Not Our First Rodeo: What Texas Can Learn from NJ's Hurricane Sandy Survivors

Hurricane Harvey is hammering the people of Texas right now and the rainfall that will continue for days is set to push the boundaries of catastrophic flooding to levels our nation has never seen. Tens of thousands are already in shelters, countless more are in need of evacuation, billions of dollars of damage has already occurred, and sadly, this saga is just beginning for the people of the Lone Star State.

Here at the Jersey Shore, we know what you’re going through. My hometown of Belmar, NJ was one of those towns you saw on the news over and over again when Hurricane Sandy barrelled down on us for 48 hours in late October 2012.

Given my experience in the month immediately after the storm helping my hometown to get cleaned up and cleared out, as well as my years of advocacy to help Sandy families get the aid money they need(ed) to get rebuilt and get back home, I would like to share the following with the people of Texas and all the people of the United States.

1. In this moment, I am seeing many using this as an opportunity to take (justified) shots at the GOP for their having their heads in the sand on climate change and for their mean-spirited and shortsighted “NO” votes on disaster relief funding for NJ and NY in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

I understand the desire to do this, believe me I do, but right now the focus of our nation should be on getting people of Texas to safety and doing the immediate clean up to stabilize communities impacted by the storm.

We will have plenty of opportunities after this week to have the necessary discussions on our nation’s approach to climate change and on the voting history of the GOP with regard to disaster relief.

2. The people of Texas are going to need a lot of help and donations in the coming days, weeks, and months. I would encourage anyone who wants to make donations to be very strategic in your giving and to LISTEN to people who are on the ground and working the rescue operations and the clean up operations on what support they need from us.

Hurricane Harvey is hammering the people of Texas right now and the rainfall that will continue for days is set to push the boundaries of catastrophic flooding to levels our nation has never seen. Tens of thousands are already in shelters, countless more are in need of evacuation, billions of dollars of damage has already occurred, and sadly, this saga is just beginning for the people of the Lone Star State.

Here at the Jersey Shore, we know what you’re going through. My hometown of Belmar, NJ was one of those towns you saw on the news over and over again when Hurricane Sandy barrelled down on us for 48 hours in late October 2012.

Given my experience in the month immediately after the storm helping my hometown to get cleaned up and cleared out, as well as my years of advocacy to help Sandy families get the aid money they need(ed) to get rebuilt and get back home, I would like to share the following with the people of Texas and all the people of the United States.

1. In this moment, I am seeing many using this as an opportunity to take (justified) shots at the GOP for their having their heads in the sand on climate change and for their mean-spirited and shortsighted “NO” votes on disaster relief funding for NJ and NY in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy.

I understand the desire to do this, believe me I do, but right now the focus of our nation should be on getting people of Texas to safety and doing the immediate clean up to stabilize communities impacted by the storm.

We will have plenty of opportunities after this week to have the necessary discussions on our nation’s approach to climate change and on the voting history of the GOP with regard to disaster relief.

2. The people of Texas are going to need a lot of help and donations in the coming days, weeks, and months. I would encourage anyone who wants to make donations to be very strategic in your giving and to LISTEN to people who are on the ground and working the rescue operations and the clean up operations on what support they need from us.

In the days after Hurricane Sandy, very well-intentioned people were cleaning out their closets and sending piles of clothes to Belmar, NJ. The reality was, we didn’t need them and it created an entire day of a logistical and operational nightmare in having to deal with what became a gymnasium filled with old clothes, a lot of which were useless (ex. One bag I opened had gold-sparkled 4 inch pumps — exactly what a Hurricane survivor needs, right?). So again, listen to local leaders and to friends you may have on the ground in Texas on what is best to give to help the people there.

3. The people of Texas need to know that their local, state, and federal elected officials are not prepared for this kind of disaster. Some are true leaders and will be equal to the task. Others will fail miserably. In the coming days, rely on each other and the volunteers that will come to help. If someone needs help, help them. Be a leader in your community. That is one of the most beautiful lessons I learned from our Sandy recovery here — our neighbors, and the volunteers who came from around the nation to help us, are great people and together we can pull through a disaster like this.

4. Get ready for the second storm to hit — the battles you will wage with the state government, federal government, and your insurance companies to get the insurance money and disaster relief money you will need to rebuild. The rebuilding program here in NJ which was called the RREM program was the most colossal failure of government I have ever seen. Please click and watch this interview I did with MSNBC’s Chris Hayes to see what can happen if we are not on top of the rebuilding funding and operations from the start. 

5. Now for the leaders in Texas, I offer the following specifically to you. Governor Christie showed zero leadership in terms of helping our state rebuild in the months and years after the storm. Don’t be like him and do not listen to him. If you want to know what to do (and what not to do) please reach out to people who were here on the ground doing the clean up and later the advocacy work to get families back home.

I’ll give you two simple examples of what I mean:

a. When you’re asking for donations from around the country, ask for sledge hammers, chain saws and chain saw blades. You’re going to need a lot of them in the clean up. We were always in short supply. And get trucks. Big dump trucks. You’re going to need them too.

b. In setting up rebuilding efforts, draft people from the corporate sector who have experience in managing multi-million dollar operations, large staffs, and multiple silos of information that need to be coordinated and partner these corporate folks up with people from the non-profit section who have a history of helping in your local communities. Do NOT put political hacks in charge of this work and do NOT hire some outside firm that going to hire people at minimum wage to do this work (like was done with both Sandy and Katrina recovery).

These are just two examples of what will be helpful for you to recover as quickly as possible. There are dozens more I could give. If you want this help, Just reach out (You can get me at jim@jimkeady.com or call me at 732.988.7322).

Also, I know I am not alone with my willingness to help. There are great people here in NJ who will join the effort. I'm sure my friends at the New Jersey Organizing Project, one of the lead Sandy advocacy groups, would love to do whatever they can to help everyday people and leaders in Texas navigate the rescue, recovery, and rebuilding efforts. 

You will get through this Texas, Jersey has your back.

Stay strong.

Peace,
Jim Keady
#Keady4Congress
jimkeady.com