Saturday, September 10, 2011

From the off-topic irony department: Fire Follies

This is off topic, but I find this situation incredibly ironic and frustrating, if somewhat funny for fans of dark humor.

Earlier this year, Governor Perry and legislative leaders staunchly refused to allow Texas' Rainy Day Fund to be accessed  to prevent widespread budget cuts, ostensibly on the (entirely specious) grounds that the money might be needed to combat a natural disaster.

Then, when the drought of the century hit - while the legislative session was still in full swing, it should be mentioned - Governor Perry's response wasn't to focus more state resources on wildfire prevention or to push for a comprehensive water plan. Instead he asked the public to pray for rain, even issuing an official proclamation. In the months that followed (should we say, in response?), the drought spread by orders of magnitude to cover the entire state.

As it turns out, part of Texas' much-vaunted austerity measures this spring included slashing the budget for state firefighters and grants to volunteer fire departments, including  agencies now combating the blazes in Central Texas. Reported the Huffington Post, "The Texas Forest Service's funding was sliced from $117.7 million to $83 million. More devastating cuts hit the assistance grants to volunteer fire departments around the state. Those grants were slashed 55 percent from $30 million per year in 2010 and 2011 to $13.5 million per year in 2012 and 2013. Those cuts are effective now." Further, "In some cases, fire officials say, firefighters have had to pay out of pocket for basic necessities like proper protective gear and fuel to get them to the scene."

So Texas cut the budget to save money for a natural disaster, then when a natural disaster occurs we're unprepared to deal with it because of budget cuts. Genius.

42 comments:

Anonymous said...

the natural disaster they are refering to is perry's presidental campain

sunray's wench said...

Wasn't Perry also complaining last week that Federal help wasn't coming quick enough on the fire situation?

I'd say it was bare-faced cheek, except I can't tell which face Perry was showing at the time.

CrawlingSavior said...

So, Pretty Boy Perry & his merry band of buffoons, the Tea Party, gathered in Houston to pray? What a wonderful outcome, not a drop of rain came!

I wonder. Did they pray for rain or votes? Of course, they prayed for all to see. I suppose the street corner did not provide enough visibility, did it?

Yes, Pretty Boy Perry has donned the robe of righteousness for the truly pious.

I find if ironic that many who voted for this fool were victims of fire. What? You mean Pretty Boy Perry slashed the firefighting budget too? Oh, this is rich.

So, for you idiots who are without shelter, pull yourselves up by your bootstraps and shut up because there is no money to give. You wanted government out of your lives. So, live with it. Stop whining.

God has send his word in the form of fire.

Prison Doc said...

If this string is any indication, perhaps it is best to stay "on topic". The idea that a comprehensive statewide water plan, or more spending of somebody else's money would have prevented or ameliorated the natural disaster is pure foolishness.

What the state and the country need more than anything else is to stop spending government money.

Sometimes I think what the country needs is another "Great Depression". Crime went down, and it produced the "Greatest Generation", something we haven't been able to produce since.

ballwatch said...

Bill Mahar joked about that last night on the tonight show with jay Leno! How Perry asked for the ppl to pray for rain and instead the state is on fire!

Anonymous said...

Maybe, just maybe, who ends up being president of this country isn't as important to God as Perry thinks it is. After all, all the kingdoms of this earth will last only an instant in the perspective of eternity.

rodsmith said...

hmm ""In some cases, fire officials say, firefighters have had to pay out of pocket for basic necessities like proper protective gear and fuel to get them to the scene."

damn't if i'd pay someting the govt should be footing the bill for!

if i'm not mistaken the govt has forced any number of companies to pay for and provide items REQUIRED by a job. not sure what makes them think they are special!

Gritsforbreakfast said...

Prison Doc, have you completely flipped over into campaign mode now? Did you really just characterize the budget for firefighters in Bastrop as merely "more spending of somebody else's money"? That's just silly, bordering on bizarre. Would you prefer we privatize fire fighting and let the market take care of the blaze? Remember your paycheck too, Prison Doc, is "somebody else's money."

And here I thought the "good old days" Republicans longed for were the '50s, not the Great Depression. Have you now just reverted to straight up schadenfreude? Sheesh!

doran said...

Hey, Prison Doc. Do you think Perry should be paying the rent on his mansion out of his own pocket, or should he continue to use somebody else's [mine, for example] money to live in opulence.

And Doc, do you live "on campus," in a manner of speaking, or do you get a rent subsidy? Do you travel to work on public streets? Do you support the idea that
ALL streets should be privately owned?

Give us a break, Doc, and let us in on just how you see things.

Robert Langham said...

Smith County voters established and Emergency Services District with taxing authority a couple years ago. Our VFDs all built brand-new firehouses and splurged on equipment and training. They got so much money that most of the first board members have been forced to resign over mis-appropriation/waste of funds. Our fire departments are NOT underfunded at this time, they collect taxes just like the county or an ISD.

Prison Doc said...

Well somebody needs to stir up a little vigorous commentary! Besides, this blog can take it, it's the best around!

Mr. South Austin said...

Robert,

The fact that one ESD can't manage its finances does not mean that all ESDs are corrupted or abusers of tax dollars.

Last week every fire department in Travis county was engaged in multiple fire fighting operations with fires in Austin, Steiner Ranch, Perdenales River and Pflugerville. Austin FD was out of resources and it was the ESDs who were providing support, and doing a darn fine job.

I know this because I am Captain with Austin FD. So drop your diatribe - ESDs work well in Travis County because of our consolidated dispatch system.

Don said...

Prison Doc: I'd say that was an out and out cop out. You said it, so own it! What this blog doesn't need is another troll.

Anonymous said...

Some of you want the government to be the cure of all things. How about tightening up your own jock straps and start supporting your local VFD's via volunteering or make cash donations instead of relying on government to fix your lot in life. Good grief!

And as far as Perry asking for federal money, it's Texas money. In case you don't know it, we are a freaking "donor state." We send and they spend it!

Anonymous said...

There nothing "follie" about this situation and we up here in Northeast Texas don't much care for such phrases right now.

And while Governor Perry is not perfect, he pales in comparison to the FEMA antics here. What a bunch of bureaucratic red tape assholes.

Requiring donors to fill out paperwork for reimbursement. It's a freaking donation.

Measuring the temperature of foods prepared by a local church in Linden, TX to be served to firefighters and evacuees.

I'm ready for them to get their asses out of here.

TexasAnnie said...

Slick Rick cuts funding when he knew we were already headed toward the worst drought ever. And there are a lot of people in Bastrop asking "Where is our Gov?" right now. Even Lt Gov couldn't answer their question.

While Texas burns Slick is off campaigning. If he would turn his back on his own state during a declared national disaster what do folks think he would do to this nation?

Thanks to our state budget cuts:
In our town if your house catches on fire you have to pay the city for the water used by the fire dept. to put it out. Yet, our town has the highest property tax rate in central Texas. Our high school now must charge $200 per dual credit class this year, and our school rooms are spilling over while teachers are forced onto unemployment.

and in response to the comment about us tightening our jock straps and donating to our local VFD's, a lot of us would love to but unfortunately too many of us have yet to see even one of those million jobs Mr Slick has claimed to have created. We are lucky if we can keep a roof over our heads and a little food on table. Our jock straps are tightened so much it is cutting off blood supply.

So Nero fiddles while Rome burns (literally and figuratively); thats my impression of Slick Rick right now.

RSO wife said...

Folk singer Roger Whittaker said it best. "Politicians are like a bunch of bananas. They're all yellow, they all hang together and there's not a straight one among 'em." And I second that, it doesn't matter which party you belong to or none at all, once the politicians get elected, all the campaign promises, become just that, promises and those we put in office with our votes forget how they got there.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

8:09, you're right. People should just put out these fires themselves instead of relying on welfare (i.e., gubmint-paid firefighters). Damn socialists.

Anon 8:16, you can complain about FEMA but cutting firefighting budgets to save money in case of a natural disaster (like, you know, wildfires), while telling the public to "pray for rain," no less, is a pretty sorry leadership moment. "Folly" is about the most polite phrase I can think of for it.

The Comedian said...

I always have to laugh at people who draw their paychecks from the State of Texas or other "gubmint" entities, then turn around and whine about socialism and government spending. I know plenty of them besides Prison Doc. It's similar to running for President of a country you've talked about seceding from.

If they believe what they say, then I say to them: get off the government payroll and go to work for a private enterprise or start your own business/practice.

BTW, last time I checked, crime statistics showed an overall decrease in the current crime rate. Crime supposedly went down during the Depression but Al Capone was considered a hero by many because he funded soup kitchens for the dispossessed. John Dillinger and others were considered Robin Hoods because they were robbing from the banks that had foreclosed mortgages on so many farmers and homeowners.

doran said...

Mr. Comedian, you have a good point about getting off the public payroll and starting a business. While we are on that point, can you -- or anyone else on this thread -- bring us up to date on Rick Perry's activities in the private sector? I understand he may have been a cotton farmer at one time, or maybe in the cow-calf business. Anything else he has done except hold public office?

Anonymous said...

Screw FEMA!

Firefighting-trained volunteers from around the state converged on Bastrop and Smithville Tuesday to lend a hand to the beleaguered local firefighters battling the Bastrop County Complex Fire — only to be sent away as federal officials arrived at the scene and took command, apparently because local officials never made a formal request for volunteers.

“We were at the station getting set up into strike teams, and this guy came up and said that the U.S. Forest Service had ‘assumed control of the situation, and that ‘If you don’t have a vehicle that squirts water, go home,’” said Gordon Greer of Kirbyville, who drove all night Monday to arrive in the town beset by the worst wildfire in Texas history. “You’ve got guys who had driven all night long from Corpus Christi and Brownsville on their own dime, and they turned them away. He was really a (bleep) about it.

At this rate on help, I’m thinking next year because there’s no movement through FEMA at all. So, you know, hello Katrina all over again!

Anonymous said...

Come save us Obama!

Ted said...

I was never particularly a Kay fan, but the way he cut her up in last year's primary was truly biblical in its hypocrisy- when the budget shortfall showed up a short time later, where was our prescient gov? only God knows- the thought of this guy as president just brings home once again the question, why are voters electing candidates who freely admit their utter contempt of government? I never understood Log Cabin republics- how can you vote for a candidate of a party who abhors your existence? does anyone ever read or investigate a candidate before they vote for him? can anyone who lives in Texas and see what he has done to this state consider or envision- in their worst nightmare- this guy as president? he is, simply put, unspeakable- I am not a big fan of our present leadership, but this guy is a female Sarah Palin without the nice figure

doran said...

Ted, Texas Republican money men have perfected an almost sure-fire technique for electing people in Texas, and now they are testing it on a national scale with Perry.

What they do is field candidates who are pretty (male and female), who are not too bright, and who can lie effectively (that is, tell outright lies which a majority of voters will believe). This approach has worked so many times in Texas that I expect it has been quietly trade-marked by the Texas GOP.

Anonymous said...

I agree with prison Docs' original post. It's normally quite easy to ignore the left leaning ACLU overtones on Grits because the content is compelling and the analyses are generally thoughtful. When you pulled this one out, the costume came off and the bleeding heart started pumping. Of course it nearly always pumps green, that is OPM to fix any and all ills society might encounter, the children, the poor, the displaced, the incarcerated, the ignorant, the broke, or any class we can isolate and use to extract more from the self sufficient. In this case mother natures' victims. I can usually take these streams of "poor them open your wallet" but really, Perry must be bad because he doesn't insist on extracting more of my money so the libs can decide where it could be better spent? I contribute to my local VFD do you?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

6:28, if you think fire departments should be run on donations only, fine. But cutting their budgets on the grounds that we need to save money in case of natural disasters is just foolishness. Donations to the VFD are great, but that's not going to address a disaster of the scope of Texas' wildfires. So in that context, be sure not to call any socialist, gubmint-supported fire department if your home catches fire. You wouldn't want to be accused of two-facedly demanding government services while refusing to pay for them.

It's not a question of "bleeding hearts" but common sense. If Texas is so worried about natural disasters that the Rainy Day Fund can't be tapped, it makes no sense to simultaneously cut budgets for disaster response. They can't have it both ways.

Anonymous said...

Don't know about 6:18 but our local VFD operates on revenue generated thru local ad valorem taxes. So does the sheriff office and police departments. BTW, VFD's here have local fundraisers to supplement what local, again local government, provides. Any other revenue provided by the state or fed is a sweetener.


Sheriff, police, fire, ems, good county roads and city streets, street lighting, parks...yep I will gladly pay my local taxes for those services and not depend on the state or the fed for it.

Anonymous said...

VFDs have no business begging state aid; fund your ops locally. (Even the ESDs negate the concept of volunteer, and if memory serves, many vfds have paid employees)

Charlie O said...

Y'all just ain't praying hard enough.

Gritsforbreakfast said...

9:13/34, I doubt the folks in Bastrop who lost their homes would agree it'd be better to eschew state and federal help to keep their taxes low.

IMO if there's one thing Americans agree government is for it's fighting fires. Even anarchists can stomach government firefighting. You folks who would let half the state burn down so the government won't spend more money are seriously nutjobs. If not fire fighting, is there ANYTHING you think government should do?

Charlie's got a point. Maybe those here complaining about government spending should head out to the shelters in Bastrop and tell the folks there they just didn't pray hard enough, then chastise them for sucking on the gubmint firefighting teat. I'd pay cash money to listen in on that conversation.

Charlie O said...

Anon: 12:45,

What does FEMA have to do with the US Forest Service. How is FEMA to blame for a someone saying the Forest Service is taking control?

doran said...

Grits, your question -- "If not fire fighting, is there ANYTHING you think government should do?" -- reminds me of William F. Buckely's response to a similar question about four decades back: "Yes, the government can arrest Communists."

I suspect that the position of Anon 9:13/34 is similarly ideological and shallow. You will rarely, if EVER, hear a Texas Republican complain about public money keeping Perry housed in a palace, or public money going into the pockets of Republican farmers via crop supports, or people like Clayton Williams owning local government entities by which they float bonds, or the water hustlers getting public financing for their boondogles, or Republican business people making millions off of building prisons, etc, etc, ad naseum.

The crazy right wing in this State and Nation has not changed at all in the intervening years, except to substitute "terrorists" for Communists.

Anonymous said...

Charlie O said...
Anon: 12:45,

What does FEMA have to do with the US Forest Service. How is FEMA to blame for a someone saying the Forest Service is taking control?

They are part of the coalition of federal agencies who took over and sent volunteer firefighters home who were not officially called to help.

Anonymous said...

Gritsforbreakfast said...
9:13/34, I doubt the folks in Bastrop who lost their homes would agree it'd be better to eschew state and federal help to keep their taxes low.


Yeah, now how are those federal tax dollars working in Bastrop? Save us Obama!

http://www.kvue.com/news/Politics-holding-up-FEMA-help-129557383.html

Gritsforbreakfast said...

4:02, what does that have to do with the Lege cutting the state firefighting budget? Perry is Governor of this state, not Obama.

Besides, the feds actually coughed up the money. By contrast, the Rainy Day Fund wasn't tapped because Perry wanted to save it for a natural disaster, but now that disaster has hit he still hasn't tapped the money and instead blames the feds for not bailing him out. I'm amazed you can justify that just because you hate Obama: Texas pols are responsible for their own actions, whatever you think of the President.

Anonymous said...

No, I don't hate Obama. I am surprised that someone of your intellect is putting their trust in a politician though, D or R. I'm equal opportunity and don't give any of them any credibility!

You brought up the federal tax in return for services issue. It ain't working out here either.

Anonymous said...

Doesn't the new two year state budget start in January 2012? If yes, how is the funding to fire departments effected if we are still operating under the 2010-2011 budget?

A Texas PO said...

I seem to recall a news report last week on one of them "gotcha media" outlets discussing the current FEMA funding crisis since the Republican House has not approved a FEMA budget and Hurrican Irene is soaking up all of FEMA's current finances. Just as we in Texas need some federal help. But I do agree, as has been noted many times in the above, that most Texans (at least, most of those who have supported Perry over the years) have whined and moaned about having to pay taxes to help save people from disaster in other parts of the country, but now are demanding that help now. It's a bit ironic. I can understand being against government pork projects like bridges to nowhere, but natural disasters? Behind national defense, I think fed help in natural disasters is definitely one of my top 5 federal mandates, but I'm just drawing 1/3 of my salary from the "gubmint" coffers, so what do I know?

It's been noted many times on this blog over the last few months that the budget fight (or was it more of a smoke and mirrors show?) was focusing on cutting important programs that did not save us any money, and now have put us in a situation where we desperately need that money. I find it fitting (and, again, ironic) that these blazes broke out just as we were ringing in our brand new fiscal year. I hope my local VFD can help if a fire hits my home. Wait... did I pay my property taxes this year?

Gritsforbreakfast said...

4:31, the new fiscal year began Sept. 1. The budget cuts just went into effect right before the fires broke out. Excellent timing, huh?

Anonymous said...

It appears the Texas Forestry Service says we need to decrease our dependence on the federal government for assistance and build our fire fighting capabilities here in Texas.

See page 2 of 5.



http://www.scribd.com/doc/53629747/Texas-Forest-Service-warns-about-wildfire-threat-caused-by-underfunding

Anonymous said...

Perry was praying for the other kind of reign

The Alderman said...

If I recall from the Politifact column ran in the Statesman on this topic, the Forestry department can apply for additional funding to meet their fire-fighting needs, which will obviously have increased this year. Pointing out Perry's double-speak is still valid on just about every other position he takes (e.g. pro-life/pro capital punishment, pro limited government/more than happy to accept more federal tax dollars than we pay out, etc.), but this one seems like a bit more of a stretch. The budget was cut, yes. That doesn't necessarily mean the previous budget was necessary. I don't claim to know, but it's not unheard of for a gov't agency to have a little bloat. Also, couldn't they still tap the rainy day fund now? To me it seems that if the rainy day fund were on the table during the budget discussions, it would have been spent on something besides volunteer fire department grants. Just a guess.