From the D.C. Examiner, “Emergency declared in D.C. to allow for more federal aid“:
President Bush has declared an emergency in the District of Columbia for the inauguration of his successor — an unprecedented move that will allow federal funds and disaster resources to flow more freely to local agencies, according to a FEMA spokesman.
The declaration was requested by D.C. Mayor Adrian Fenty, who warns that inauguration crowds could overwhelm area hospitals and emergency responders.
Terry Monrad, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency, said similar declarations have only ever been pre-approved for natural disasters like hurricanes.
When reviewing Fenty’s request for extra federal aid, the agency looked at “if D.C. [on its own] would have the capabilities and resources to meet critical emergency protective requirements,” said FEMA spokeswoman Alexandra Kirin, and judged that it would not.
We can see why the Bush Administration would do this, trying to avoid more unflattering press comparisons to FEMA’s handling of Katrina, even if it’s the D.C. government that messes up. But is this what Congress had in mind when it wrote the law?
Meanwhile, talk about material that just writes itself: “X event a disaster”…etc.
BTW, we’ve been plugging the Washington Post’s coverage of the Inauguration, but the other media outlets in the city really have been doing a good job too. In today’s Examiner, there’s another worthwhile piece, relating a dose of reality, “Metro GM warns ‘something will happen’ to system on Jan. 20.”
UPDATE (1:45 p.m.): White House press secretary Dana Perino comments on the disaster declaration at today’s White House briefing:
Q Dana, two questions, thank you. One, how can you explain to people around the globe as far as presidential emergency declaration, because many of them do not understand or misunderstood.
MS. PERINO: Okay. I can understand why because of its title, but under the law, the city or state or the District of Columbia can ask the administration, whichever administration it is, for more funds or access to more funds in case they need it in order to be able to protect people for some major event, whether it be a natural disaster or something like the Super Bowl — I don’t know if anybody has ever actually done that. But obviously this inauguration is going to bring a huge number of crowds, and there’s going to be a large amount of security. And therefore, we thought it was appropriate that when Mayor Fenty asked President Bush for access to additional funds that we’d provide it.
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