Gov. Malloy appoints members to Irene review panel
HARTFORD -- While the Legislature has embarked on a review of the state's preparedness and response to Tropical Storm Irene, Gov. Dannel P. Malloy on Tuesday appointed a panel of his own.
The governor said he will direct the group, called the State Team Organized for the Review of Management of Irene to review the response to the wind-driven deluge that caused massive flooding and power outages for hundreds of thousands throughout the state.
"We need an honest assessment of what we did right, what we could have done better and what needs to be done the next time we have a weather-related event such as Tropical Storm Irene," Malloy said. "This isn't about pointing fingers or placing blame, it's about making sure that we are as prepared as we can be the next time this sort of event occurs."
The General Assembly's multi-committee investigation into preparedness and response is tentatively set to begin its work next Monday.
Among the eight people of diverse backgrounds appointed to the STORM Irene panel is Joseph McGee, vice president for public policy and programs for the Business Council of Fairfield County, who said Tuesday he expects the group to use the information gathered by the legislative inquiry.
"We had a bad storm in March and a bad storm with Irene, so what are we learning?" McGee said in a phone interview from his Stamford office. "Are there better practices that we should learn here? And in a bigger issue, as we get severe storms, what are the lessons we learn from this?"
McGee, who was named co-chairman of the panel, said that if weather patterns are changing, officials have to look at the Connecticut infrastructure. "We have to study the lessons learned and take a bigger look, going forward, on how we can protect ourselves."
Other committee members include James Skiff, a retired U.S. Army major general who will be the other co-chairman; Peter Carozza, president of the Uniformed Professional Fire Fighters union; Terry Edelstein, president of the Connecticut Community Providers Association; Lee Hoffman, a Hartford-based lawyer; Hamden Mayor Scott Jackson, Robert McGrath, former Stamford fire chief; and First Selectman Cathy Osten, of Sprague in New London County.
Hoffman, with the Pullman & Comley law firm where he specializes in environmental law and energy and utility issues, agreed in a phone interview Tuesday that looking ahead to preparation and reaction to future storm events is paramount.
"I think the biggest thing for the committee to accomplish is to give the citizens of Connecticut a sense of what we have done correctly and what can we improve upon in the future," he said.
Rep. Kim Fawcett, D-Fairfield, one of the first lawmakers to call for inquiries this month after the tropical storm left flooding damage and power outages throughout her district, said Tuesday she's now satisfied with the state's commitment to looking ahead.
"At the end of the day, what happened, happened, right?" Fawcett said Tuesday. "So the best thing going forward is to find out why the lapses in communications occurred, so down the road, when we face circumstances like this, we'll be prepared. There were whole communities that felt like they were in the dark."