Friday, September 22, 2017

For Dayna Steele's Campaign, As For All Houston Hurricane Harvey Was A Serious Interruption


Most people in the Houston area know Dayna Steele, former KLOL radio host, as "the First Lady of Rock'n'Roll." The first time they heard every great song and every great band-- from U2 , Nirvana, Joan Jett and The Police to Van Halen, Heart and Bon Jovi-- that jolted their lives-- in a way few politicians ever can-- it was intimately, just them, their radio... and Dayna. Otherwise her latest endeavor-- taking on right-wing kook Brian Babin in a beet-red district-- would seem... quixotic. TX-36 went for Trump over Hillary 72% to 25%. The PVI is R+26. No Democrat has ever won an R+26 district before. With not even a nod in her direction from the DCCC, Dayna is starting the process of making history. Or, rather, she was starting that process when Harvey intruded on her life and on the lives of the people in her district. TX-36 was one of the hardest hit districts from this hurricane, ironic when you consider that Babin is a lunatic fringe and very aggressive Climate Science denier. When Hurricane Harvey hit Houston, Dayna turned her congressional campaign into a relief and resources team. She's been working to help her neighbors ever since. Now it is our turn to lend a hand to Dayna. You can donate to her campaign to unseat Republican Brian Babin here.

We asked Dayna to write another guest post-- her first for us was here-- about the impact of the hurricane on her, her campaign and the folks in Houston-- and what can be learned from that.

A Plan
-by Dayna Steele,
candidate for Congress (TX-36)

A reporter for International Business Times asked me the other day what I thought of the federal government response to Hurricane Harvey. I really had to stop and think a minute. My answer? I don’t really recall seeing anyone from the federal government except for the one time I had to drive my campaign truck to a local grocery store and rescue two dogs, one very unhappy crated cat, and a lovely woman who had just escaped three feet of water in her house. Come to think of it, it was not the federal government that was there helping. It was the Texas-based grocery chain H.E.B. and the National Guard called up by Texas-- that the federal government took credit for when saying they sent “over 6,000 troops.” No, they did not. They sent about 1000 and we supplied the national guard.

What I did see were hundreds and hundreds of volunteers and neighbors in their own boats, using jet skis and kayaks, pool floats, and large coolers saving friends, family, strangers, and animals. What I did see was the immediate use of social media, including Team Dayna, working to identify people who needed to be saved-- immediately. While the federal government and FEMA were coming up with a plan, we were already working around the clock all over the area saving thousands and setting up make-shift shelters.

So, the question I’m getting now from reporters and followers? What would you have done differently? What will you do differently when you are elected to Congress?

I would act to insure there is a plan.

After we evacuated for Hurricane Rita in 2005, though it turned out to be a false alarm for our area, it was a wakeup call for what we needed as a family for a hurricane plan. During the ten hours it took us to drive to San Antonio, Texas (normally a three-hour drive), I took notes-- everything I wish we had, the things family members wished they had brought with them and not left behind for destruction: a favorite stuffed animal, the family recipe book, and more. I also made notes of the things we should have done before we left: turn off the breakers, bring the outdoor furniture inside, check the generator weeks before, fill the gas cans, and more there as well.

Overtime, I added to this list. When Mom went into assisted living for Alzheimer’s, she was added to the list as another responsibility: who would pick her up, when, what did she need.

As we fostered and adopted two dogs (foster fails) and a cat and eventually Mom’s rescue Chihuahua, they had to be added to the plan too-- crates, leashes, food, and food bowls.

The family hurricane plan became this: check and evaluate everything when hurricane season begins on June 1. If anything changes in our lives, add that to the plan-- a son moves to college, we gain another animal (I promised no, but you know things happen...), we add something outside, we add something valuable inside, etc. Mom has since passed away but I keep her on the list-- I just can’t hit that delete button. That, and I share the list with so many who are taking care of aging relatives.

When we got the call to evacuate for Hurricane Ike in 2008, our plan kicked into action and, for the most part, worked. That’s the thing about a plan, you should constantly evaluate and update a plan for it to work.

You get the point. We have a plan.

What I saw with Harvey were no plans. Attending a meeting at the local city hall as nearby homes were flooding, I saw eight people sitting around a table arguing their plan. Why wasn’t there one in place to begin with? We are surrounded by lakes and Galveston Bay. Odds are, we were going to have bad flood at some point. We saw it during Ike.

We live on the Texas Gulf Coast. Climate change-- global warming to call it what it really is and leave the Republican framing behind-- is real, it is happening, scientists have been warning us for years this could happen and would. It did. And there was no plan.

The Arkema plant in Crosby, Texas had emergency generators in case of a plant failure to keep the plant, and surrounding neighborhoods (i.e. neighbors/people) from exploding. The generators were on the ground and not twelve feet up because, well you know, that would cost money and would have cut into profits so the Republican Congress removed regulations otherwise known as protections for people. Now instead we have first responders with health issues because of the chemicals released from that plant. There was not a plan.

A picture of residents of a local nursing home started to circulate almost immediately on Facebook during Hurricane Harvey and the rains in the Houston area. These elderly people were shown sitting on couches and in their wheelchairs as the water rose around them. There was no plan in case of a catastrophic emergency. Volunteers took matters into their own hands, shared the horrifying image on Facebook, and strangers went into action, saving all the residents.

Then the water receded and we were faced with thousands of homes that needed to be mucked out. While officials including the incumbent I am running against had meetings to come up with a plan, volunteers sprang into action sharing information online, created Google docs, posting where help was needed and organizing work crews and supplies. The Texas Muck Map is a work of genius-- put together entirely by volunteers while the government was still organizing a plan.

The list of government agencies and businesses without a plan goes on and on and will be the stories/arguments you hear for years. Instead of arguing and pointing fingers, just take this as a lesson and come up with a plan moving forward. For your family, your business, your neighborhood, your community, your district, your state, your county. You know what you are in charge of, so be in charge.

Plans take time and cost money to implement. However, plans save time and money later as well as save lives.

We should not have to pass laws to get people to do the right thing but if that is what it takes, that is what I will do. I will demand a plan. A plan that puts priorities where they should be-- with and for we the people.

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