Thursday, September 15, 2005

"Give Me a Better Idiot"

Updated to include feedback from employees who should know

"Take whatever idiot they have at the top, give me a better idiot. Give me a caring idiot. Give me a sensitive idiot. Just don't give me the same idiot."

Aaron Broussard, the Jefferson Parish president

You may have all seen that quote. If you've gotten an email from me lately you sure have. I print it on the signature line of every outgoing mail.

All of us should be asking ourselves if the people in charge of our emergency services at all levels; local, state and federal are qualified. We have just seen the problems that can arise when these positions are used as plums for political hacks.

Being as the question is not if a big earthquake is going to strike here in San Francisco, but rather, when, I would really like to know that the people in charge know what the hell they are doing. Apparently I am not the only one with that concern.
From KGO Television

There are some parallels between the man who stepped down as FEMA director this week and the woman who now heads San Francisco's Office of Emergency Services. They are both lawyers with little previous disaster experience who used strong political connections to get the job.

Michael Brown was a Republican lawyer and head of the International Arabian Horse Association, before he took over FEMA in 2001. He resigned Monday after his agency's poor response to Hurricane Katrina.

Michael Brown, Tuesday: "The best thing for me to do was to step out of the way and let those people do their job to help disaster victims."

President Bush replaced Brown with a career firefighter who has 30 years of rescue experience.

Admiral John Bitoff: "You'll notice the president has appointed a new FEMA director and he's not a candlestick maker or a cook or a lawyer. He's a professional!"

John Bitoff is a retired Navy Admiral and former head of San Francisco's Office of Emergency Services. He says Mayor Gavin Newsom should replace the woman he appointed a year ago to head OES. Annemarie Conroy had no previous experience in disaster management.

Admiral John Bitoff: "Planning for saving lives and property, isn't that important enough to have a professional in that job? The president found out in a hurry!"

Admiral Bitoff echoes complaints we've heard in recent days behind closed doors here at City Hall, at the Board of Supervisors, even at the Disaster Council.

It's a collection of more than two dozen department heads and other high-level emergency officials who plan the city's disaster response. Several of them tell the I-Team Conroy is the wrong person to head OES.

Read the entire article

UPDATE: I just received the following emails in response to this posting from people who have worked at the SF Emergency Communications Department for several years. I've known them for years and my trust level for what they say is very high. So maybe the situation isn't as dire as might be imagined.

"What a mistake it would be to bring back Bitoff or Canton. In all the years they were here they did NOTHING! I am not easily impressed, but she has amassed a good group and is doing more than any director I've seen in the last 23 years. And what is the purpose of a department head? ...to have the right people and empowering them to do the right job!"

and...

I concur with (the writer of the email above).
Personally I don't get along with the current OES/Homeland Security Director, but she has assembled very able people under her to really plan, an run, an operation.

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