Legislation to Create a National Disaster Review Board

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I have what I hope everyone will agree is good news regarding the Natural Disaster Review Board.

Representatives Katie Porter (D-CA) and Sandy Mace (R-SC) have introduced the Natural Disaster Safety Board Act which passed the full House in 2022. Companion legislation was introduced in the Senate in November by Senators Brian Schatz and Bill Cassidy. I just became aware of the latter yesterday.

The legislation will create a NDSA modeled after the National Transportation Safety Board which has been amazingly successful making aviation incredibly safe. It has been 15 years (!) since there has been a crash involving a major airliner.

We desperately need a similar entity for natural disasters.

If you agree, please use the easy "contact" page (sample below) on your senators' and representative's home page.

Thank you,

Mike Smith
 

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I know you've been pushing for this for quite some time, so I'm glad to see it's getting some traction. While I'm typically in favor of less govt, I think this is a great idea if implemented similar to the NTSB. There's definitely a lot of lessons to be learned and applied from the shortcomings of previous disaster responses.
 
Mark, I am a Reagan (small government) conservative. Increasing government goes against my every fibre. But, when you look at the Maui Wildfire response, you see a national disgrace. We, as a society, cannot keep doing this (making ever worse disaster responses). So, I'm making an exception. We need a NDRB.
 
Mark, I am a Reagan (small government) conservative. Increasing government goes against my every fibre. But, when you look at the Maui Wildfire response, you see a national disgrace. We, as a society, cannot keep doing this (making ever worse disaster responses). So, I'm making an exception. We need a NDRB.
I agree. Given the coordination between federal agencies that will be required, I think this falls squarely in the purview of the federal government.

I do have some concerns; for example, about the stated scope of the "natural hazards" in H.R. 6450 and how it modifies the "natural hazards" definition in 42 U.S.C. 5122. This agency will probably grow very large, very quickly. However, I don't see a way to address the stated purpose and remain "small-government" small. (Aside: anyone know how large is the NTSB? That will be a basis for comparison.)

Regardless: it's needed and I will certainly contact my federal reps to urge its passage.
 
Related but slightly-off topic:

About once a decade someone, usually an academic, will start an unfounded controversy pertaining to the available of "free" weather information. The last one had to do with the poorly reported on Santorum Bill which insured the availability of NWS data and storm warnings when the media reporting said just the opposite. (reporters almost never read the actual language of a bill before the House or Senate).

Before this next one goes very far, here's my rebuttal:
One Less Thing to Be Concerned About

Let me know if you questions.
 
Related but slightly-off topic:

About once a decade someone, usually an academic, will start an unfounded controversy pertaining to the available of "free" weather information. The last one had to do with the poorly reported on Santorum Bill which insured the availability of NWS data and storm warnings when the media reporting said just the opposite. (reporters almost never read the actual language of a bill before the House or Senate).

Before this next one goes very far, here's my rebuttal:
One Less Thing to Be Concerned About

Let me know if you questions.
I remember the Santorum bill--it caused quite a stir due to the potential that:

"The NWS could be prohibited from providing a product or service unless the private sector was found to be unwilling or unable to provide it, WITH THE EXCEPTION OF (emphasis mine) 'preparation and issuance of severe weather forecasts and warnings designed for the protection of life and property of the general public.'"

Here, I have combined paragraphs (a)(1) and (b) of S.786 (1st Session, 109th Congress) into an English-language sentence. As @Mike Smith pointed out, this would have left responsibility for forecasts and warnings with the NWS and perhaps off-loaded some of the fluff injected by various administrations in the NWS mission. Possibly.

BUT: Santorum's bill language was too vague, with too much potential for unintended consequences.
Here's a quote to keep in mind when writing reading legislation:


"The use of indefinite or flexible terms in the grant of official powers means the grant of discretionary powers."
Ernst Freund, 30 Yale Law Journal 437 (1921)​

"Discretionary power" gives government officials the opportunity to substitute their judgment for the legislative intent. It assumes a Utopian view of government: that government will never do harm to the people. Unfortunately, Utopia cannot be governed by men; it can only be governed by angels.

It remains a mystery how a purported conservative like Santorum ever thought such a poorly-worded bill was a good idea.

Now I guess I am off on a tangent that @Mike Smith Smith probably never intended (sorry, Mike.) Bringing myself back: I really don't care about the exodus of intellectuals to private climate science firms. I'm more interested in why, suddenly, there is so much private money in climate research.
 
Geoff, that's fine.

From where did the language for the Santorum Bill come? It was absolutely verbatim the approved policy of the NWS toward private sector meteorology that had been approved by both the NWS and the Office of Management and Budget. No one thought it would be controversial since it was -- supposedly -- the way the NWS had been operating for years.

What caused the push to condify it into law was the NWS was, increasingly, violating its own policy. They started making specific products for electric companies, railroads down to the milepost (remember, RR's are private companies), etc., etc. that directly competed with us. Worse, they were badly neglecting their core mission: everyone forgets that during the terrible tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, the WSR-88's at Frederick, Tulsa and Wichita were all down! And, at the time, no private sector organization had access to the TDWR's. Now, the even worst part: for about 5 minutes around 5 pm the OKC -88 went down. They were afraid they would not have been able to bring it up. That would have been a catastrophe!

Also, several colleges were starting commercial weather companies (as OU eventually did) and were using data sets that the NWS made available to them that were not available to us.

So, what we were attempting to do was focus the NWS on (free) data collection and distribution to everyone, forecasts for the public and warnings for the public.

Frankly, I think that is a good template for the NWS today.

As to the $$$ in climate is that big companies think that with AI and other post-processing capabilities they will be able to forecast climate and clean up. I'm highly skeptical but you what P.T. Barnum said....
 
Geoff, that's fine.

From where did the language for the Santorum Bill come? It was absolutely verbatim the approved policy of the NWS toward private sector meteorology that had been approved by both the NWS and the Office of Management and Budget. No one thought it would be controversial since it was -- supposedly -- the way the NWS had been operating for years.

What caused the push to condify it into law was the NWS was, increasingly, violating its own policy. They started making specific products for electric companies, railroads down to the milepost (remember, RR's are private companies), etc., etc. that directly competed with us. Worse, they were badly neglecting their core mission: everyone forgets that during the terrible tornado outbreak of May 3, 1999, the WSR-88's at Frederick, Tulsa and Wichita were all down! And, at the time, no private sector organization had access to the TDWR's. Now, the even worst part: for about 5 minutes around 5 pm the OKC -88 went down. They were afraid they would not have been able to bring it up. That would have been a catastrophe!

Also, several colleges were starting commercial weather companies (as OU eventually did) and were using data sets that the NWS made available to them that were not available to us.

So, what we were attempting to do was focus the NWS on (free) data collection and distribution to everyone, forecasts for the public and warnings for the public.

Frankly, I think that is a good template for the NWS today.

As to the $$$ in climate is that big companies think that with AI and other post-processing capabilities they will be able to forecast climate and clean up. I'm highly skeptical but you what P.T. Barnum said....
@Mike Smith I apologize if my undiplomatic language offended you--it sounds like you were part of the bill drafting process on the non-legislative end. But I cannot apologize for the sentiment behind my inartful speech.

That sentiment is: legislation needs to be carefully worded to avoid unintended consequences. Now knowing that the proposed law was essentially the agency policy, the nature of language in S.768 makes more sense. However: legislation drives policy, not the other way around.

I actually don't see how S.768 would have fixed some of the issues you mentioned: internal violations of policy, cronyism, improper utilization of resources (poor infrastructure maintenance, etc.) Those are all administrative failures and, short of the President or Secretary of Commerce doing their jobs and fixing the failures, the role of the legislature should be to improve whatever enabling legislation created the agency. Effectively, to put in guardrails and force the agency to perform its statutory role.

We're facing that right now in OK. When the administrative state will not act to fix problems, the legislature needs to step in and "firm up" statutory language to force the fix. The legislature does not want to fiddle with language it has already passed: preferable would be that the administrative state enforce the legislative intent using the authority it already has, but whatever it takes....
 
Geoff, I'm not offended in any way.

Unfortunately, getting a bill passed into law only mildly resembles what were learned in civics class. For example, if you chance just one word, it has to go back to NOAA and to the Office of Management and Budget for evaluation, which takes months if not longer.

More than ten years ago, I came up with the idea for a National Disaster Review Board (see: It is Time for a National Disaster Review Board, Part I ). I have been spending ridiculous amounts of time on it and I've received no renumeration whatsoever. I'm doing it because I believe it is something our nation desperately needs.

So, eleven years later, we now have a bill before both houses of Congress. Given that it is an election year, I would rate the odds of it passing this year as less than 50/50 but I certainly hope I am wrong.

The reason the original language of the NOAA policy in the Santorum Bill may have worked is that when the NWS's regional climate centers (which no longer exist in the form they did at that time) create an electric utility product that looks almost identical to AccuWeather's, we could have gone to court and gotten an injunction against the NWS to stop duplicating our products and giving them away free.

I was the chair of the lobbying committee of the Commercial Weather Services Association for seven years. The sausage of lawmaking is not pretty and requires great persistence and morality or you can get sucked under.

When we can get the bill now before Congress amended (it has a couple of major flaws), I'll let you know and I'd appreciate everyone's support by contacting their congresspeople.
 
While a NDRB would solve some problems, I really don't think it would do as much as "advertised." I have included some discussion below.

First off, a Google search says the NTSB has approximately 400 employees. While that may not be 100% accurate, it can provide a starting point for the discussion.

We would have to think that a new agency just starting out would not have that many employees. Or, would NWS be required to give up some of its employees or funds to start the NDRB? It's a question worth asking, as we see examples of horse-trading all the time in Congress. ("I'll only give you this if you are willing to give up that.")

With a (relatively) small number of employees, a NDRB would not be able to check or verify every tornado warning, much less all the severe thunderstorm, flash flood, and winter storm warnings. What is to be done when a storm (or maybe it was a tornado) causes damage and the public, emergency managers, and news media want to know which it was? Will they be satisfied to wait a few days or more for an answer until an NDRB person can make it to the scene? And how much evidence will be gone/cleaned up before the person can get there? Demolition of many badly damaged houses in Vilonia, Arkansas, was well under way two days after the tornado occurred. I can recall cases where most of the damage was gone within ONE DAY after a storm or tornado occurred in a fairly small, rural area. And, remember, the NTSB does not allow any of the "parties" to one of their investigations to release information to the news media. If NDRB is modeled after NTSB, after a big storm occurs NWS will not be able to give media interviews or go over radar data with the news media. So sorry, but the media will just have to wait a few days until someone from NDRB can make it to the scene.

Under special Department of Commerce rules, any NWS employee can give an interview to the news media (though this could be limited by local rules) as long as they stick to the current or past weather or the forecast (i.e., no discussion of things like the President's budget or similar topics). NTSB doesn't allow any such thing.

Also keep in mind that NTSB must "investigate" every aircraft accident, whether they even go to the scene or not. For some of the "smaller" events, only an FAA person goes to the scene (as they note in some of the their NTSB Newsroom posts). And NTSB certainly does not go to or "investigate" every fatal car accident. If NDRB does not go to a damage scene which might have been a severe thunderstorm but might have been a tornado, how are statistics going to be compiled on Lead Time, False Alarm Ratio, and Probability of Detection? (Yes, I know the system is not anywhere near perfect as it is. Some NWS offices will take the word of an emergency manager, whether that person has any training in surveying damage or not.)

Next question: Who is going to compile and publish Storm Data? If NDRB doesn't go to questionable scenes, who makes the call? Right now, entries for Storm Data are supposed to be submitted two months after the end of a given month (Example: Each office is supposed to send in Storm Data for January by the end of March. (That deadline is not always met, and there have to be some exceptions like for Hurricane Katrina.)
But let's remember that NTSB says their investigations may take 12 to 18 months and they don't always finish in that time. Do we want to model NDRB after this part of NTSB?

And let's discuss a topic that Mike Smith has expounded on. What is to be done when there is controversy over whether a tornado warning should have been issued and/or the time it was issued? As noted above, there is no guarantee that a NDRB person would even go to the scene if it's a "minor" event (what *might* have been an EF0 or EF1 tornado with no fatalities). And how long does NDRB get to study the matter? Hopefully not the 12 to 18 months cited in the previous paragraph, as the time for any hoped-for corrective action would have long-since dwindled by then.

Darn. Maybe I should have put "tl;dr" at the beginning of this essay. Suffice it to say, I've given this a lot of thought since Mike brought up this idea and I'm sure I've left out some things that I have considered in the past. In the NWS, I did storm surveys for more than 20 years. Also, I worked on the Directive that spelled out how to compile and write Storm Data entries (a person in NWS HQ was, of course, the leader of these efforts and I was one of two field office meteorologists who was picked to work on writing these "rules" that NWS offices had to follow). The last of these Directives that I worked on before retirement was more than 100 pages long, so every update was a massive undertaking that required plenty of work at home. I also compiled the local severe weather statistics for the office that I worked in. (The Meteorologist in Charge was not necessarily always happy with the storm surveys that I did or the severe weather scores that I compiled, but I was going to do things honestly, no matter what. And I never got overruled, either.)

I just hope that the issues (and potential pitfalls) that I cited will be taken into account if a NDRB comes to pass.

I'll say only one more thing here -- about radar outages. Since the WSR-88Ds were installed, they have been updated a number of times. This is fortunate since they are already at the end of their originally-expected lifespans. Like any piece of electronics gear, failure can occur unexpectedly, no matter how much routine maintenance is done. The bull gear failed on the radar at the office where I worked. It was the first in the nation to fail. For those that are not aware, the big, expensive parts, like the klystron, are not kept at local offices. When there is a failure, the part has to be flown in from Norman or Kansas City. This obviously leads to outages that lasted longer than we wanted. The flights often arrived in the evening and a courier service delivered the part to the office, no matter what time of night it was. And the shift leader then called an Electronics Technician(s) to come to the office at night to install the part. In our case, there was an Air Force Base that was also using the radar, so there was even more urgency to get it fixed.
 
Hi John,

I think if you read the legislation, you will feel better about the NDRB. The NWS and NDRB are completely separate organizations.

NDRB will be an independent agency like the NTSB. It will not be part of Commerce, NWS or any other part of government. The budgets are completely separate from NOAA and NWS.

The bill provides for, and gives budget to, regional offices if the NDRB wishes to have them. The budgets for the first three years are already in the bills but they can be changed. The regional offices would be involved in the verification process. Not every storm will require a site visit for verification just like every plane crash does not get a visit from the NTSB. But, if you take a photo of a tornado that is time/date stamped and send it to the NDRB, it will probably make it into the stats. Now, if the office failed to issue a warning, they sometimes fail to put it into Storm Data. That's why we need an independent organization doing that job, sometime even the National Academy of Sciences has recognized and recommended since 2012.

The NWS can continue to say whatever it wants to say. NDRB has nothing to do with the management of the NWS.

As I mentioned, there are a number of amendments that I would like to see made. I don't feel it is appropriate to share them here but look at the bill and you will probably be able to figure them out.

Mike
 
Mike,

I hope you realize that the NTSB, while an independent government agency, does indeed tell government agencies and even private companies what they cannot say. When I was working for the NWS and worked with NTSB on one of their investigations, I was told specifically that if I talked with the news media both I and NWS would be kicked off the investigation. (After the release of the final NTSB report, all restrictions on speaking were void.)

On last night's news, the CEO of Boeing was asked a question by the news media that he would have known the answer to and he replied that the NTSB would have to answer it.

In recent years, the NTSB has kicked two people not affiliated with government off their investigations. One, as I recall, was a union representative.

My point is that we can't and don't want to model a NDRB after the NTSB 100%.
 
John,

What am I missing here? As I said, the NWS will not be changed by the NDRB. If the NWS says it believes a tornado occurred, it can say so if it wants. There's nothing in the legislation or my proposed amendments that would change that. The NDRB will have the final word but that doesn't say the NWS can't give its opinion.
 
There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal about the chair of the NTSB which gives a bit of insight into how she works: https://www.wsj.com/business/airlin...fwjpfxpu1qj&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink .

She says her obligation is to "the families of those who have been hurt" in transportation accidents. That's good, but since weather affects everyone, I'm hoping we can find a chair who views her/his obligation is to the public.

And, because I keep being asked, I am retired and have zero interest in being chair or working for the NDRB. While may be willing to work in the setting up stage (3-6 months), I'm retired and happily so.
 
There is an article in today's Wall Street Journal about the chair of the NTSB which gives a bit of insight into how she works: https://www.wsj.com/business/airlin...fwjpfxpu1qj&reflink=desktopwebshare_permalink .

She says her obligation is to "the families of those who have been hurt" in transportation accidents. That's good, but since weather affects everyone, I'm hoping we can find a chair who views her/his obligation is to the public.

And, because I keep being asked, I am retired and have zero interest in being chair or working for the NDRB. While may be willing to work in the setting up stage (3-6 months), I'm retired and happily so.
@Mike Smith I'm hoping you will be able to effectively influence the final form of the bill and keep it focused on natural disasters and how to improve public safety in the face of those disasters.

Don't y'all* slap me around for this, but if the administration does not change course this year (in a big, partisan, way), this bill as filed will just permit more government usurpation of states' and citizens' rights.

* I insist that the English language must have a distinct second-person plural pronoun and, thankfully, the South has given us one.
 
Everyone: the NDRB will have subpoena power (as the NTSB does); but it will not have enforcement powers. The NTSB does not have enforcement powers, either. The persuasive power of both is/will be through a great reputation and competence.
 
Everyone: the NDRB will have subpoena power (as the NTSB does); but it will not have enforcement powers. The NTSB does not have enforcement powers, either. The persuasive power of both is/will be through a great reputation and competence.
I'm sorry, Mike, but I am ever more and more impressed by the ability of government officials to warp and manipulate the branches of government to act as weapons against the people.

While I understand that there are no explicit statements of enforcement powers in this bill, I do wonder how the provisions will be twisted to accomplish ideological agendas--on with sides of the spectrum, actually, just to be fair.

I understand a disaster review function is something for which you have long advocated, and I think we all agree that such a function is needed. There is just stuff in this bill that I think can be leveraged, or deliberately interpreted, and then weaponized against people and I hope you can get that stuff eliminated.
 
I'm sorry, Mike, but I am ever more and more impressed by the ability of government officials to warp and manipulate the branches of government to act as weapons against the people.

While I understand that there are no explicit statements of enforcement powers in this bill, I do wonder how the provisions will be twisted to accomplish ideological agendas--on with sides of the spectrum, actually, just to be fair.

I understand a disaster review function is something for which you have long advocated, and I think we all agree that such a function is needed. There is just stuff in this bill that I think can be leveraged, or deliberately interpreted, and then weaponized against people and I hope you can get that stuff eliminated.
Would you please quote the language? Thank you.
 
Would you please quote the language? Thank you.
Where to begin?

I am using the text of HR 6450 in what follows.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The word "recommend" appears 66 times in the text if the bill. Now, I know the purpose of any review board is to make findings, and often, to make recommendations. So, I don't think it is possible to eliminate the "recommend" function, but the scope of "recommendations" must be narrowly constrained.

Consider the case of the recent Maui wildfire. From news reports I have seen, no one has been allowed inside La Haina since the fires. Insurance companies can't get in to do assessments, and as a result, banks are foreclosing on mortgages on homes that don't exist anymore and the residents have been unable to make payments because...well...they are homeless. But, I digress.

What if the NDRB were to recommend that rebuilding not resume until some threshold of wildfire prevention (TBD) be met?​

Remember, the composition of the NDRB includes those with "demonstrated knowledge in emergency management, fire management, emergency medical services, public health, physical sciences, social science, behavioral science, or architectural and engineering with post-disaster evaluation or building forensics expertise in their respective field."
  • social science, behavioral science, public health: all fields of expertise that, really, are not "hard science" and have little-or-nothing to do with natural disaster warning or prevention. But these professionals can inject social engineering agendas into what should be formally a scientific exercise
Such a recommendation "not to rebuild until" could be used as a pretext for the state of Hawaii to declare that La Haina not be rebuilt: be rezoned as [parkland or non-residential, non-commercial, whatever]; or worse, the Federal government could simply seize the land. In the absence of such a recommendation by a NDRB, the political cost of this would simple be too high. But this kind of "recommendation" could be enough political cover to try it. Land has been seized by government for less. (It's kinda being seized right now in Maui, just by the banks with government assistance.)

Therefore: the kind of recommendations made by the NDRB should be narrowly constrained in the law to prevent this kind of overreach.


One More Example--More Specific and Less Speculative


Section 4(b)(4) [the Board] may, by a majority vote, decide to review any natural hazard incident that occurs after the date of enactment of this Act upon recommendation by the Office for the Protection of Disproportionately Impacted Communities of the Board, which the Office may make because of the incident’s impacts on populations that are socially, medically, or economically vulnerable, as decided by the Office;

First: why does the NDRB even need an Office for the Protection of Disproportionately Impacted Communities? (Yes, it's created by this bill.)

Second: what are the definitions of "social, medical, and economic" vulnerability? (It's not defined in the bill, but it may be defined elsewhere in the US Code. I kind of doubt it, though.) Regardless--remember that, in the absence of statutory specificity, the judgment of the government official may be substituted for the legislative intent. And often is.*

Third: natural disasters are not terribly specific when it comes to which communities are affected, and what is their socioeconomic status. The only limit on the review, given the broad language (socially, medically, or economically vulnerable, as decided by the Office) would be the vote of the Board itself to accept the recommendation or not. Think of the public cost of denying such a recommendation: the accusations of bias against the "vulnerable" populations.

What kind of motivation would such an Office have for making a recommendation that the NDRB set aside the statutory criteria for investigating disasters and address an event that might otherwise not meet those criteria?

Fourth: now we get to the recommendation phase, which is a part of every review. Without constraints on what kind of recommendations are permitted, it's hard to say where we will wind up here.

Oh. I Simply Can't Resist One More


7(a)(3D) a minimum of 2 members shall have demonstrated professional experience working with populations that have historically been more vulnerable to incidents because of their race, color, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency, or economic status.

This can't get more political. Honestly, I hope I do not have to explain why this clause should simply be stricken from the bill. The 7-member Board constructed in this bill will simply not be able to handle the workload given its broad scope of responsibilities and requiring 2 of the 7 to have professional experience working with "historically vulnerable" populations will only make things worse.

I think I'll stop here, for now. Unless there is interest my yammering on and on here on ST, I will use DM from here.

* In OK 10A ("Childen's Code), part of the definition of "neglect" uses the terminology "adequate nurturance and affection". There is no legal definition for "adequate nurturance and affection", and its meaning can vary wildly from person to person. That means OK state officials can potentially take children from a home where there is legally no neglect at all. We are proposing an amendment to 10A to strike this fuzzy language and replace it with more legally-defined terms.
 
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Where to begin?

I am using the text of HR 6450 in what follows.

RECOMMENDATIONS​

The word "recommend" appears 66 times in the text if the bill. Now, I know the purpose of any review board is to make findings, and often, to make recommendations. So, I don't think it is possible to eliminate the "recommend" function, but the scope of "recommendations" must be narrowly constrained.

Consider the case of the recent Maui wildfire. From news reports I have seen, no one has been allowed inside La Haina since the fires. Insurance companies can't get in to do assessments, and as a result, banks are foreclosing on mortgages on homes that don't exist anymore and the residents have been unable to make payments because...well...they are homeless. But, I digress.

What if the NDRB were to recommend that rebuilding not resume until some threshold of wildfire prevention (TBD) be met?​

Remember, the composition of the NDRB includes those with "demonstrated knowledge in emergency management, fire management, emergency medical services, public health, physical sciences, social science, behavioral science, or architectural and engineering with post-disaster evaluation or building forensics expertise in their respective field."
  • social science, behavioral science, public health: all fields of expertise that, really, are not "hard science" and have little-or-nothing to do with natural disaster warning or prevention. But these professionals can inject social engineering agendas into what should be formally a scientific exercise
Such a recommendation "not to rebuild until" could be used as a pretext for the state of Hawaii to declare that La Haina not be rebuilt: be rezoned as [parkland or non-residential, non-commercial, whatever]; or worse, the Federal government could simply seize the land. In the absence of such a recommendation by a NDRB, the political cost of the would be too high. But this kind of "recommendation" could be enough political cover to try it. Land has been seized by government for less. (It's kinda being seized right now in Maui, just by the banks with government assistance.)

Therefore: the kind of recommendations made by the NDRB should be narrowly constrained in the law to prevent this kind of overreach.


One More Example--More Specific and Less Speculative​


Section 4(b)(4) [the Board] may, by a majority vote, decide to review any natural hazard incident that occurs after the date of enactment of this Act upon recommendation by the Office for the Protection of Disproportionately Impacted Communities of the Board, which the Office may make because of the incident’s impacts on populations that are socially, medically, or economically vulnerable, as decided by the Office;

First: why does the NDRB even need an Office for the Protection of Disproportionately Impacted Communities? (Yes, it's created by this bill.)

Second: what are the definitions of "social, medical, and economic" vulnerability? (It's not defined in the bill, but it may be defined elsewhere in the US Code. I kind of doubt it, though.) Regardless--remember that, in the absence of statutory specificity, the judgment of the government official may be substituted for the legislative intent.

Third: natural disasters are not terribly specific when it comes to which communities are affected, and what is their socioeconomic status. The only limit on the review, given the broad language (socially, medically, or economically vulnerable, as decided by the Office) would be the vote of the Board itself to accept the recommendation or not. Think of the public cost of denying such a recommendation: the accusations of bias against the "vulnerable" populations. What kind of motivation would such an Office have for making a recommendation that the NDRB set aside the statutory criteria for investigating disasters and address an event that might otherwise not meet those criteria?

Fourth: now we get to the recommendation phase, which is apart of every review. Without constraints on what kind of recommendations are permitted, it's hard to say where we will wind up here.

Oh. I Simply Can't Resist One More​


7(a)(3D) a minimum of 2 members shall have demonstrated professional experience working with populations that have historically been more vulnerable to incidents because of their race, color, nationality, sex, age, disability, English proficiency, or economic status.

This can't get more political. Honestly, I hope I do not have to explain why this clause should simply be stricken from the bill. The 7-member Board constructed in this bill will simply not be able to handle the workload given its broad scope of responsibilities and requiring 2 of the 7 to have professional experience working with "historically vulnerable" populations will only make things worse.

I think I'll stop here, for now. Unless there is interest my yammering on and on on ST, I will use DM from here.

Remember that I have said, multiple times, I have proposed amendments. You are making the assumption no amendments will occur. However, it is a basic law of politics that you don't criticize people who are working on for your cause. That would include divulging the proposed amendments and the conversation surrounding them. Bad idea, at least at this time.

Addition: Remember, most amendments occur in committee hearings. That is before a final vote on the floors of the House and Senate. You can support the bill in principle and write your congresspeople to adopt the amendments you like. If a person does not like the final bill, you can then tell your congressional delegation the final bill does not have your support.

Second, with all due respect, I think you have a couple of things backward. I have written, over and over and over, that what is going on in Lahaina is a "national disgrace" (see nearby) for the reasons you cite and for reasons beyond. The goal, I believe, is local politicians are trying to tamper with evidence of their malfeasance. Keeping in mind this is occurring without a NDRB, I don't see how you come to the conclusion a NDRB will make it worse. By having the NDRB in charge of the site, it will make tampering less likely.

Have you ever heard the expression, "don't make the perfect the enemy of the good"? That is especially true in American politics today.

We can continue to screw the people in disaster areas (if Maui officials had learned from awful Boulder wildfires that occurred 18 months before), it is possible we wouldn't be in this situation today. If the NWS continues to have its tornado warnings of continue to decrease in accuracy and continues turns radars at 7-minute intervals in tornado situations, do you think things will be better in five years than they have been?

If you think the NDRB is a bad idea, that is your right.
 

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Well, earlier I asked you to make sure the bill is appropriately amended to accomplish the goals I think we all have for the Board.

You then asked for examples of language in the bill that I think should be amended.

I gave you three.

I could give you more. I don't think that is necessary: I hope you are working on these and others.

But, now I am getting cranky. For that reason, I think it is best for me to stop participating in this particular discussion.
 
Well, earlier I asked you to make sure the bill is appropriately amended to accomplish the goals I think we all have for the Board.

You then asked for examples of language in the bill that I think should be amended.

I gave you three.

I could give you more. I don't think that is necessary: I hope you are working on these and others.

But, now I am getting cranky. For that reason, I think it is best for me to stop participating in this particular discussion.

Geoff and Everyone:

I promise
(a word I rarely use) that I am working on the issues you -- correctly -- just raised and more.

I wish I was 30 years younger and in better health so I could be the first Chair of the Board and set the tone and the nuances of operations about which you are concerned.

Please keep in mind that I am doing this, along with working with the NWS on its tornado warning and radar scan strategy issues, on my own time and on my own dollar. I take every word you write seriously. But, there is only so much time I can spend on all of this and if I unintentionally offend because a sentence is not well-phrased, I apologize.

So, here is an opportunity: If anyone wishes to offer suggestions (within reason) after reading either the Senate or House drafts, please do so. I will read them carefully and consider them.

Mike
 
Don't y'all* slap me around for this, but if the administration does not change course this year (in a big, partisan, way), this bill as filed will just permit more government usurpation of states' and citizens' rights.

When I see this kind of obviously partisan, ideological messaging entering the discussion, it just turns me off to the whole thing. (And no doubt, many others.) What Mike has described is a bipartisan bill. Listening to all the discussion here, I do not really know to what extent, in practice, it would help in solving a problem that is very real. But I do know that as soon as you inject this kind of partisan, ideological rhetoric into the discussion, it will eliminate any chance of passing such a bill, because people of whatever viewpoint is perceived as being under attack will withdraw their support. There are other examples of political ideology getting injected into this discussion if you go back farther in this thread and others on the topic. If that continues, that will be the thing that kills any chance of legislation to address the problem of warnings not being disseminated in a timely, effective way and the tragic consequences that can lead to.
 
While I do agree with a lot of the concerns @gdlewen has put forth, I think @John Farley is correct when it comes to the discussion of politics. I honestly don't think it can even be done anymore without becoming it's own monster. Too often, overblown emotional responses will derail whatever the initial discussion was based on to the detriment of the original point. I think this idea is a good one, and I appreciate the time several of you have dedicated to crafting thoughtful responses. It's that type of communication that makes a good idea a great one.
 
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