It’s tempting, although maybe not fair, to argue that nobody at any level of government really knows what’s happening with the housing recovery efforts underway after Hurricane Harvey.

It is fair, however, to wonder whether anybody at any level of government knows what anybody at any other level of government is doing in that effort.

And if we were betting on it, we’d have to put money on the proposition that none of the right hands know what any of the lefts are up to at any given time.

More evidence supporting that appeared last week when we learned about Dickinson resident Jeff Jenny, who has parked in his yard one of the very few Federal Emergency Management Agency disaster housing trailers extant in the county.

The trailer has been there for a couple of weeks, but Jenny is still living in his truck because there’s no power connected to the trailer. There’s no power connected to the trailer because crews need to erect a temporary pole in his yard, but can’t because the city of Dickinson won’t allow it.

We’re not sure who’s responsible for this snag, the city, the state or the federal government, but what’s clear is that none of them, or at least not enough of them, are communicating about things that should have been worked out in fine detail before that trailer landed in Jeff Jenny’s front yard.

Not only were the fine details not nailed down before the FEMA trailers began very quietly trickling into the county, apparently neither were the broad ones.

County Judge Mark Henry said last week he didn’t know the trailers were coming at all.

“Not only have we not been included in that decision, we have had no communication,” Henry said. “I’m a little frustrated that local government is not included in these decisions.”

The one thing the government has been able to deliver in large amounts in the post-Harvey disaster housing effort has been frustration. If the judge has been experiencing it, think of the people who are displaced from their homes and living for three months in motel rooms, with relatives, or, like Jeff Jenny, have been for practical purposes homeless, living in their cars and trucks.

Three months after Harvey, about 170 manufactured housing units were in different stages of installment in Galveston County, a Texas General Land Office spokeswoman said.

Of that number, one was occupied. Three months, one trailer.

The land office, which has been spearheading immediate disaster housing programs in the state, talks as if disaster recovery was just unheard of in Texas before Harvey; as if this were a completely new experience for everybody involved. That’s nonsense, of course. The land office ran many of the disaster recovery efforts after Ike as well.

What’s true is that Commissioner George P. Bush, when he took over the post, got rid of all the staff employees experienced with disaster recovery, and with them went all the institutional knowledge acquired during those earlier storms.

That was his prerogative, but the land office can’t now claim honest inexperience as a mitigating factor for any bungling after this storm. The staff may be inexperienced, but the organization can’t claim to be.

This isn’t just nitpicking. What we see in this are signs of gross inefficiency; indications that people who should have a had a detailed plan are just making it all up as they go along.

That’s always more expensive and more open to abuse.

None of this is abstract, either. One of the few certainties about these programs is that they’ll cost the American taxpayer dearly. The less efficient the delivery, the higher that cost will be.

• Michael A. Smith

Michael A. Smith: 409-683-5206;

(10) comments

PD Hyatt

None of our government agencies seem to know what is going on. Just try to go to the SBA and get one of their loans. they tell you what you need in a loan even though it comes know where near what you need to get back to where you were before the storm even if you have GREAT credit scores.... Then when you add to that is the NFIP who is not giving us anywhere near what we needed even though we carried what they called replacement cost coverage.... NFIP is almost as worthless as the TWIA when it comes to getting your stuff repaired after a storm...

Jarvis Buckley

Just another Bush- league politician.

Diane Turski

Stop voting for politicians (and others) at all levels of government who terminate the experienced career employees so they can replace them with their unqualified and inexperienced cronies!!

Randy Chapman

You can't just put these temporary poles anywhere. If the trailer is in the driveway, and the utility pole is in the back yard on the other side of the house, it would require burying the power to the trailer all the way around the house, driveway, etc to be in compliance with codes. It's not as simple as some people would lead you to believe.

Tom Brown

It all takes a lot of time..just remember back to IKE and storms before that. Same old thing really.

Dwight Burns

A lesson voters and non-voters alike will pay for a long time to come.

Knowledge of a job can only be obtained through time worked on said job.

It is both sad and dangerous that our differences on political idiology has given way to stupidity.

Mark Aaron

When you elect politicians like Tea Partiers and other anti-government Republicans, who don't believe in government, this is the the kind of government you get. What else would you expect to get?

Gary Miller

It's easy to blame a politician you don't like. The 'experienced' people Bush replaced were the ones who screwed up each of the last three or four storms. Think back. How did they do after IKE? They learned nothing and messed up worse than the new people.

Jarvis Buckley

Mark over the years I have seen GDN
band folks from repeated negative comments. That swishing sound may be you circleing the drain. I would hate that.

Mark Aaron

Jarvis: [I would hate that.]

Me too Jarvis. I'll keep that in mind.

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