Monday, August 29, 2011

Weatherproof Politicians Get The Best of 'Irene'

As Hurricane Irene blasted the East Coast this weekend, Newark Mayor Cory Booker took to Twitter:

"CoryBooker Stopping at Barringer High shelter now with pizza, soda & water. Forgive me Michelle Obama, not the healthiest late night snack."

"CoryBooker If u have problems finding diapers please DM me your # so we can talk. @darkangel1321"

"CoryBooker Incredible. My chief of staff just went 2 get a woman from Court St out in storm selling papers. I told him 2 buy her out &get her 2 shelter"

He masterfully used the social media network to reassure and inform residents about shelter locations, street closings and the dangers of driving during the storm.

He even mixed in some storm humor to keep spirits high:

"CoryBooker JFK Rec Center shelter is pet friendly. I met a nice dog there earlier. He wasnt that talkative but I could tell he liked his accommodations"

His Tweets were so personal and so around-the-clock — and with the occasional typo — that he received more than one Tweet asking if it really was him at the keyboard.

His response:

"CoryBooker I got bout 2hrs sleep & its really me wet and wired on caffeine RT @LizaTulip Have u been up all night? Is this truly you, Mayor?"

But Booker wasn’t just Tweeting from some waterproof command center. He was out and about during the height of the storm, going door-to-door to talk to city dwellers about evacuating, delivering pizzas to shelters and first-responders and talking to the media.

His response to Hurricane Irene was impressive and just-right, and it was just one example of the real leadership we witnessed this weekend from state and local officials who seemed to know just what to say to keep people safe and prepared while minimizing panic.

New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie started early and declared a state of emergency on Thursday before the storm, mobilizing the National Guard and now-famously directing people to “get the hell off the beach.” His I’m-not-fooling-around stance had to have made residents think twice before sticking around to check out the waves.

In New York City, Mayor Mike Bloomberg presided over the evacuation of hundreds of thousands of New York City residents and a shutdown of the city’s subway. It was a risky move, and there will always be Monday morning quarterbacks who say it was an over-reaction. But it was the right thing to do.

As we learned from Hurricane Katrina, there’s no way to predict exactly what Mother Nature has planned. If Irene had been just a smidge more intense, the residents of New York City would have been in grave danger had they stuck around.

When the storm passed, Bloomberg Tweeted that "#Irene has brought out the best in NY’ers. Our city took it seriously and rose to the occasion."

We think the same could be said about many of our East Coast mayors and governors, including some of our own officials here in Massachusetts, including Governor Deval Patrick and New Bedford Mayor Scott Lang.

Whether you believe in big or small government, most everyone wants to feel that their public officials are looking out for them when disaster strikes, or threatens to strike. We want to know that they are in the trenches with us.

Most of the time, it’s easy to criticize political figures for not rising to the occasion. But in this case, they did exactly what they are elected to do.

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