CommunityPam's House Blend

More Katrina corruption and incompetence

Yesterday I enjoyed great conversation and a delicious Foster’s scone with Chris Kromm of Facing South. We were shooting the breeze about politics, journalism and blogging in the unseasonably warm weather here in Durham, and mini-ranting about the state of politics today. Actually, I was the one ranting.

Chris has an excellent post up on yet another Katrina failure: it took nearly a week for FEMA to mobilize buses to evacuate thousands of city residents from the filthy, dangerous Superdome and convention center. The reason for this is buried in a DOT audit that Gulf Coast Reconstruction Watch reporter Tim Shorrock, who dug into. It’s a story of cronyism, incompetence, and taxpayer pickpocketing.

The audit is also focused on Landstar Express America Inc. A trucking and logistics company based in Jacksonville, Fla., Landstar is a politically well-connected corporation that’s risen to the top of the U.S. transportation industry without actually owning any trucks. Chairman Jeffrey Crowe served until recently as head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, and last April Florida Gov. Jeb Bush appointed him to his Advisory Council on Base Realignment and Closure.

Landstar managed the evacuation contract for the FAA under a $100 million subcontract signed in October 2002. The audit “is an ongoing thing,” said Barnes. IG inspectors are still not sure how the contract ended up at FAA, which manages the nation’s air traffic control system, he added.

The FAA would not comment, and FEMA press officials did not return telephone calls. A Landstar vice president did not respond to a request for comment, either.

Landstar, however, has not been reticent to talk about its profits from the contract. Last October, the company disclosed that $129.8 million of the $676 million it earned in revenue during the third quarter of 2005 was directly attributable to its “disaster relief” contract with “the United States Department of Transportation/Federal Aviation Administration.”

By all accounts, the FAA and Landstar failed miserably to help the citizens of New Orleans escape from their drowned city. And when the crisis hit, FEMA, whose bungling during Katrina has become legendary, was unaware that it had even contracted the operation to FAA, or that FAA had subcontracted the work to Landstar,

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding