to continue to spiral down ….'" This is the edited transcript and video of an interview conducted on Oct. 26, 2005.

What mistakes did you make?

… I haven't had a whole lot of time to really think about that. But most of the criticism I'm getting seems to center around a couple of areas. The first one is the bus situation: "Why, Mr. Mayor, didn't you use buses? Why were they flooded?" -- the whole nine yards.

Sure, we could have done some things better, and I'm going to take a look at that. But the realities were, we put our RTA [Regional Transit Authority] buses, which are under the city's control, in an area that has never flooded before, and we were planning to use them if we needed them.

In addition to that, there were other buses that are associated with the school board that are not under our direct control. So going forward, I would like to look at a plan that basically says, OK, let's take every bus that we have available and move them to another area. And then hopefully we'll have the drivers necessary. The big struggle we had with this past event, most of the drivers evacuated. And even if we did have those buses staged, we probably couldn't have got them out.

You say you didn't have enough drivers. Why not use the National Guard to drive the buses?

… They have to be activated by order of the governor. During our event, they were slow coming also. We had maybe 200 to 250 National Guardsmen that stayed with us for the first three or four days.

[Gov. Kathleen Blanco] had activated the National Guard on Saturday, I thought.

I heard that. All I can tell you is that the amount of guardsmen that were in the city of New Orleans was a group of about 200 to 250.

There were 400 National Guardsmen at Jackson Barracks.

… Jackson Barracks is flooded.

How big of a loss was that?

Jackson Barracks hurt for a number of different reasons. That was the area where we staged our police boats, and we were going to try and use the boats if we needed to go out and rescue people, which we did.

We had a fleet of 20 or 30 boats, and at the end of the day, the storm blew away most of them. So I don't know how many we started out with at Jackson Barracks. I had just had a briefing a couple of weeks before the storm on what their capabilities were, and I was told that they could mobilize immediately 2,500 National Guard members.

There was a dance going on about who had ultimate authority, whether it was the federal government or whether it was the state. And I mentioned that to the president when he came down.

All I can tell you is that in the city of New Orleans, working with our police department, working with our fire department for the first couple days of the event, we had maybe 200 to 250 guardsmen that we could account for.

Did you get on the phone? Did you have communication that you could call and ask for guardsmen?

When we could get through -- keep in mind, the hurricane … just decimated all the communications networks that were available. Really, the only reliable communications that I had was my Blackberry with PIN communications that would come through late at night or first thing in the morning. For the most part, communications was very touch-and-go. …

Communications … [explain] how dramatic and how hard that was for you, how that affected really everything.

It was so frustrating. Cell phones were down; landlines were down. It was very difficult. We'd only found one phone that worked. Entergy, the power company, had a set up with a backup generator on the fourth floor of the Hyatt. We would go in there and try and make calls. But even with that, the 504 area code was affected, and BellSouth communication system was down. So it was very spotty, very frustrating. You didn't do anything real time.

And what did you say to the governor when you got through to her? What were you asking for?

We need help. We need troops. We need resources. We need food. We need water. There's 15,000 people in the Superdome. It's flooded in the streets of New Orleans. Every available police officer and firefighter is rescuing people. We're swimming. We're confiscating boats. We're doing everything possible to save lives.

And what did she say to you?

She said she was going to help.

And then?

Then time went on, and we were still struggling with resources.

And so you called her again.

As many times as I possibly could.

How many times did you talk to the governor during that week?

I would say if not every day, every other day I would at least get a chance to talk to her.

So Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, you were talking to her all those days, ... and you're saying, "We need troops."

We need whatever we can get. Troops, water -- you name it, we need it. We had people who were swimming in the water. I was getting reports from our firefighters that they were rescuing lots of people still left on roofs that we needed to get to. The … [Coast Guard] had helicopters.

A few. They had a few.

As soon as the winds died down, they got up, and they were helping us with rescues. But it was really an understaffed force that was trying to save an entire city.

And you only had 250 National Guardsmen for those first three or four days?

That's all that we could account for.

Were you dealing with [FEMA Director Michael] Brown in those first few days?

Brown I did not see the first couple of days. The only person I saw from FEMA was basically this guy named Marty [Bahamonde]. … [He] came on site -- I think it was Monday after the event -- and he had flown in a helicopter. And he was the first guy that told us about the fact of the amount of devastation and [that] the levee breaches, as well as the twin spans, the bridges up New Orleans East, had been decimated.

I can remember sitting down with him when he first came in, and he basically asked me, he said, "Mr. Mayor, what do you need?" And I had a piece of paper that I still have somewhere where I wrote down like a five-point plan of the things that we needed to do, and I laid that out for him.

He basically said: "That's kind of refreshing. We don't normally get that from politicians." Then we started to kind of figure out ways that we could coordinate. And then he was gone after a while.

But he told you he would get the things going that were on your list.

He told me he was going to give me some help. There were two or three other FEMA people that arrived the next day, and they were supposedly assigned to us. And then they started to basically make promises on what they could deliver -- food, buses. There was supposedly 350 buses that were already staged and ready to go and would be here the next day. And none of that happened. …

When did it become evident to you that help really wasn't on its way?

Well, every day I would have meetings in the mornings, midday and in the afternoons, and I would talk to certain officials, the FEMA representatives, about what we needed, what needed to happen. And every day it seems as though things were falling through the cracks. …

Now, your lifeline out is to the state, is to the governor. You're not dealing with the federal authorities at this point, other than the local FEMA guys that have flown in?

I forget the exact day, but I started to try and reach out to federal officials. I started to make calls. And somehow the president and I hooked up. It's all kind of a blur. I think it was Wednesday or Tuesday, late Tuesday.

I know Wednesday was the day that [Sen. Mary] Landrieu and the governor and Brown flew in, landed next to the Superdome, and I think they had a meeting with you that day. So was it that day that you talked to the president?

I think it was before that, yes.

Before that. And so you got to the president.

Right. Got to the president. Expressed my concerns, my frustration. ... He needed to really get us resources that we needed to save people. We were still in rescue mode then because I really had all the police, all the first [responders] in rescue mode, so the looting thing started to rear its head.

And then [his] visit that you mentioned happened. … I said: "Here's my piece of paper. Here's the things I think we need to focus on. I need some help. And we need to get these people out of the Superdome, because it's a shelter of last resort, and they only have a limited amount of resources."

It was a press event. And we met for about half an hour, 45 minutes. It was documented. And the next thing I know, they were going on a helicopter tour, and they were gone.

So Brown shows up on the ground with the mayor of New Orleans, and that's it as far as you were concerned.

Nothing happened of any substance after that.

Brown says he couldn't get a unified command. Were you aware of this? He didn't know who was in charge. He was trying to deal with [Maj. Gen. Bennett C.] Landreneau, he was trying to deal with the state's emergency director; and he was trying to deal with Gov. Blanco. He says his biggest mistake was, as you know, not realizing that the state of Louisiana's officials were dysfunctional.

Well, I don't know what he's saying. From my perspective, I was sitting here as the mayor of the city of New Orleans in crisis, and I didn't care who got the job done, whether it was a state or whether it was the feds.

In my sense, there was a dance going on about who had ultimate authority, whether it was the federal government or whether it was the state. And I think that caused some of the initial conflicts. And I even mentioned that to the president when he came down.

On that Friday on a plane.

Yes. So as far as I'm concerned, I'm swimming in it. I'm in the Superdome walking around, people trying to give me their babies that are sick, and senior citizens saying that they couldn't take it anymore. So I'm not involved in any power struggles. I didn't really care about that. I just had my list, and it wasn't getting done. …

Knowing that this storm was hitting New Orleans, it was going to be a more powerful storm than you'd seen, why wasn't there any discussion about moving buses to a location where they wouldn't be flooded?

But keep in mind how this happened. I think the storm became a hurricane on maybe Thursday. On Saturday, it became a major hurricane that was not pointed directly toward New Orleans but was pointed more toward Mississippi.

And then I got a call I think Saturday afternoon, and I got a chance to talk to Max Mayfield, the [National] Hurricane [Center] director. And at that point in time, he said definitively: "Mr. Mayor, the storm is headed right for you. I've never seen a hurricane like this in my 33-year career. And you need to order mandatory evacuation. Get as many people out as possible."

At that time, I thought we had done a pretty good job, because our estimates were we had gotten 80 percent of the people out of the city or better. That was the first time in history we had gotten that many people out. And then I immediately hung up the phone, called my city attorney and said, "I don't care what you have to do" -- because they had always advised that you can't do mandatory evacuations -- "we're doing one in the morning."

And you announced it around 9:30 the next morning --

Yes, sir.

Why not move buses to high ground?

Everybody was evacuated at that time. We did not have the drivers. We had the buses, but there were no drivers. We had to scrounge around to find enough buses --

And you had no National Guardsmen to drive the buses.

National Guard was not on the ground, so we had to scrounge around and find enough bus drivers that wanted to stay, because most bus drivers don't consider themselves to be central personnel. So [we] went around and brought people to the Superdome.

I asked Brown, "Why didn't you have buses pre-positioned, ready to rescue people and evacuate people after the fact?" And he says, "Well, that's the responsibility of the mayor."

All I can tell you is that our hurricane evacuation plans deal with trying to get as many people out of the city as possible, pre-event. We were doing that. When the event hits, our backup plan was to try and get people, if we had to, [to] use the Superdome as a shelter of last resort.

And we advised people to bring enough food and water for at least three days, because it's not really a shelter. There are no other shelters in the city of New Orleans that can handle a storm above a Category 2.

But the city plan, which I've seen excerpts from, says that you were going to use those buses, both the school buses and the city buses, to evacuate people after the fact.

Right.

That was part of the plan, right?

Right. That was part of the plan. But this was a different kind of event.

If you had to do it over again, where would you put those buses?

I would put the buses in some other location, but I would still have the struggle of trying to mobilize bus drivers. And you had a good suggestion. I think we would look at the National Guard to see if they could provide help.

But keep in mind, 80 percent of the city flooded. Everywhere around the Superdome flooded. And even with the Army here, we had a tough time figuring out how to get buses near the Superdome.

So you need buses, and you need high-water vehicles. You need resources for this type of event that are well beyond the city's capability.

You lost some 15 or so high-water vehicles right there with the Jackson Barracks in the first hours.

Yes, sir. Yes, sir. …

So on Friday, the president invites you to board the plane, right?

Yes.

And the governor's there.

Yes.

What transpired at that meeting?

Well, first of all, they invited me to Air Force One, which, you know, I had never gotten close to this plane. And I'm involved in this catastrophe. I'm not showering on a regular basis. I'm doing these military baths. I haven't shaved.

So they invited me in and said, "Look, Mr. Mayor, we think you ought to clean up a little bit." So they let me take a shower. And I take a shower and they try and get me out of the shower, and I didn't really want to get out. It was the first warm shower I had.

There's this lunch. There's senators there. There's military people. [Secretary of Homeland Security Michael] Chertoff is there. And the president comes, and we have this meeting, and we discuss this event, and everybody's giving their ideas and their thoughts.

Gov. Blanco is there.

Blanco is there. Her husband [Raymond Blanco] is there. [Congressman] Bobby Jindal is there, the senators Landrieu and [David] Vitter, and Congressman [William] Jefferson.

And then they'd gone around the room, and everybody's talking to the president and giving their opinions. And then finally I just stopped and said: "Excuse me, but time is of the essence. With all due respect, Mr. President, if you and the governor don't get on the same page, this event is going to continue to spiral down, and it's going to be a black eye on everybody -- federal, state and local." And there seems to be this dance about who has ultimate authority.

Were they going back and forth with each other?

No, they weren't. They were very civil and very cordial.

So they were ignoring the subject.

There wasn't a lot of talk about it. That's why I brought it up.

So we're just eating sandwiches and making nice while people are stranded on rooftops?

They were making suggestions about we need to do this and that, and everybody was talking. And I wanted to cut to the chase because I knew what the real issue was. And in my opinion, it was this whole "who has ultimate authority" and whether the federal government is going to come in and impinge upon the state's authority.

I said, "If you guys don't get together and work this out, this is going to get worse." And they both shook their heads and said, "Yes, you're right." And at that time I took some liberties I probably shouldn't take. I said, "OK, great." I said, "All of us are going to leave right now, and they're going to work this out right now."

And the president was a little stunned, and he kind of stepped back, and he recovered. And he said: "No, you don't have to leave. The two of us are going to leave."

So they went into another section of the plane, had a meeting. And then somebody came and called me and said, "The president would like to see you." Ms. Blanco, she left and walked out. And he said: "Mr. Mayor, we had a good meeting. We talked about it. I gave the governor two options. We could either go with your suggestion …" -- which, my suggestion was, if you don't give me the final authority give it to Gen. [Russel] Honoré. And I said [to the president], "Look, we talked about that option, and then we also talked about another option, that we would federalize, and the governor said she needed time to think about it."

And we left and had a press conference. And that was that.

Brown was there for that meeting. Chertoff was there?

Chertoff was there.

When I hear you on the radio there on Thursday, it's a bit unsettling. You seem a little unglued.

I was. I was watching all this suffering at the Superdome and getting reports on a daily basis of people being rescued and not having enough food and water.

I was also checking in with my police and my firefighters. I knew the stress and the strain that they were under. I think we may have had our first suicide at that point. And there was a lot of tension in the Superdome. …

But was this calculated on your part, or are you really just losing it?

Well, I was listening to WWR radio. It's the only local radio station that stayed up. I was hearing the president do a press conference, I was hearing the governor do a press conference, and I was hearing senators and all these people doing press conference[s]. And what they were saying was not reality. And finally somebody was saying something about there were 40,000 National Guard troops. ...

I said, "Uh-uh, I had enough of this." And then I called up and I said: "Look, here's what's really going on. This is a bunch of B.S. I've only had one visit [by] these officials, and nobody else has been down here to see what's really going on." And the rest is history.

Brown was saying that he was asking Landreneau, asking Blanco for lists of what they needed and that they didn't get back to him.

I don't know anything. I wasn't privy to it. I can tell you this: that the Monday when Marty came down, he said, "Tell us what your needs are." I had my little list. I called a meeting of all my staff. We put together an incredible list of our needs.

Were you ever told you didn't ask in the right way?

No. I mean, at some point in time they started to bring all this bureaucracy, and you need to [do] project worksheets. …

They started bringing bureaucracy into it? What do you mean?

Well, we started to find out that the information that we had accumulated wasn't in the proper form. The state has a computer-based system where you put your needs in, based upon certain criteria. And we started to find out that there was a very rigorous procedure to how you did that, and if you didn't do it exactly perfectly, it would kick it out. And we weren't going back to see if it was still in the system.

This is you making requests for what?

For equipment, for debris removal, for water, for ice -- you name it.

And you're being told that you have to fill out the form --

For lights. Superdome at night, pitch-dark. Superdome is full of 20,000 people. They're getting antsy, and police are trying to control them. We need a light. We had one spotlight. I'd been asking for lights for I don't know how many days.

And here's the other thing, and I don't know if anybody else has picked [this] up. But Chertoff came down -- God, it must have been the weekend, Saturday or something. You can probably check the records. I got this call saying, "Secretary needs to see you."

… So I drop everything and fly out there. I took a helicopter out there and go see, and I ran into a firefighter from California. I said: "Man, it's great for you to be here. Thank you for being here. You just got here." He said, "No." He said: "I've been here since Tuesday. We drove overnight all night to get here, and we're just sitting here."

And I told my staff, I said: "Look around. Let's just pay attention." And we started to look around. And they had Port-O-Lets [portable toilets] stacked all over this place. We didn't have one Port-O-Let in the city of New [Orleans]. … We saw lights with generators, the kind that we desperately needed --

But whose responsibility is it to get all this stuff together and coordinate it and work it, in your view?

I don't know.

Well, you're overwhelmed.

I am down in the trenches asking for help, and it's not being delivered. And then I go out to this place, and I see all the resources sitting there staged and not moving. Now, whether that's FEMA or whether it's the state, I don't know, man.

Still?

I don't know. Somebody had a responsibility. If I'm talking to FEMA, if I'm talking to the state, if I'm talking to the president, somebody [has] the responsibility to get that equipment to us. And it didn't happen.

What did they tell you when you said, "How come this stuff isn't getting to us?"

They said they couldn't get it to us. …

They say because the city was flooded, so they didn't have routes into the city.

This was about the time when the flooding level started to subside a little bit. You know, this is way past --

Well, I'm questioning whether it's a valid argument to say even on Tuesday or Wednesday that you can't get in. The journalists were getting in; the firefighter from California got in.

It could have got in. I mean, you could have got in with those big helicopters that were flying all over the city. They could have gotten in with the high-water vehicles. So I don't necessarily buy that argument. I'm just wondering why the stuff did not get here. Was it incompetence, or was it something else? And I don't know.

You made very strong statements about race, that race was a factor in all of this. You stand by that?

… I basically said that if this was in Orange County [in Southern California] or South Beach in Miami that there would have been a different response. And there probably would have been. And it's a doggone shame. This was Americans that were being impacted, and we didn't get the same response that other Americans were getting.

Well, how do you know that they would have been able to get a better response in Orange County?

I'm seeing it right now. Look what's happening in Florida right now. Anytime there's an earthquake in California, my God, we've got every resource available to man.

You think that's fair? We haven't had an event like Katrina in a long time. You believe that it was race.

I don't know what other reason could be at play when we have the United States of America, and we have a state that has $18 billion in revenue per year, that there's not enough juice to get to the city of New Orleans when you have a Category 5 that hit, and you have flooding and have people dying. …

You can have $18 billion in the bank, … but if you don't have leadership, you're not going to have results.

Well, leadership is one thing, but the will to do the job is a totally different deal.

You talked to the president. Was he not willing [to do the job]?

I talked to the president. I will tell you this: that after talking to the president, things started to move.

Well, you talked to him on Wednesday, … but it wasn't until --

Gen. Honoré showed up. And things started to happen.

Wednesday -- you've still got two more days of sheer hell on Thursday and Friday. The evacuations don't really start until late Friday into Saturday, do they?

I know. But everything started to get in motion, and I started to get consistency of answers when the general showed up.

You knew you were going to have 100,000 people that weren't going to be able to get out of the city, and you knew you were going to have people in nursing homes, you knew you were going to have people in hospitals. What was the plan?

We communicated with all of the people in the city, especially the churches, to say, "Look, this thing is coming." We faxed out to every one. We had talked about the buddying system. And for the most part, a lot of churches participated and got people out. As far as the nursing homes are concerned, they all are required by state law to have their own evacuation plans. And as soon as we ordered a mandatory evacuation, they were supposed to get people out of the city.

And many of them didn't.

Well, most of them did, but there were a few that didn't. …

But you knew you were going to have 100,000 people or roughly that number staying on in the city.

… Our strategy was to get as many evacuated as possible, then get the special-needs people that had medical needs and then deal with anybody else who was here and to get them to the Superdome, and hopefully in two or three days --

But you were going to get the special-needs people to the Superdome, but not the rest of that group.

Yeah, special-needs first. Evacuate as many people as possible, and then whosoever [was] left to evacuate them to the Superdome.

Before the storm?

Right before the storm hits.

But you didn't get them out.

We got them to the Superdome. We got most of them out, and the ones that were remaining, we called for a mandatory evacuation, and then we had buses to go around the city to pick them up.

But we saw all these pictures on television all week of people streaming out of those neighborhoods, and those people on those overpasses. …

But keep in mind, the last time a hurricane event has happened is 1965. [Editor's Note: Hurricane Betsy partially flooded New Orleans in 1965.] Most people ride out these storms -- they're Category 2s or whatever, and it's no big deal. The storm before Katrina a couple of weeks earlier -- another parish official made this huge declaration to mandatorily evacuate in spite of what everyone else was saying. So public confidence was a little low at the time.

In addition to that, on the Saturday when the storm was heading for Mississippi or Florida, the sun was beautiful, and nobody was really paying attention to this event. So to get everyone out was probably virtually impossible.

Do you think in the future you could get this city entirely evacuated? Is that realistic?

I think regardless of what we do in this town, some people will stay. I think we can get more people out, especially considering this event, than ever before. I think now people will definitely heed the warning to get out.

Is there anything that the city can do better to get people out?

Well, I think we can continue to escalate our communications as it relates to threats that are coming. I think the whole bus situation -- we're going to rethink that. And if we have to stage buses in a different location, we will. I'm also asking the federal government for another evacuation [plan] to begin a light rail system to take people from downtown New Orleans to Baton Rouge. That would be tremendous if we had that. So we're going to try all sorts of new things.

I wanted to pick up one thing. You come out of that meeting on Air Force One on that Friday, and you talk to CNN. You're angry with the governor.

Yeah, I was, because I was hopeful, and I was praying that the governor and the president would come together and solve this kind of dance that was happening as far as who had final authority, and we could get about the business of taking care of what we needed to do.

But your ire is focused on the governor, not on the federal government. You're specifically focused on Blanco. Why?

Because I had saw a movement with the federal government. I saw Gen. Honoré [come] down -- I saw things happening; I saw resources coming. I didn't see the same coordination from the state at that time. …

Here we are, four years after 9/11, and we don't have a resilient communication systems that can withstand a natural disaster, let alone a terrorist attack.

It makes no sense. And hopefully this event, in all its tragedy, will force this country to really do the things that are necessary to make sure that nobody else in America goes through this. And that's what I'm hoping for. …

The issue here is one of, as I understand it from talking to [former Homeland Security Secretary] Tom Ridge and other people at the Department of Homeland Security, that they don't want to set standards. They don't want to tell you what you have to do.

I don't buy it. This is national security. … If you set the standards, everybody else is going to fall behind because the federal government has the money. Cities can't afford this, and for the most part, states won't invest in it. So he [who] has the gold has the rules, and they should set the standards. And in a catastrophe like this that's multi-state, the federal government should come in and take control for a short period of time, for 20 or 30 days where there is clear authority, and no more dancing about whether you [are] impinging on states' rights. …

Former Deputy Secretary Adm. James Loy told me it borders on Orwellian to start imposing standards from Washington on localities … for communication systems, telling you, for example, "OK, you have to go down to Radio Shack and buy this radio and not this radio."

That's not what I'm talking about. I'm talking about technical standards as far as how the radio systems should communicate. You take that, and then you go do biz with Motorola and Radio Shack and whomever, and then you buy from who gives you the best price. But I think the government should have the authority to say this is a national standard. They do it with telecommunications; they do it with broadcasting. I don't see what's the problem.

But you're sitting here, and you know that you don't have an interoperable, resilient, redundant communication system.

Right.

So what have you done to fix it?

And I'm saying help us. We are basically under, what is it, a federal Homeland Security grant to try and figure this out, and we've been working on it. And it looks like we've got it solved, but just.

And it's been four years since 9/11.

And I think we're moving way too slow about some of these very critical issues. And I just hope that this event is going to spark us to take care of business.

You went on the radio and television, and you talked about 10,000 dead. Where did you get the number?

Well, I was basically assigned that number. And if you go back and look at all the tapes, you'll see where anytime they asked me about people, I'd said I thought it would be in the thousands. LSU [Louisiana State University] or UNO [University of New Orleans] came out with a computer model and said they projected it to be 10,000. And in responding to the questions, I said I wouldn't be surprised if it was that high. And then I was assigned that 10,000 number.

And how do you think the media performed during this?

On the front end I think the media did pretty good. I think that they were very factual. Then I think as the story got bigger, it started to become a competition on who could get the most sensational story. And then I think the media started to change and started to portray all the negatives that were going on and not anything good that was happening.

And you think it was right that Brown became the fall guy for the performance of FEMA?

I think Mr. Brown, based upon his last testimony, I really don't feel any sorrow there. I think that the leadership skills that are necessary to run a major area like that obviously weren't there, number one. Number two, I think in fairness to him, I think he took over an underfunded and undermanned agency.

Yes, what about that?

I don't think that any person can fix FEMA. I think FEMA needs a total restructuring. I think it needs to be taken from scratch and redone. The regulations are outdated; the rules are outdated. Everything they do is not modern enough for this type of catastrophe.

You were able to have a conversation with Chertoff about this?

Yes. I've told Chertoff; I've told the president. Everybody wants to hear it. Just changing out Michael Brown is not fixing FEMA.

What did Chertoff tell you?

He was going to look into it. He didn't make any firm commitments, but he said he was going to look into it. I think he knows. I really do.

But, you know, Washington is an interesting place, as I'm sure you know. There's lots of pressures up in Washington right now. I just hope at some point in time, there's an independent evaluation of all of this and that we come up with some specific action steps so we make sure this don't happen again.

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posted nov. 22, 2005; updated aug. 24, 2010

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