Pres. Bush Sr. tours lower Cameron Parish

By Lee Peck - bio | email

CAMERON, LOUISIANA (KPLC) - Taking to the skies Tuesday morning, former President George H.W. Bush and former U.S. Secretary Jim Baker got an aerial tour of lower Cameron Parish. It's a trip two years in the making for Bush Sr., who last time here donated two-million dollars from the Bush-Clinton Recovery Fund to help rebuild South Cameron Memorial Hospital. Now fully operational, Bush got a tour of the state of the art hospital he helped build.

"I think it's great! Drastic changes with the hospital manifestation. It's state of the art. It's a wonderful facility and now what it needs is the visibility of Cameron coming back and more people coming to this beautiful facility here. It's here, it's available and it's helping people who work offshore, in the community, those who are in highway accidents. They're prepared to serve them, and I'm very proud of what they've done," said Bush.

Since Bush's last visit, Cameron was hit hard by Hurricane Ike and once again he and Clinton are doing what they can to raise recovery dollars.

"I was at the Houston Rockets game last night and they handed me a check for 100,000 dollars for this recovery fund in the process they beat the Hornets... Laughs... I don't want to cause any hard feelings here," joked Bush.

All joking aside, unlike Hurricanes Katrina and Rita the money isn't there - the focus shifting after Ike to the nation's economic tsunami.

"Frankly it has not been easy this time," said Baker.

As of now, the Bush-Clinton Recovery Fund has raised 2.7 million dollars for a storm that left behind 27-billion dollars worth of damage along the Gulf coast.

"So we're under no illusions that there's no way we can raise the kind of money privately that is needed, but every dollar we raise is a dollar that wouldn't be there if we didn't do it," said Baker.

State and Cameron officials are also asking Bush's assistance to resolve the controversial new v-zone flood maps determined by FEMA, which ultimately is holding up housing assistance and long-term recovery.

"Our concern is that if they insist on using their inaccurate maps, that could actually impede the recovery process. Indeed it could lead to the deobligation of ongoing projects. Our people want to build safer and stronger but they want to do so on the best available science and best available maps," said Governor Bobby Jindal.

After a closed door meeting with the Bush-Clinton Recovery Fund Committee, Cameron Parish Officials are encouraged.

"The committee meeting went very well. The committee is looking at some small projects that we've given them and they will possibly fund one of them," said Cameron Parish Administrator Tina Horn.

"I feel like our concerns were heard loud and clear. Our number one issue is not the amount of money the foundation can donate, but it's the difference they may be able to make in our fight against using these new elevation maps that have not proven yet to being scientifically accurate," said Cameron Schools Superintendent Stephanie Rodrigue.

"It was a short meeting, but I feel it was a very productive meeting. We were able to get the three main high points out about the V-zones and the struggle that our people are having with rebuilding. Basically because we have to get this settled as well as the cost funding and cost sharing settled for our demolition and debris operations in order for our people to get back to rebuilding," said Cameron OEP Director Clifton Hebert.

"And they've really got some constructive ideas to help us with the challenges and all the problems we're facing now. I think we can get something done," said Cameron Parish Assistant District Attorney Jennifer Jones.