Obama Concedes That FEMA Director Not Visiting Rhode Island

By Fred Lucas | April 2, 2010 | 11:49 AM EDT

President Barack Obama (AP Photo)

(CNSNews.com) – Speaking to a Democratic fundraiser in Boston, President Barack Obama corrected himself, acknowledging that the director of the Federal Emergency Management Administration (FEMA), schedule to be in Orlando, would not be going to flood-ravaged Rhode Island.
“And tomorrow, Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and FEMA director -- FEMA Deputy Administrator Rich Serino, who is a Boston native, by the way -- will be visiting Rhode Island to tour some of the hardest hit areas and make sure that we are doing everything we can,” the president told the crowd at the Democratic National Committee fundraising event in Boston.
The day after Obama issued an emergency declaration for Rhode Island, the hardest hit state in the New England flooding; FEMA Administrator Craig Fugate was in Orlando, Fla.,  giving a speech on Wednesday.
At this point there has been no announced visit from Fugate, said Steve Kass, public information officer for the Rhode Island Emergency Management Agency,
“As for Mr. Fugate, as far as I know there are no plans for him to come here, but we don’t know that for sure obviously,” Kass told CNSNews.com.
Before going to the fundraiser in Boston, Obama and Massachusetts Democratic Gov. Deval Patrick met in  Framingham, Mass. to speak to emergency workers. Patrick was also at the fundraising event with Obama Thursday evening in Boston. 

William Craig Fugate, administrator of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (Photo from FEMA Web site)

“Before I begin, I want to say a few words about the record flooding that’s been sweeping across a large portion of New England,” Obama told the DNC crowd. “I stopped by the Massachusetts Emergency Management Agency with Deval earlier today to be briefed on relief and recovery efforts, and I want everybody to know that we are working closely, minute by minute, with authorities in both states to provide the necessary assistance.”
Obama praised the efforts of the emergency workers.
“It is worth reminding people at a time when folks who work in government don’t get enough credit that when times are tough, when trouble arises, there are all kinds of civil servants out there who are working 24/7 in order to help folks and I think it’s worth remembering that when you hear some of the rhetoric out there,” Obama said.
FEMA spokesman Brad Caroll said, “The FEMA administrator [Fugate] has been in Florida this week attending the National Hurricane Conference, meeting with key partners as we prepare for the upcoming Hurricane Season. He remains in contact with Secretary Napolitano, state and local officials, congressional representatives and first responders on the ground as we work to support the ongoing response to the flooding. Rich Serino, the Deputy Administrator at FEMA, a career first responder and Boston native, will travel to Rhode Island in support of Secretary Napolitano tomorrow as they survey the damage and meet with state and local officials to make sure that they have the resources they need as we confront these floods.”
Rhode Island’s Republican Gov. Don Carcieri described the flooding in Rhode Island as the worst in the state in 200 years. In addition to rivers overflowing their banks, state officials are worried about the stress being placed on old dams. They are also worried about an environmental catastrophe because of raw sewage flowing from flooded treatment plants into Narragansett Bay.
Though a presidential visit to Rhode Island has not been announced, Obama is responsive, Kass said.
“The president has been in touch with Gov. Carcieri. He called him yesterday. He gave the governor his personal, private phone line,” Kass told CNSNews.com. “It was very interesting. He said to the governor, ‘if Washington is not responding properly or not fast enough for you please call me directly,’ which I was just blown away by. I thought that was amazing, and we’re very appreciative of it.”