Tuesday, September 12, 2006


Frère Bush talks out of both sides of his mouth, too

Last week, NPR reported about building codes in Florida. Because of the hurricane danger, Florida requires storm shutters on all houses, except in the panhandle. That's because it was thought that few severe hurricanes hit the panhandle. With four recent whallops, they're reconsidering that.

Governor Jeb Bush, in his State of the State address, talked about that issue:

I also hope that you'll remove current exemptions from our building code, to create a statewide uniform code that is based on science instead of politics, and will ensure new construction in our state will withstand hurricanes.
Indeed; very sensible, and exactly the right thing to do. As the NPR report goes on to tell us:
That key phrase, "based on science", referred to a study underway by engineering consultants looking into the impact of hurricane winds in the panhandle. A few months later, when the results were in, engineers found that there actually was a case to be made for treating the building code in the panhandle differently than in the rest of the state.
A representative of the Florida Homebuilders' Association explained that the case comes from the fact that the elevation of the panhandle is higher than that of the rest of the state, and there are more trees there:
So when you incorporate a higher elevation and a highly forested area, then you have natural breaches for wind to slow down as it is moving across the region.

That's all fine, but remember that we have conflicting interests here, apart from those of the homeowners (who simply want their houses to weather the storms):

  • The builders do not want to have to build in shutters, because it increases the cost of building the house.
  • The insurance companies want the shutters there, to minimize their losses in the event of a storm that creates wind damage despite the trees.
The interests of the latter specifically came up in a meeting between state officials and Lloyd's of London. As NPR reports:
After that meeting, Jeb Bush sent a letter to Florida's building commission asking members to disregard the engineering report. Instead, he asked them to adopt for the panhandle the same strict standards in effect elsewhere in the state.

Yes, well, so much for science over politics. When he expects the science to support his politics, he tells us that we should base our decision on science. When it turns out that the science goes the other way, the other side of his mouth tells us to "disregard" the science and go with the politics. That is, appease the insurers, because they are, after all, the business interests that Bush-league politics is all about.

A friend points out that this isn't really Bush-specific, nor even republican-specific, but represents the behaviour of essentially all politicians. I accept that to a point, but I think the political right pave new roads in this regard.

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