You may have noticed Harris County Judge Ed Emmett and Mayor Bill White projecting different attitudes during their joint press conferences in the past few days - White a bit more critical of response efforts, Emmett a bit less willing to engage in what he would presumably think to be finger-pointing or taking FEMA to task.
It was most noticeable on Sunday. Emmett -- a Republican in an election race -- talked about how people might want a bag of ice, but others have lost homes and the Ice People needed to be patient. Moments later, White -- a Democrat looking soon to run for higher office -- took the podium and sternly intoned that FEMA would be graded strictly on whether they were performing up to standard. He even engaged in some back-and-forth with FEMA officials over whether the feds had the city's list of POD recommendations.
Emmett's spokesman, Joe Stinebaker, tells Hair Balls there's not much to this apparent discord.
"The reality is they're getting along well together. They have the same goal in mind. The two have different styles, but in terms of their working together, I'm surprised that two public officials have gotten along as well as they have," he says.
And apparently the comparatively gentler Emmett we've seen at press conferences (or heard about from those with power) isn't all patience and grandfatherly smiles. Stinebaker said that at this very moment he's on a FEMA trailer at Reliant Park "letting the FEMA officials know what he thinks."
Stinebaker said FEMA deserves credit for how it's dealt with the complex recovery process, but added that the judge is "vehement" about pushing things forward.
White's spokesman Frank Michel says the different attitudes have nothing to do with party.
We Believe Local Journalism is Critical to the Life of a City
Engaging with our readers is essential to the mission of the Houston Press. Make a financial contribution or sign up for a newsletter, and help us keep telling Houston’s stories with no paywalls.
Support Our Journalism
"[White] has had experience with disaster situations, so he's more critical of bureaucracy," Michel say
Stinebaker is eager not to leave the impression that the judge is going easy on officials. "(Emmett) is making it clear to federal, state and local officials exactly what he wants done, and that he needs it done yesterday, or the day before yesterday," he says.
No timetable yet on the delivery of that FEMA flux capacitor, but at least the judge is putting some emotion into it.
-- Blake Whitaker