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How Mitt Romney governed during natural disasters

November 1, 2012 - Mike Maneval
In the wake of this week's horrific storm that pummeled the East Coast, voters may find themselves wondering how Republican presidential nominee and former Massachusetts Governor Mitt Romney might handle a natural disaster, were he to be elected on Tuesday. There are indications from his tenure leading the Bay State, and they are not promising.

Early in 2004, the town of Peabody, Mass., flooded after heavy rains - flooding severe enough that then-Governor Mitt Romney requested President George W. Bush declare the county in which Peabody is located and two neighboring counties federal disaster areas. Several months later, the state legislature proposed spending $5.7 million on flood prevention projects for the region.

Romney vetoed the funding.

Romney's explanation of the veto was that his office lacked information about the planning and necessity of the projects, a claim local officials flatly said was untrue and a claim baffling when one considers Romney months before had enough information to request a federal disaster designation.

"I think it was just the fact that Romney didn't understand these issues," said Democratic state Rep. Dan Bosley, according to Ryan Grim of the Huffington Post.

"He didn't understand infrastructure improvements. It was just the bottom line. He never visited communities. He never understood the issues. He never sat down with mayors or city managers," said John Barrett, the Democratic mayor of North Adams, also according to the Huffington Post's report.

And Romney didn't improve after the flooding in Peabody - if anything, his record got worse. In reports from the Lowell Sun republished by Esquire magazine and The Slog, Seattle newspaper The Stranger's political blog, Romney resisted spending either millions in federal money already disbursed for disaster relief or any of the about $1 billion the state had in cash reserves on assisting his constituents struggling after flooding in May, 2006. According to the Lowell Sun, "Romney has failed to even respond to the Lowell delegation's requests to discuss additional aid for victims."

As Americans learn more about the damage and heartache New Jersey and Atlantic Coast communities face in the coming months, they should also consider if Americans confronting disaster deserve better from their government than the foot-dragging and negligence of preventive measures Romney's record exemplifies.


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