Tough talk from Mayor White

September 23, 2008 5:15:42 PM PDT
As if he didn't have enough to do, Houston Mayor Bill White is explaining his tough language to some FEMA visitors from Georgia. ROAD TO RECOVERY: Breaking news on Ike | School closings | Person locator | Important phone numbers | Assistance from FEMA | Filing a claim | Latest power numbers

It happened in the days just after Ike when it seemed like everyone was frustrated and stressed.

In storms like this, FEMA sends crews from all over the country to help manage the disaster. One of those crews came from Georgia to dispatch trucks of food and ice to points of distribution, or PODs. Mayor White thought they weren't getting the job done and the governor of Georgia got offended when White told them so.

Surrounded by trash, living with marginal power and dealing with the long effects of a storm can make people angry.

"They ain't picked up my (expletive) trash yet," said resident Third Ward Kenneth Allen. "Hell yeah, I still feel the effects of the storm."

We're not proud of it and it doesn't sound real nice, but when there's no AC, heated language is a little understandable, maybe even coming from our Mayor White.

Last Tuesday morning, Mayor White visited the thousands of people in line at the TSU POD. All the supplies had been sitting overnight at Reliant Stadium. The mayor wasn't happy.

"That is not going to happen again," said Mayor White to the media in the days after the storm.

What he didn't say from that podium is that before the trucks started rolling, some tough words rolled off his tongue. According to a city witness, he told some FEMA workers from Georgia dispatching trucks, to "Get those (expletive) trucks moving" and "You better get your (expletive) act together."

Apparently, those Georgia workers' feelings bruise easier than a Georgia peach. They tattled on our mayor and the Georgia governor wrote Texas Governor Rick Perry a letter saying, "I would not tolerate the profane berating of Texas or Georgia volunteers here...and I trust that you do not either."

Governor Perry wrote back, saying he was dismayed and offered his sincerest apologies.

"Now there's a feud between Georgia and Texas," said Allen.

People who stood in the long TSU lines don't think our mayor needs to do a thing.

"I commend the mayor," said Allen. "Because if someone dropped the ball, he should get on their (expletive)."

"I think he's human," added Third Ward Tonya Wyche. "I think he's stressed and I would've said something worse than that."

Tuesday in Washington, the mayor explained his words and isn't backing down.

"I always feel bad if I hurt someone's feelings," he said. "I was trying to get people moving quicker and trying to provide a little incentive to do so."

If not for the involvement of two governors, this sure would seem like a little deal. And it does seem like a little deal to the guy who supervises the Georgia workers. He told me on Tuesday that they've been yelled at by a lot more people than Mayor White and they understand how he lost his cool.

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