OUR OPINION: Governments show expeditious response

Phil Bryant and the Mississippi Legislature moved swiftly in recent days to get the first round of state disaster assistance on its way to Tupelo, Lee and Itawamba counties as well as other areas affected by last week’s tornadoes.

The responsiveness of state and federal officials to the plight of local elected leaders and residents has so far been commendably expeditious, as Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton notes in the adjacent column.

What we are seeing is intra-governmental cooperation at its best, with each level performing the functions that people expect from their elected and appointed officials in an efficient and effective manner.

Partisanship has taken a back seat to getting the job done for the people and communities that need help.

Much has been said about the way communities affected by the storm have rallied together to help themselves in an outpouring of mutual aid and support. That has to inspire government officials to follow the people’s example and lend each other aid.

The notion that government is the enemy tends to be less prevalent in times like these. Sure, there are botched responses to natural disasters – the FEMA effort after Hurricane Katrina in 2005 being a prime example – but the need for government assistance is never more pronounced than in such crises.

Private fundraising is a necessary part of any recovery effort, and there are many ways to tap into the generosity of people who want to tangibly help those who are hurting. Saturday’s Mediathon in which the Daily Journal collaborated with WTVA and other local media to benefit a disaster relief fund established by the Journal’s owner, the CREATE Foundation, is one example.

But the role of government in financing and managing recovery from a natural disaster is indispensable.

Mississippi is a state with an uncommonly high incidence of natural disasters, notably tornadoes and hurricanes. We would never have fully recovered from the blows these storms have dealt our state without the federal and state disaster relief that has come in their wake.

In an era where it is popular to disparage government, it’s important to remember that expecting the private sector to completely shoulder the work and cost of tornado recovery is to expect the impossible. There are some functions that we absolutely have to have government to do, and when government does it well, accolades are deserved.

And local governments can’t do it alone. The burden local taxpayers would have to carry would be enormous and untenable. Federal and state help is absolutely essential.

The city of Tupelo, Lee County and other governmental entities affected by the April 28 tornadoes have acquitted themselves well in the early days of the recovery. The road ahead is long, but if each level of government continues to show the responsiveness and competence demonstrated so far, we’ll be in good shape when the journey ends.