Center of the storm
You probably could understand if Wally Stickney - the former state transportation commissioner who went on to become head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency under the first President Bush - were having a flashback or two in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
After all, Stickney was the guy who oversaw FEMA’s response to Hurricane Andrew in 1992, itself one of the most devastating storms to hit the United States.
The hurricane, which hit on Aug. 24, leveled a 50-mile slice of southern Florida, leaving nearly 200,000 residents homeless and 1.3 million without electricity. Stickney’s FEMA came under attack almost immediately for its initial failure to respond, followed by a slow, uneven effort that was widely assailed as incompetent. Stickney himself later admitted that the response was inadequate and should have been quicker and larger.
But besides the pathetic responses themselves, the most striking similarity between the federal reaction to Andrew and Katrina has been the growing bipartisan criticism of the agency - criticism that usually includes the observation that FEMA has become a way station for political friends and favorites. In fact, a House Appropriations Committee report issued after Andrew observed that FEMA “is widely viewed as a political dumping ground, ‘a turkey farm’ ... where large numbers of positions exist that can be conveniently and quietly filled by political appointment.”
Stickney himself became a favorite target of Democrats, who were eager to attack President Bush over the pathetic response to Andrew. It was frequently pointed out that Stickney was both a close friend and one-time next door neighbor to one-time Bush Chief of Staff John H. Sununu.
Then again, what would you expect from an agency populated by what former South Carolina Sen. Ernest Hollings had called “the sorriest bunch of bureaucratic jackasses I’ve ever known”?
A driving force
Nashua Mayor Bernie Streeter has finally put an unnecessarily embarrassing episode behind him with the completion of more than 50 hours of court-mandated community service ordered after he pleaded no contest to traffic charges stemming from a rather ugly confrontation earlier this year with a cab driver in Manchester.
Police charged that Streeter - while driving a city-leased Crown Victoria in the Queen City — hit the cab while trying to turn left from the right lane of a two-lane, one-way street. After the crash, Streeter exchanged some rather loud words at the cab driver - basically telling him, “Do you know who I am?” — and left the scene.
Streeter - who could have faced a more substantial penalty - was eventually ordered to pay a $2,400 fine, pay $1,076 in restitution to the taxi company and write a letter of apology to the cab driver. He also agreed to perform the 50 hours of community service in Manchester.
Streeter seems to have learned a lesson, although the lesson he learned may not actually have been the one he needed to.
The one he says he learned was “exchange information, don’t exchange words.” Which is correct, to a point.
The better one actually may have been learning a little humility. But one step at a time.
Ray Burton has been re-elected so many times to his Executive Council post that New Hampshire politicos have often assumed that the only way he would be leaving his office would be feet first.
But the recent revelation that Burton had employed a convicted sex offender - and kept him on the payroll even after learning of the man’s sexual assault conviction involving a 17-year-old boy - may have revealed another way for Burton to lose his office: through a self-inflicted disaster.
In fact, what first emerged as a shocking, and creepy, report in the Concord Monitor threatens to rock the famed Burton North Country political machine to its core.
Burton, it turns out, has had the offender - Mark Seidensticker - on his payroll since the early 1990s.
Burton told the Monitor that he hadn’t heard of the 1992 attempted assault conviction of Seidensticker - he was convicted of attempted sexual assault for grabbing a 17-year-old boy from behind while pressing his genitals against the boy’s back — until several years after it happened. He told the paper he decided to keep Seidensticker on the payroll, but warned him to stay away from children on the campaign trail. He also said he kept him under “strict supervision.”
Not strict enough, apparently. The 45-year-old Seidensticker was arrested last month in Concord on charges of inappropriate contact with teenage boys.
Before that, he was convicted in Littleton District Court in 1998, and in York, Maine, in 2002 and 2004, of violating a requirement that he register as a sex offender.
Said Burton of the latest charge and jailing of his longtime aide: “It’s one of those sad situations.”
Making the rounds...
• Do you think the state Dems might actually find a candidate this time to run against Tom Eaton in Senate District 10?
• The drumbeat for Steve Taylor to run against Ray Burton has been getting a lot louder.
• Has Ray Burton seen the writing on the wall?
• Count Doug Scamman among the folks happy to see Tom Eaton go.
• Is former 1st CD Democratic candidate Justin Nadeau about to go Hollywood?
• The mystery Democratic challenger to Executive Councilor Ruth Griffin? Mary Rauh.
F&J TOTE BOARD
The state Dem vice chairman’s written apology to the Hudson and New Ipswich police chiefs whom he accused of racial profiling actually contains the phrase, “...I could have been more careful with my words, and I wasn’t — and I am sorry for that.” Has Ripley’s Believe It Or Not been notified?
Someone might want to lend him a copy of the business management book, “It’s Not What You Say ... It’s What You Do.”
AMY IRELAND BOURGAULT AND JAY FLANDERS:
Tom Eaton’s chief of staff and deputy chief better get those resumes dusted off ASAP.
Eaton’s least favorite Senate majority leader has enough power now that he can sell the surplus to PSNH.
The longest-serving executive councilor may be the ultimate victim in the Bill O’Reilly-Joe McQuaid battle over child sex abuse laws.
The former House speaker makes some non-corn roast-related waves over his forecast that the state’s E-ZPass system is creating an $8 million shortfall that’s only going to get worse.