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Fort Bend County, At Large
By Cheryl Skinner

This column expresses the personal opinions/views of the writer. If you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column, write a SIGNED letter to the editor. Name can be withheld by request with a valid day time phone number.


 
Put aside any doubts

The elected officials in this county certainly get their fair share of criticism throughout their tenure from the media and the general public.

Over the past week as the county endured Hurricane Ike and began the recovery process—all of them deserve a huge round of applause.

The Emergency Management Office of Fort Bend County kept a steady flow of information out to the public and to the media.

And, I mean steady! Day and night the e-mails with the latest closings, recovery reports, health hazards and anything related to Hurricane Ike and recovering from the storm were sent in volume.

For the media this meant being able to pass on the information without hours of searching for someone to talk to. And, if you did need to interview someone about a particular issue, the OEM had a media hotline and there was always one official or another there to speak directly to.

No waiting and they always had the answers.

I can’t name all of the officials who played a part in this steady stream of information, but I do know that County Judge Bob Hebert, his right hand—Ann Werlein, EOM director Jeff Braun and the many staff members and volunteers deserve one large pat on the back for an exceptional job.

And, Mayor Allen Owen took his job quite seriously too! How many mayors commandeered an entire service station to make sure the people in their city had fuel to travel? Not to mention spending the day pumping gasoline with volunteers. I can bet not too terribly many.

Our first responders deserve recognition for the long hours and challenging conditions they were working under. And, our street and maintenance workers are putting in some very long hours to get the roads cleared, debris hauled and making sure the sewer lift stations are functioning properly.

The rest of the officials throughout the county did a bang up job as well. And, as you can see Fort Bend is working through the debris management and recovery at a record pace.

They deserve a big thank you.

You can’t make everyone happy

We received a copy of an e-mail that a Greatwood resident sent to all the media. Apparently the correspondence was directed at television reporters primarily.

This lengthy complaint stemmed from what the local resident felt was a lack of adequate reporting. Some of the concerns were valid, but in my opinion, a lot were just trivial if not ridiculous.

She felt the ticker tape at the bottom of the screen announcing school closings had been there long enough. “Those still without power can’t read it. Those watching already know it,” she said.

Well, since television serves the entire impacted area and power was returning sporadically hour by hour, I’m sure there were thousands who were grateful to see the information flashed across the screen once their power was restored.

She wanted the news helicopters to go to all the devastated areas and show what they looked like because she apparently had family and friends in various areas. I believe if you watched Channel 11 24/7 they did a darn good job of covering the huge territory they covered.

She questioned damages to libraries and suggested the reporters talk “to the Superintendents of ALL the school districts and find out how they will be handling the days the students are out of class. How will this affect all the athletic schedules...homecoming etc.”

She went on to ask about graduation being delayed and if the students will have to make up the days.

How much you want to bet the school districts were over their head trying to fix damages and waiting for power. Not knowing how long the students would be out would make it impossible to anticipate such scheduling changes.

Then she goes on to complain about land lines being out and wanted the reporters to explain why.

She wanted the media to quit interviewing people on Galveston Island and suggested the students unable to go to school should be out on the streets collecting items to send to Galveston.

She apparently failed to listen when reporters said it wasn’t safe to be on the streets because of flooded streets, debris, downed power lines and a lack of working stop lights. And most officials were asking that people not roam the streets—thus there was a curfew implemented. And, police were looking for scam artists and looters.

Would a parent really want their child, regardless of age, out doing anything that would put them in danger? I think not.

Did she not notice the organized efforts in Fort Bend County where students, like those at Foster High School and various scouting groups, who were busy making care packages for people who were without food and clothing.

And the real corker was: “We went to First Colony Mall yesterday and I was surprised at how few people were in there...not many shopping...not even many just strolling the mall. There are even stores INSIDE the mall not open for business ... notes are taped to their doors. Don’t know why this is. Could be because they are not receiving shipment ... could be because their employees sustained damages and have no means to get into work... could be because the roof above them had some damage and ruined their inventory ... could be a combination ... but nobody is reporting on this.”

Do we really care? Most people were surviving or helping others, not strolling the mall.

“Show us that there are many beautiful trees down in areas. I have family in Memorial and in Tanglewood still without power. They are not suffering, but we did see a tree leaning on a power line Tuesday down the street from my Mom. It’s still there this morning,” she continued.

Lady, I know people who had trees through their bedrooms and limbs in the living room because you can see the sky where the roof once was. How do reporters show every downed tree and personal tragedy in an event as widespread as this one?

“I didn’t get reconnected to society until my power was restored Monday evening. Until then, I had no knowledge of the devastation. One can’t see this on the radio. Why aren’t there televisions set up in malls for this? People are going stir crazy inside their homes. Some are venturing out. Some don’t want to waste their fuel for fear a fuel shortage is coming.”

She complains about the gas prices going up overnight, wants to know if commerce has come to a halt and why reporters aren’t explaining which stores on Highway 6 were open and which were closed and why.

Of course they focused on Galveston Island, understandably so. However, they did a fantastic job of reporting all areas impacted by the storm, including Fort Bend.

No, they didn’t go to the mall to find out why stores were open but in the overall scheme of things I think letting people know the streets were flooded, schools out, where water, ice, and food were located and how to get in touch with FEMA probably was higher on the list.

And remember, the reporters, for the most part, were working under adverse conditions, most without electricity and some who couldn’t go home between shifts because of the downed trees and power lines and flooded roads.

But, as the old saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time.

Some you just have to ignore complainers!

 

Contact skinnerc1@tconline.net, if you would like to express your opinions/views regarding the column. Write a SIGNED letter to the editor with valid day time phone number--name can be withheld by request.

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   Last Update:  September 24, 2008