Tuesday, April 10, 2007

FEMA in the Dena

FEMA (the Federal Emergency Management Agency) doesn't exactly have the best reputation. And that's putting it mildly. That hasn't stopped the agency from getting involved in places where it doesn't belong.

Most folks would agree that FEMA exists for national emergencies; cases where local and state resources are overwhelmed by the magnitude of the disaster and the federal government is the only realistic recourse. In practice, however, the role that FEMA plays is dramatically different. The latest example comes from our very own Pasadena. As reported last week in the Star-News, La Casita del Arroyo is finally seeing some restoration work (Janette Williams, PSN). Guess where the money is coming from...

Plans to reverse erosion in the Arroyo Seco that has dumped dirt on an equestrian trail and seriously undermined the parking lot at La Casita del Arroyo for years are under way now that federal money has come through to fund at least one of the projects.

About $77,000 from the Federal Emergency Management Agency - requested after the severe rains of 2005 - has been received by the city, which owns the Myron Hunt-designed stone cottage.

Public Works Director Martin Pastucha said it will be used to shore up a slippage area on Arroyo Boulevard directly above a horse trail. Originally the funding was to cover both the trail and the parking lot, Pastucha said, but he requested a similar amount for the project at La Casita when the extent of the problems became apparent.

"FEMA comes out and does a visual inspection, but we don't know the scope until we do more exploration of the underlying cause of the problem," Pastucha said.

I appreciate the importance of La Casita as much as the next person. But can't we all agree that this is a Pasadena concern, an issue of purely local importance and one for which we should accept responsibility? Consider how ridiculous this system is. A historic monument in Pasadena is jeopardized by a erosion, a problem easily predicted given its location on a loose hillside. Said historic feature requires significant repair, to the tune of $77,000, a significant amount, but not an impossible burden for a large community like Pasadena (well under a dollar per resident).

Why on earth should we wait for two years while someone comes from FEMA (which presumably means Washington D.C.) to tell us the cost of a repair to a monument that has no special place in anyone else's heart? More importantly, why should repairs to this monument be provided by the federal government?

Of course, it's apparent that there are many ways for cities to milk the state and federal systems to shift their burdens onto larger tax bases. But I would hope we can agree about the principle of the thing. I wouldn't want be shilling out to pay for repairs to a historic residence in North Dakota, and I assume native Bismarckians would lose no sleep if La Casita went sliding into the Arroyo. We should take responsibility for our local issues, lest we become responsible for everyone else's.

1 comment:

Jill said...

Hear, hear! I agree. FEMA paying for this sounds pretty silly to me.