Gov. Bobby Jindal is showing how it should be done. A week after Hurricane Gustav's landfall on the central Louisiana coast, the metro areas of Houma and Baton Rouge remain largely without power. Hurricane Ike threatens to strike later this week; the governor has already requested a state of emergency be declared in anticipation.
Rather than wait for federal dollars, the governor is buying supplies and revving up kitchens. He spent nearly $14 million in less than a week on generators to power up gas stations, pharmacies grocery stores. He sent the National Guard to pick up tarps in Texas. Universities shuttered by the storm are cooking for hurricane victims. None of this was planned. The Jindal administration is making decisions on the fly as problems unfold.
Gustav gives a glimpse into the governor’s management style and is triggering talk of a White House run in 2012.
Former Insurance Commissioner Jim Brown said Jindal is clearly the one in charge at press conferences even when he is in the company of Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff and other high-ranking officials.
In those press conferences, Jindal spouts a stream of information without seeming to take a breath. He rattles off wind speed, shelter populations, commodity numbers, power outage estimates, phone numbers, websites, damage descriptions and problem areas.
“I’d give Jindal some very high marks because he micromanaged the whole thing,” Brown said.
“I have to say, I give him an A plus,” [Democratic Lt. Gov. Mitch] Landrieu said.
Alan Levine, secretary of the state Department of Health and Hospitals, said Jindal is very hands-on and demands information regardless of how small the situations.
Levine, who came from Florida where he was part of then-Gov. Jeb Bush’s hurricane team, said Jindal is more engaged than his former boss.
For instance, on Monday, while high winds were buffeting Baton Rouge, word came there were generator problems and an oxygen shortage at the Pete Maravich Assembly Center on the LSU campus, where several hundred medical patients were housed.
Jindal jumped into his car and demanded to leave immediately to investigate the problem, Levine said.
At meetings, “I’m not sure” or “I think” are not acceptable answers, Louisiana State Police Col. Mike Edmonson said.
Jindal is quick to say “That’s not acceptable” as he did when Entergy estimated it would take six weeks to restore power in some areas, Edmonson said.