During a campaign stop in Conway on Tuesday morning, presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg unveiled a new plan that looks to improve disaster preparedness and recovery efforts when Mother Nature strikes.
With a slew of natural disasters continually impacting communities throughout the nation, including extreme flooding in Conway last year following Hurricane Florence, the South Bend, Indiana, mayor revealed his full disaster relief and resiliency plan before roughly 200 supporters at the Riverwalk.
“These disasters upend lives,” Buttigieg said. “We can’t stop all natural disasters from striking, but we can control how we prepare for and recover from them.”
Buttigieg’s plan aims to improve coordination between and among communities and federal agencies by creating a new community-centered Disaster Commission. It would also create a culture of resilience, by fortifying current infrastructure and encouraging apt adaptions through Regional Resilience hubs.
Additionally, the plan would revamp immediate disaster relief following an extreme event by increasing the number of FEMA-qualified trained disaster workers and protecting the Disaster Relief Fund.
“Washington can’t solve this problem alone,” Buttigieg said. “We need to figure out how to bring aid to people, not make people figure out how to access the aid they need.”
While noting the number of grants offered to help cities and counties prepare for natural disasters and rebuild, he said the funding “mostly” comes only after disaster strikes and can be complicated and confusing to access. Even when sufficient funding is available for a particular disaster, it may take years to reach those in need, he said.
“We must make it easy for people to get help and allow agencies, state and local government officials, and volunteer organizations to quickly and effectively coordinate a wide range of resources and programs,” Buttigieg said. “People at their most vulnerable time should not have to navigate a bureaucratic maze in order to get a roof over their heads.”
Buttigieg said the idea for an emergency plan stemmed from being forced to activate an emergency operation center twice in two years in his hometown — the first time for a 1,000-year flood, the next for a 500-year flood. While several presidential candidates have delved into climate change, he cited climate change for exacerbating the need to improve disaster preparedness and recovery efforts.
If elected president in 2020, Buttigieg pledged to set up a community-centered Disaster Commission within his first 100 days in office to review and make recommendations to streamline the process for disaster preparedness and recovery. He also plans to focus on the children imprisoned in border detention centers, calling it a “Day 1 priority.”
Buttigieg is part of a crowded field of Democrats vying for the presidential nomination that includes former Vice President Joe Biden, and U.S. senators Kamala Harris, of California; Cory Booker, of New Jersey; Elizabeth Warren, of Massachusetts; and Bernie Sanders, of Vermont.
While Buttigieg acknowledged his out-of-order career approach to seeking the presidency — serving as Mayor of South Bend since 2012 while also his serving in the U.S. Navy Reserve — he said he’s concerned for the country, explaining that “we are in a kind of crisis right now that our country might be under-reacting to.”
When facing some of the nations biggest challenges, he asserted the American people are currently divided, doubtful and discouraged.
“I think the stakes are just too big right now for us to take any of this sitting down because we’re been living with crises and problems that have been allowed to build up over the course of an entire generation,” Buttigieg said.
Buttigieg stressed that politics is personal matter, contending how national politicians spend more time fighting with each other than providing improvements for the average citizen.
“I believe that’s what we’ve got to change,” the combat veteran said. “We have leaders that are pitting us against each other and dividing us and they’re doing it in the name of the very values that are supposed to bring us together — like talking about the flag and patriotism — that’s supposed to be something that brings us together.”
Buttigieg also touched upon several issues, including climate change, a Medicare-for-all program for those who want it, combating systemic racism, bolstering the economy, increasing wages, restoring global leadership and bridging the gap to unify America.
“I understand that politics is about our everyday lives and the decisions that are made in the big white buildings in Washington affect us everyday,” Buttigieg said. “This is a time to unify the American people and I believe that’s what the presidency is for.”