Snow debacle reveals pettiness of partisan divide

Talking politics
By IAN DONNIS  |  December 19, 2007

While the axing of state Emergency Management director Robert Warren offers a sop to those still angry about the tepid response to last week’s snow storm, the underlying causes will take more time to dissipate.
One of the most striking revelations was how Democratic Lieutenant Governor Elizabeth Roberts was left out of the loop, not even being directly informed that the governor was leaving the country, when Republican Donald L. Carcieri traveled to Iraq.
In his first comments on the storm after returning, as reported by the ProJo, Carcieri said, “What was missing? There was no single voice communicating what was going on. That’s what was missing. That’s what I would have been doing had I been here.”
In his absence, Carcieri said, Adjutant General Robert T. Bray of the National Guard “was responsible for doing that,” although “General Bray was not in that position, wasn’t doing that . . . . From now on, he will.” Asked who was in charge during his absence, Carcieri cited Superintendent Brendan Doherty of the state police and Jerome Williams, director of the state Department of Transportation.

Isn’t there more than a little dissonance here?
No disrespect to General Bray, but he wasn’t elected to his position. Neither was Colonel Doherty or Jerry Williams. The governor identifies what was missing as a “single voice communicating what was going on.” Is it too much to expect that the state’s second-ranking elected official, in the absence of the governor, be given that authority?
Last week’s storm was an unusual mixture: the fast pace of the snowfall, and its mid-day start, and the resulting exodus of workers, combined with Providence and state leadership that, at best, was slow on the uptake in responding.
Roberts’s believed that the state’s Emergency Operations Center — which, she says, would have enabled better communication and coordination — should have been activated during the storm. “Mid-afternoon, when it became clear that the situation was not resolving itself,” is when the EOC should have been triggered, Roberts says. Yet Bray believed at the time, the ProJo reported, that the EOC wasn’t necessary, and Roberts lacked the legal authority to overrule him.
Some observers have responded to this situation by arguing that it demonstrates the need for the state to elect a governor and lieutenant governor of the same party.
It’s apparently too much to expect that a Republican governor would keep a Democratic lieutenant governor informed if and when he leaves the country.
I don’t suggest that things would necessarily be any better with a Democratic governor and a Republican lieutenant governor, but it’s pretty silly when clashing party affiliations get in the way of informing the public.

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  Topics: This Just In , Weather, Don Carcieri, Winter Weather,  More more >
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