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Elizabeth Gregory

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The Ike Effect: Blowing Texas Blue

Posted: 09/23/08 10:40 AM ET

Six days post-hurricane, the lights came on at my house. Our family became part of the 50.2% (now 64%) of the population of Houston with power, members of a new elite-- temporary, we can hope, and as random as any other. Amazing how quickly things can change: one minute thrown into the darkness with a camping lantern and three novena candles, the next minute rolling in the sudden luxury of clean laundry and a working refrigerator.

Lots of Houstonians, spared the direct coastal hit, made the most of the forced slowdown in pace. Those with gas stoves could still cook, those with grills could cook out, using up the contents of their freezers before it all spoiled. With most everybody's job closed down, and no email to answer, there was plenty of time to connect with the neighbors, while dragging tree limbs to the curb and sharing chain saws to slice up the downed trunks--provided you had gas.

After slamming us, the weather turned and favored us with five days of beautiful Fall temperatures, sunshine and low humidity!!! That drop from the heat of the two days right after Ike probably saved a riot by the three million locals trying to sleep in sealed houses built for A/C. That and the evidence that our dedicated Mayor White was taking care of the business of putting our town back together fairly, responsibly and pretty fast, given the damage. But with the temperature spiking again, we're all ready for electricity now.

Even with power, those of us with cable access have no internet. Without it, I'm free from the torment of checking my downed retirement account balance.

Sitting "restfully" in the long lines of cars at dead-traffic-lights-turned-four-way-stops, or snaking around the blocks leading to the FEMA PODs (points of distribution) handing out MREs (meals ready to eat), the whole region has had time to reflect--and to make the connections between paying responsible taxes and having government support services handy when you really need them (buried lines anyone?) Between regulating markets and business and long-term good outcomes for regular folk--including rising incomes, reliable services and an environment we can live with. Even the rich folk have been seeing virtue in government supports this month.

I remember driving down Main Street about 10 years ago listening as the radio guy controlled his "surprise" when announcing that one year after then-Governor Bush instituted a voluntary compliance emissions-reduction program for business that the rate of voluntary compliance was stabilized at--zero. At a certain point, we all have to acknowledge that the anti-regulatory crowd are riding naked in their motorcade, and that it's not a pretty sight.

Ike made land-fall as a category two; in the years to come the likelihood is good we'll see some stronger winds barreling our way, leaving in their wake little of the relative gentility we're enjoying this time round. This region and others will need big federal support from a revitalized FEMA. Likewise, Ike can remind us of the many negative forces--economic, climate-linked and social--winding up to hit us major blows in the coming months and years if we don't take action now.

By rattling our bottom line, come November, could Ike blow even Texas blue?

 
 
 

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