August 15, 2006

Some good news.

Report gives Birmingham high marks for treatment of evacuees

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — Evacuees from Hurricane Katrina who fled to Birmingham generally fared as well, if not better, than those who ended up in other cities, according to a report released Monday.

The report by the nonprofit Appleseed Foundation focused on how evacuees have fared in five major cities — Atlanta, Baton Rouge, La., Birmingham, Houston and San Antonio. It also took a close look at New Orleans, where about 40 percent of the city's residents have returned.

The report found that about 20,000 evacuees ended up in the Birmingham area and that about 1,500 are still there, the smallest number of evacuees remaining in any of the cities studied.

The report found that the Birmingham area could have handled more refugees partly because of the "open heartedness of Birmingham's citizens, nonprofits, faith-based organizations and businesses."

The report also found that Gov. Bob Riley set a positive tone for the evacuees when he asked state residents to treat Hurricane Katrina evacuees "like our own."

"The report reflects favorably on how effectively the people of Birmingham responded to this crisis. Indeed, in large part Birmingham did it right," said John Pickens, executive director of the Montgomery-based Alabama Center for Law & Justice.

Pickens said the number of evacuees who ended up in the Birmingham area was small compared to other cities, such as Baton Rouge which initially received as many as 300,000 evacuees, and Houston, which received as many as 250,000. [...]

Overall, it sounds good, and I don't want to take anything away from anyone who has been associated with this effort. Birmingham doesn't get a lot of good press, and the volunteers who helped coordinate relief for these folks are to be commended. I'm just glad we didn't have to see how the system would work if we had gotten the same volume of people as Baton Rouge or Houston. The system we had in place worked, but it might not have with ten times as many people. Especially with what the report noted about the lack of convenient public transit here.

I'm not one of those who believes that Western Civilization will end if there aren't buses and streetcars and stuff, but I figure if you are going to have them, at least make sure you're actually running the system efficiently.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at August 15, 2006 10:59 AM

While I'd really like for Birmingham to have viable mass transit--preferably a functional light rail system--I begin to think we will never have leadership at the local level or in the State Legislature that is capable of bringing this to a reality.

While I realize not everyone wants to pay for mass transit, I guess one thing that makes me like it is simply that as we "Boomers" age there will be a LOT of us who someday would benefit from having mass transit.

Posted by: Stan at August 15, 2006 12:24 PM

The funny thing is that Birmingham used to have a reliable and comprehensive streetcar system back at the turn of the LAST century. I don't think we'll see a worthy successor for at least another century.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at August 15, 2006 12:39 PM