RISE Never Rose to Occasion
Successful military professionals understand the importance of learning from their mistakes. Severe defeats are studied, a period of soul-searching ensues, and sometimes — but not always — corrections are made to avoid catastrophes in the future.
So let us hope Major General James Hoyer, who as adjutant general commands the state National Guard, insists on a thorough debriefing once the infamous RISE West Virginia program becomes less of a headache. Let us also hope state legislators ask for no-holds-barred recommendations — and follow them.
In June 2016, several southern counties were devastated by flash floods. Hundreds of homes were destroyed or damaged badly.
Assume you were a high school graduate living in one of those homes that summer. Perhaps, somehow, your family could afford to help you with higher education, and you were preparing to head off to college.
Now, having finished work on your baccalaureate degree, you will graduate this spring.
And, though the state had $150 million to help your family and others hurt by the flood, it is entirely possible the family homestead has not yet been rebuilt or replaced.
Blame part of the delay on Washington. It was not until February 2018 that the federal government released nearly $150 million intended to help West Virginia recover from the floods.
But then, the Mountain State bureaucracy — as if to show the feds a thing or two about red tape — took over the delay through the RISE flood relief initiative. After a few months, that prompted Gov. Jim Justice to pull RISE out of the Department of Commerce and hand the mess to Hoyer and the National Guard.
Yet RISE has proceeded at a pace that must frustrate Hoyer. His last report on the program, issued Jan. 24, was that the total number of homes completed was 111. A substantial number of those were mobile homes, by the way.
Hoyer added that 80 homes were “in active construction.” Of the total 368 active housing cases being handled by RISE, 87 still “are awaiting a Request for Quotation (RFQ) or are being analyzed via the case management process…”
More than three and a half years after the floods, some victims’ cases are still being analyzed.
State legislators have been trying to cut some of the red tape. Just this week, they approved a bill they hope will prompt more construction companies to bid on flood-recovery housing projects. Lawmakers seem hopeful the measure will help.
But they have been hopeful previously. Still, at least from the viewpoint of West Virginians waiting for help, RISE has proceeded at a snail’s pace.
This is no reflection on the National Guard. Its members are fellow West Virginians and, because of their military culture, they no doubt are upset about RISE, too.
Exactly, in detail, what went wrong? Hoyer should prepare a detailed report on that for lawmakers, who ought to take his recommendations to heart. This isn’t the last disaster from which Mountain State residents will need help recovering.
I’ve written about this several times, to the point I worry a bit about beating a dead horse.
That, though, is the problem. Despite well publicized efforts to revive him, the horse is still dead.
Myer can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org.