Thursday, September 14, 2017

CONGRESS MUST SPEND HURRICANE RELIEF WISELY AND MOVE TO REBUILD FLORIDA, PUERTO RICO & U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS NOW





WILL AMERICA FINALLY ACCEPT CLIMATE CHANGE OR REBUILD ONLY TO ADAPT? WE CAN DO BOTH


In the aftermath of a major catastrophic event, politicians will push their way to the front of the media cameras to grab the optics so to show their constituents “they are in office to help, no matter the cost.” You heard it first from President Trump even before Harvey or Irma hit landfall. He promised the full power and resources of the Federal Government in coming to the rescue.

To date, “the Senate approved $15.25 billion in disaster aid as part of an agreement struck by President Trump. The bill passed by a vote of 80 to 17 on Thursday afternoon. The House is expected to quickly vote on the package, despite growing opposition from fiscal conservatives who oppose pairing aid with debt and spending elements. 

This initial aid package of $15.25 billion breaks down this way.

  $450 million for the SBA (Small Business Authority) disaster loan         program
  $7.4 billion in grants for housing affected areas (HUD?)
  $7.4 billion for FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency)

If that seems like a ton of cash it is, but remember this aid is only the beginning of the flow of new debt to Texas, Florida, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands and other affected areas of the Caribbean. The total long-term investment by taxpayers will certainly enter triple figures for taxpayers.



However, this $15 billion will only aid to restore power, water, clean up roads and get businesses back up and running. The huge effort will follow as tens of thousands of homes will require rebuilding. So, why not examine what we can do to not only rebuild but work with a vision toward reducing our fossil fuel dependence. 

Here are some actions or stipulations Congress should demand upon awarding contracts or entering a long-term plan in restoring housing and infrastructure in a bottomless pit of a spending spree.

MASS TRANSIT ON A MASSIVE HIGH SPEED SCALE

If you viewed any portion of the week long evacuation from southeast Florida with the dire predictions of the impending doom of Irma, you saw vehicles, trucks and cars in an endless parking lot going north on I-95 and I-75. Many took heed of Governor Scott and his plea to evacuate, but many ended up in places like Jacksonville, Naples, Tampa only to learn in short order that Irma had these locales in its path as well. Who knows how many residents of Miami got back in their vehicles to head further north.

Tens of thousands of residents in Southeast Florida simply could not afford or have the means to evacuate, thus were forced to shelter in place.

The solution is obvious: Mass Transit. The U.S. lags far behind most competing nations by ignoring our “rail system.” China, Japan and Europe and have developed far superior “bullet trains” to move people from place to place on a daily basis. In Japan they are putting in place a bullet train that will safely deliver passengers at 350 mph. 

Imagine if such a bullet train system was in place in Florida, for example alongside I-75 and extending as far north as Michigan and a second line mirroring the path of I-95 along the East Coast as far as Boston.

Imagine if high-speed bullet trains were available in the prelude to the storm. The trains could carry those disabled, vulnerable and without the means to evacuate quickly and with order. The need to keep southbound lanes open to gasoline tankers would have transitioned the move to contrabound lanes of I-95 and I-75 that actually never was deployed as a strategy to evacuate.



Japan's latest train tops out at 350 mph with 750 passengers


The electromagnet trains of Japan must be in our future for sake of our economy, the environment, climate change as well as ease of people friendly transportation. High speed rail is long overdue and must be a top project if we are to rebuild the nation’s infrastructure (one of the President’s promises).

When Congress and the Nation finally capitulates and makes high speed rail mass transit America’s number one goal, it must be overseen by our most reliable and efficient Army Corps of Engineers. It is much too important to be left to private industry who will sacrifice safety for profit.

ENERGY EFFICIENT HOMES AND BUILDINGS ACROSS THE NATION

Twenty-five (25%) of the homes in the Florida Keys have been flat out destroyed with 90% sustaining substantial damage. Florida Governor Rick Scott will point to the strong building codes adopted after Hurricane Andrew and adherence to those and other measures will ensure a safer future. He is only half right.


Governor Rick Scott and Senator Marco Rubio have clung to a palm tree in denial as the reality of Climate Change has done everything but blow them into the Gulf. Hopefully, the collective destruction will open eyes to truth. The Republican dominated state dares not mention the two words and speak more of weather patterns and adopting programs and building codes to adapt man’s environment rather than direct any effort to recognize the true problem.

Congress should enact a National Energy Efficient Housing Act. As we rebuild devastated homes in Texas and Florida the code must adhere to a level of energy self-sufficiency. This means in rebuilding homes and all new construction with solar panels on sturdy roofs and the concrete building codes previously enacted for Florida. Germany has adopted strict home building codes that include mandatory solar panel roofs. There is no excuse for not doing the same. 

Congress should extend strict building codes and energy efficiency to other regions we have identified as highly susceptible to catastrophic tropical storms, hurricanes, tornadoes, heavy snow or ice storms. In other words, customize urban and rural planning for unique locations to meet future energy need and anticipate any other natural disaster.

Wherever there is a neighborhood, city, region or island found in near total destruction, allow visionaries (i.e. Army Corps of Engineers) the opportunity to employ innovative skills. In other words, every effort must be made to move power, telephone and broadband lines underground. Whatever the conduit, lay pipe lines buried offshore to connect areas such as the Florida Keys, Caribbean islands and rural areas separated by natural barriers a secure connection to power, cable and “Rocket Fiber[2]” allowing the space to accommodate the latest technology as it is invented and those yet to see fruition.

The restoration of power is an imperative at this very moment to Florida and the Caribbean. Therefore, the genius of Rocket Fiber will not be possible in the emergency restoration of electricity, but demands serious consideration of any rebuild of the nation's infrastructure for the immediate future. And, there is no reason not to incorporate underground power, telecommunications and broadband fiber optics as part of a routine for FEMA. 


Nature’s destructive power as demonstrated by Harvey and Irma gives the United States an opportunity to extend Broadband Internet where it was not previously available. Communication of factual Information is imperative to a Democratic society as we now have learned with foreign influence upon social media impacting our last elections. The First Amendment must be afforded every American while protecting the efficacy of information from foreign intrusion.

U.S. VIRGIN ISLANDS MUST BE GIVEN EQUAL PRIORITY IN REBUILDING

Go to this link for a heartbreaking aerial video view (1:00)
https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/after-irma-a-once-lush-gem-in-the-us-virgin-islands-reduced-to-battered-wasteland/2017/09/12/b49532e0-9736-11e7-af6a-6555caaeb8dc_story.html?utm_term=.c32bc3447483

A Glimpse of Irma's devastation to U.S.Virgin Islands (see link to Video of aerial survey)

Puerto Rico, St. Martin’s, St. John’s and other islands of the Caribbean (British, Netherlands, etc.) have suffered almost total destruction by Irma. The conditions are such they are almost inhabitable. They must receive expedited relief now and a comprehensive rebuilding plan on a fast timeline. These islands are 100% dependent upon the tourist industry for their very survival. Any plan to rebuild should set a goal to restore as whole within two years. The U.S. citizens residing and working there cannot wade through a sea of federal red tape. It’s imperative to put this population back to work to first rebuild and then resume their traditional economy. These small islands should be given the priority they deserve as they also serve as the pilot areas in testing the overall larger plan.

Whatever plan the Congress deploys in rebuilding Houston, Florida and the Islands of the Caribbean it must include the local population in planning and employing them as labor wherever possible. The most egregious failure of the aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans is that the indigenous people were dismissed as part of the economic rebuilding. This left the Ninth Ward in New Orleans in ruins even today. Congress must ensure that no one is left behind.






[1] Senate approves bill doubling hurricane aid package, extending federal borrowing limit 
https://www.washingtonpost.com/powerpost/mcconnell- 
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