The 2010 hurricane season is in full swing and summer storms are already popping up almost daily. Fishing, shrimping, and tourist seasons are under way and all are desperately needed to buoy the Coastal economy during this ongoing national recession. Local and state government budgets continue to see shortfalls in tax collections resulting in the loss of constituent services.
Here in Mississippi, qualifying for state elections is less than seven months away meaning announced candidates and those considering a run for the legislature or one of the eight statewide offices are surveying the political landscape and posturing themselves in the minds of potential voters. In November, Mississippi and other Gulf Coast states are holding Congressional elections amidst a flurry of political activity from the White House and liberals trying to hold on to their power base and from conservative movements such as the Tea Party and other like-minded constitutional activists who want to change the direction of our country. Blend all of these together and add a squeeze of lime and this is the worst possible time for the gusher in the Gulf.
Much has already been said about the ongoing Gulf oil spill from politicians and media pundits and I’m sure there is still much more to come, but the local perspective continues to be lost in the discussion. We here on the Gulf Coast are not focusing on placing blame; we’re looking for results. We did not blame Bush for bringing us Katrina; we are not blaming Obama for the oil spill. However, how an Administration responds after the initial disaster affects how we along the Coast recover, rebuild, and sustain in the perceivable future from such disasters. The mere mention that a powerful hurricane would be a good thing to help disperse the oil in the Gulf effectively squashed any possibility that Obama could be trusted with our Gulf Coast. What a slap in the face for all who have struggled and rebuilt from Katrina. No matter how the White House spins the Administration’s talking points or how many times Robert Gibbs, Janet Napolitano, Ken Salazar or President Obama mention “Day One” the truth is politics has been allowed to rue the day. That’s not change the Gulf Coast should believe in. Furthermore, character is not made in a disaster, it is revealed. Obama would do well to keep his thoughts in check and not allow his mouth to overload his Presidential behind. We on the Coast don’t want to hear clichés on whose posterior the President wants to kick; we want to know he and his Administration are looking out for our collective posteriors and are acting with our best interest at heart.
The last thing the President should do is add insult to injury in the wake of this disaster. An extended moratorium on offshore drilling in the Gulf region is not good for the Gulf Coast or America. It hurts families, businesses, and our nation as a whole. Many of our citizens on the Coast work on oil rigs in the Gulf and local businesses support, repair, and construct these rigs. To allow this unfortunate accidental disaster to shape our nation’s future energy policy in terms of offshore drilling and thus essentially taking the food off the tables of so many in our city, county and state would be an additional tragedy. Further, since when do we as Americans propagate a defeatist attitude. We are the country of innovation and invention. We should learn from this disaster, yes, but it should not be used as a political football to promote a liberal energy policy that ultimately makes us more dependent on foreign oil. America should continue its offshore drilling, open up more areas for exploration and invent new technologies to supply energy all at the same time. We do not need to end one to have the other. We are Americans; we can do both, and we should if we are to ever end our dependency on foreign oil.
What the Gulf Coast needs now is a plan, not more politics. With the start of hurricane season just over a week ago, it is on the minds of many citizens in South Mississippi on what the plan of action is in the unfortunate happenstance a tropical storm or hurricane does enter the Gulf of Mexico and should it make landfall while there is oil in the Gulf. This is an answer we need now. The potential for oil to be pushed ashore by storm surge or even to be rained down is extremely worrisome. Having experienced the fury of Hurricane Katrina in 2005 and the subsequent difficulty of many in South Mississippi in handling their insurance claims, this scenario must be at the forefront of the minds of state and federal officials, FEMA, BP, state Insurance Commissioners and the insurance industry as a whole, namely State Farm, Nationwide, Allstate and the like. Informing the public now of the plan, should such a scenario occur, along with providing the general public some assurance that their investments are safe, insured, and protected should be acted upon immediately. Any delays and confusion regarding insurance and local, state, and federal assistance will further exacerbate the damages.
Many around the country join us on the Gulf Coast in our frustration over how this disaster has been handled by the responsible party, BP. Please know that we appreciate your thoughts and prayers; however boycotting your local gas station is not the answer nor does it adequately show your ire. For the most part, boycotting BP gas stations only hurts your local businessman which ultimately hurts your local economy. Don’t buy into the hype of such consumer protests or allow yourself to be a political punching bag; show your indignation by joining the residents on the Gulf Coast in holding BP accountable for the mitigation and recovery efforts that could potentially last for years to come.
In addition, do not allow this disaster to change your conservative philosophy of government and business. BP should make reparations for what it has caused through this accident, rather it was through neglect or sheer poor luck. They should pay for the loss of income to local fishermen, suppliers, and the like affected by this gusher in the Gulf but they should not be required to pay for losses resulting from the offshore drilling moratorium imposed on the oil industry by Obama and Company. BP didn’t cause the moratorium, the government did. It is easy to disguise liberal, socialistic attacks on businesses in humanitarian, environmental clothing. Don’t buy in to the propaganda my fellow Americans; hold fast to your beliefs and remain engaged while keeping a cool head.
If you really want to help us along the Coast, come visit us on the Gulf this summer. Explore the Pascagoula River – the longest free flowing waterway in the lower 48 states, wet a hook in the Mississippi Sound, visit an art museum or take in some local history, dine on Coastal cuisine, catch a movie or do some shopping in one of our many unique local Coast stores. Spend your summer with us and invest in our future as you share in our frustration.
Frank Corder is a Pascagoula, Miss., city councilman.