Labor Secretary, Invoking Katrina, Praises Obama’s Response to Irene

By Susan Jones | August 30, 2011 | 4:21 AM EDT

U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (AP File Photo)

( In a statement marking the sixth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina on Monday, U.S. Labor Secretary Hilda Solis praised the Obama administration for being “ready” for Hurricane Irene, a weaker storm that has some people criticizing government officials as well as the media for inflating its threat.

"Last week, as the specter of Hurricane Irene loomed, the Obama administration was ready, deploying assistance teams to staging bases up and down the East Coast. They were armed with emergency supplies and detailed contingency plans well before the storm arrived,” Solis said.

“This type of coordinated response is what Americans expect and deserve from their government. We must never again be caught flat-footed,” she added.

Solis says she will never forget seeing “the poor families and terrified children” in New Orleans’ Ninth Ward, when she visited the city six years ago as a member of Congress.

“Katrina was a wake-up call to this country about the plight facing our most vulnerable families and the critical role that Washington can and must play to support local communities before, during and after a major disaster,” she said. "Despite what some politicians say, public servants and policymakers in Washington can help save and rebuild lives during times of profound crisis.”

Solis praised President Barack Obama for having “recommitted our government to work more closely than ever before with local officials in New Orleans.” She pointed to the administration’s “Strong Cities, Strong Communities" partnership, which “is putting experts on the ground and putting resources at the city’s disposal to make New Orleans whole again.”

Praising the “indomitable” spirit of the city, Solis said she believes that when New Orleans has its 300th birthday in 2018 – seven years from now, and 13 years after Katrina hit – “we will celebrate the remarkable rebirth of a truly world class American city.”

Irene was the first hurricane to hit the U.S. since Obama became president. Not only did he issue a statement from the White House Rose Garden on Sunday, but the White House also released photos of the president getting briefed at FEMA's command center in Washington, D.C.

Obama said the toll could have been much higher had it not been for preparation and coordination by FEMA and other emergency personnel. "This has been an exemplary effort of how good government at every level should be responsive to people's needs and work to keep them safe and protect and promote the nation's prosperity," the president said on Sunday.