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Sandy aid is justified

Dear Editor:

Your reader, Russ Andrews, took exception to my letter to the editor (“Tipton shows lack of compassion,” Jan. 21, The Aspen Times) admonishing our congressman, Scott Tipton, for voting against the Hurricane Sandy Disaster Relief Bill.

Andrews incorrectly stated that less than half of the aid bill was slated to relieve victims of Hurricane Sandy. Then Andrews went on to list items in the bill that did not relate to Hurricane Sandy (“Mortgaging our future,” Letters, Jan. 23, The Aspen Times).



Unfortunately, Andrews did not receive accurate information regarding the bill. One of his objectionable items was the $150 million for Alaskan fisheries; after there was justifiable public outcry, this project was actually stripped from this bill and was not in the House bill that Tipton voted on.

The other projects Andrews listed as “non-relief” spending actually were very much for areas that were subject to a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy. Andrews may not remember, but Washington, D.C., suffered a direct hit from Hurricane Sandy. What was supposed to be a 24-minute storm actually turned into a 24-hour storm, which thereby dealt a great deal of damage to our nation’s capital.




I have corrected Andrews’ list by adding the truthful description of each item in parentheses:

• $2 million for a new roof for the Smithsonian Museum (for expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy).

• $4 million for the Kennedy Space Center. ($15 million for repair at NASA facilities damaged by Hurricane Sandy).

• $8 million for a new car fleet for the Justice Department. ($21.25 million for the Department of Justice split between the FBI, Drug Enforcement Administration and Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco Firearms and Explosives all for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy.)

• $150 million for Alaskan fisheries (was stripped from this bill and not in the House bill Tipton voted on).

• $270 million in new Amtrak spending beyond the $30 million already approved to cover Amtrak’s insurance deductible related to Sandy (provides $32 million for repairs and $86 million for recovery and resiliency in the affected areas and for necessary repairs related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy for a total of $112 million; it is important to note that none of the funds may be used to subsidize operating losses).

• $348 million for the National Park Service (goes to the Historic Preservation Fund for repair of damaged historic buildings and historic materials, necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy).

• $600 million for the Environmental Protection Agency to mitigate global warming (provides for $725,000 for Environment Programs and Management, $2 million for Hazardous Substance Superfund and $5,000,000 for Leaking Underground Storage Tank Fund, all for necessary expenses related to the consequences of Hurricane Sandy, and $6 million to state and tribal assistance grants for wastewater- and drinking-water-treatment works and facilities impacted by Hurricane Sandy).

• $17 billion for “community development funds” (can you say ACORN?). This one item represents 28.3 percent of the bill and is akin to giving the National Rifle Association $17 billion with which to lobby lawmakers on behalf of its members. (ACORN is a defunct organization – $16 billion in HUD Community Development Block Grants for necessary expenses related to disaster relief, long-term recovery, restoration of infrastructure and housing, and economic revitalization in the most impacted and distressed areas resulting from a major disaster. )

Mr. Andrews incorrectly chooses to conflate budget negotiations with the federal government’s ability to respond to a massive natural disaster that struck our country. Hurricane Sandy was one of the costliest storm to hit our country, second only to Katrina. It was the largest Atlantic hurricane on record, spanning 1,100 miles. When such a disaster strikes, this is a time when we are not 50 individual states, we are one country.

Additionally, Mr. Andrews could not be more mistaken when he accuses me of lacking compassion and foresight for future generations. We are so fortunate to live in this truly exceptional nation, one that cares for the health and well being of all of its citizens. Helping others in their time of need is the most important lesson we can teach our children and grandchildren. Helping the East Coast injured and homeless families is the morally correct thing to do, the American thing to do and is indeed an investment in our country’s future.

Blanca O’Leary

Chairwoman, Pitkin County Democrats


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