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Fire Disasters Show We Need Government for the People

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The Press Enterprise newspaper on November 30th chronicled a series of letters going back and forth between local, state, and federal jurisdictions discussing the fire hazard for Riverside, San Bernardino, and San Diego counties. The request for assistance dates back to March 5, 2002, a year and a half before Bush declared the three affected counties were a disaster area charred from wild fires.

This in my estimation is one of the worst examples of people playing politics with our tax dollars and lives.

The State Office of Emergency Services turned down requests from local elected officials on March 15, 2002, May 14, 2002, January 9, 2003 and the federal Emergency Management Agency followed the same path on January 23, 2003. The sad thing about the multiple rejections is that neither the state or federal agencies offered to come down and see for themselves the situation described by the three counties Boards of Supervisors.

However once the fires started burning on October 21, 2003 everybody could get in their helicopters and tour the area for damages. At this point they would say let us not talk about prior requests but let us focus on getting the fires out and getting these people their lives back.

What about the 22 people who lost their lives? What about the 3,500 homes burned to the ground? What about the countless number of animals gone and lost forever? What about the countless number of touchable objects burned and gone forever? All because some politicians and their staffs did not believe the requests were justified.

I think one of the letters written to the governor sums up the feeling of many people about our government when they said: “Our lives, homes and indeed our very faith in government of the people, by the people, and for the people is in jeopardy by continued attitudes displayed by your staff of a government of the governor, by the governor, and for the governor.”

California Governor Gray Davis was recalled in October, however on April 16, 2003 he did request of President Bush to declare an emergency of our forest areas. You guessed it, the request was denied. A Republican helping a Democrat, well what about the people?

The fires did not stop at each doorstep and ask the owner for their political affiliation. It burned Republicans, Democrats, Independents, Greens, Freedoms and those that belong to no party. The fires did not discriminate between race, sex or income.

Now all we need to do is prepare for the upcoming elections and ask all candidates the hard question. Will they be able to govern for all of the people if elected? The price to pay is too high if they cannot put aside their petty differences and do the right thing for the people they swear to serve.

I want to thank The Press Enterprise for obtaining the information on the bureaucratic mess that led to our area’s most devastating fires and publishing it for the public.

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