By JOYCE M. ROSENBERG
NEW YORK (AP) â¿¿ When a witness at a March Senate hearing on small business accused state and local governments of not doing enough to prepare for disasters, he got a sharp retort from the committee chair.
"You're talking, with all due respect, to a person who had a whole city go under water," said Mary Landrieu, the Louisiana Democrat who heads the Senate Committee on Small Business & Entrepreneurship, as she refuted a charge that state and local officials aren't inclined to prepare for disasters because they expect financial help from the federal government.
"That is not the experience in Louisiana," Landrieu said. "All 64 parishes are just frightened to death that Katrina's going to happen to them."
When Landrieu became chair of the committee in 2009, she was well aware of the struggles that small companies deal with when a disaster strikes. Businesses in her state were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. The state was hit again in 2010 by the Gulf oil spill, and last year, by Hurricane Isaac. She comes from a political family that has served locally, across her state, and nationally. Her father, Moon, is a former mayor of New Orleans and was Secretary of Housing and Urban Development under President Jimmy Carter. Her brother, Mitch, is the current New Orleans mayor and also served as Louisiana's lieutenant governor.
Landrieu brings all of that perspective to the committee that oversees the Small Business Administration, the agency charged with helping small businesses grow and providing aid after a disaster. After Superstorm Sandy swept across several East Coast states last fall, Landrieu campaigned in Congress for aid for the shattered coastline.
"I'm going to step up for New York, New Jersey and the East Coast," she said. "We know what a successful recovery needs."