Many words have been written about the failure of leadership. For many who followed last week’s special session, most disappointing for the hundreds of families who have lost everything was the failure of leadership to address the immediate housing needs. To quote the words of Robert K. Greenleaf the founder of the modern Servant Leadership, “The most serious failure of leadership is the failure to foresee.”
Notwithstanding comments that the legislature will address long term housing needs in January, the rhetorical question which necessarily needs to be asked is what should the hundreds of families that have lost everything do in the meantime? One only needs to drive the roads of the flood ravaged region to understand that these families cannot wait until January. These families need help today, not tomorrow or for that matter next year.
Many families have lost everything, and many more families are living in uninhabitable structures because they do not have anywhere else to go. Despite the efforts to obtain temporary housing for those in desperate need for housing, one is left to wonder where these temporary trailers will be located. More importantly, how much will these temporary trailers cost, and will there be enough temporary trailers for all those in need. The last estimate is that 1,700 hundred homes were completely destroyed and hundreds more need significant repairs to make the homes habitable.
Admittedly, many of these homes cannot be rebuilt in flood zones. But that realization still does not address the rhetorical question of what will it take before the legislature decides that the emergency cannot wait until next January to be addressed? In the words of Senator Brandon Smith, “If this turns into a crisis, or we have deaths, from incidences of people being outside in the worst of weather, then we have got to come back in here and fix that. That’s the risk of not addressing this now.” Senator Smith and other legislator’s, including Rep. John Blanton, Rep. Angie Hatton, Rep. Chris Fugate, and Rep. Ashley Lafferty understand that without immediate housing assistance to either rebuild or repair the homes lost in the flood, the flood crisis will continue for the near future. The housing needs of the people should take priority over funding for the repair of roads, bridges, schools, and the needs of county governments.
What is most amazing to even the casual observer is that the folks in Frankfort never hesitated a moment when the people of the mountains were pouring millions of dollars into the state coffers in the form of mineral severance taxes. And of course, the same people who toiled in coal mines throughout the region, people who generated millions in severance tax dollars are now the same people who need Frankfort’s help, help which is needed now, not next year.
Just maybe, the first order of business in the next session would be to consider different leadership, leadership that understands the suffering of the hundreds of Eastern Kentuckians who have lost everything. Sadly, now that the special session is over, the needs of the flood victims will fade from the front pages of the news, and it will not take long before the flood victims will be left to fend for their own needs.
If there is anything positive which has come out of the tragic events of the flood is that the Church has taken the lead and reemerged as the body that can be counted on to help the people of the mountains. From Samaritan’s Purse to Baptist Disaster Services to Lutheran Disaster Services, and so many other Church organizations, the Church has come together to assist without requesting a single government dollar.
In the end, even before the next session in Frankfort gavels the opening of the January session, there is little doubt that the Church will step forward and begin rebuilding and restoring the homes of Eastern Kentuckians. This is the leadership which has the ability to foresee the needs of the people today, and tomorrow, and for the months and years necessary to rebuild and restore the homes of so many.