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Ike-Response Hearings Begin; FEMA Doesn't Bother To Show Up

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The first of four House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike hearings kicked off this morning at the University of Houston Hilton Hotel. Chaired by Rep. Sylvester Turner (we like to call these the “Ike-Turner” hearings), the Committee’s goal, as explained by Turner, “is to come out of these hearings with specific recommendations for all levels of government, business and community organizations to put us in a better position to deal with another hurricane.”

Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee, Port of Houston Chairman James Edmonds, and CenterPoint Energy President Tom Standish testified during the first half of the day, with more speakers scheduled throughout the day.

Unfortunately, one critical party rejected Turner’s invitation – FEMA. Turner said that FEMA declined on the grounds that, as a federal agency, it doesn’t deal with state matters.

“Arrogance will get you nowhere,” Turner said. “I think we’ll deal with that on down the road.”

This left more time for Jackson Lee to talk about what she thought was a delayed reaction by insurance companies to process claims, and her belief that some companies were unfairly rejecting claims, saying certain damages weren’t caused directly by the hurricane.

She also emphasized the need for a “Citizen Corps” -- neighborhood-action groups that would communicate certain areas’ needs to local and state officials.

The next meetings are scheduled for December 3 at the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center in League City; December 10 at Lamar State College in Orange; and the fourth hearing site is still being scheduled.

-- Craig Malisow

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