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www.suntimes.com

Daley 'shocked' as feds reject aid

September 3, 2005

BY STEPHANIE ZIMMERMANN AND SCOTT FORNEK Staff Reporters

A visibly angry Mayor Daley said the city had offered emergency, medical and technical help to the federal government as early as Sunday to assist people in the areas stricken by Hurricane Katrina, but as of Friday, the only things the feds said they wanted was a single tank truck.

That truck, which the Federal Emergency Management Agency requested to support an Illinois-based medical team, was en route Friday.

"We are ready to provide more help than they have requested. We are just waiting for their call," said Daley, adding that he was "shocked" that no one seemed to want the help.

Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Barack Obama (D-Ill.) said he would call for congressional hearings into the federal government's preparations and response.

"The response was achingly slow, and that, I think, is a view shared by Democrats, Republicans, wealthy and poor, black and white," the freshman senator said. "I have not met anybody who has watched this crisis evolve over the last several days who is not just furious at how poorly prepared we appeared to be."

Response 'baffling'

The South Side Democrat called FEMA's slow response "baffling."

"I don't understand how you could have a situation where you've got several days' notice of an enormous hurricane building in the Gulf Coast , you know that New Orleans is 6 feet below sea level. ... The notion that you don't have good plans in place just does not make sense," Obama said.

Obama said he expects his counterparts in Louisiana , Mississippi or Alabama will call for congressional hearings, but he is ready if they do not. "It's heartbreaking and infuriating and, I think, is embarrassing to the American people.''

Daley said the city offered 36 members of the firefighters' technical rescue teams, eight emergency medical technicians, search-and-rescue equipment, more than 100 police officers as well as police vehicles and two boats, 29 clinical and 117 non-clinical health workers, a mobile clinic and eight trained personnel, 140 Streets and Sanitation workers and 29 trucks, plus other supplies. City personnel are willing to operate self-sufficiently and would not depend on local authorities for food, water, shelter and other supplies, he said.

Flanked at a Friday press conference by a who's who from city government, religious organizations and business, the mayor also announced formation of the Chicago Helps Fund for storm victims.

"I'm calling upon every resident of Chicago to donate what they can afford, whether it's 50 cents or 50 dollars," the mayor said.

People can make tax-deductible cash or check donations at any of Bank One's 330 Chicago area branches or by check at Chicago Helps, c/o Bank One, 38891 Eagle Way , Chicago 60678-1388 . A phone line to take credit card donations will be set up.

Churches were urged to take up collections this Sunday, and firefighters are planning to collect at major intersections this weekend.

In addition, donations will be taken at this weekend's Jazz Fest in Grant Park, and $2 of every ticket purchased through Ticketmaster for the Chicago Classic football game at Soldier Field today will go to hurricane relief. The Shedd Aquarium announced it will donate $1 from every ticket sold this holiday weekend to relief efforts and has set up "donation stations" at the aquarium.

Homeless shelters enlisted

By midday Friday, Inner Voice, a private agency that runs 27 homeless shelters for the city, had rounded up space in unused facilities for about 2,000 storm refugees, should they need it, said president Brady Harden.

Ed Shurna, executive director of the Chicago Coalition for the Homeless, suggested the city tap recently vacated units at Cabrini-Green and Lathrop Homes that were slated for demolition but still have heat and electricity available.

Daley reiterated that students from stricken areas are welcome to enroll in the Chicago Public Schools and in the City Colleges. Cardinal Francis George on Friday asked that Catholic schools in the archdiocese waive tuition for displaced children.

More than 400 students have applied to Loyola University Chicago, most coming from its sister Jesuit school, Loyola University New Orleans. Half had been admitted as of late afternoon Friday. Spokeswoman Maeve Kiley said the school "will honor their tuition that they already paid.''

University of Illinois campuses in Urbana-Champaign and Chicago have admitted more than 100 students, including two foreign students who had Fulbright scholarships to attend Tulane.

Northeastern said it would waive tuition and fees for Illinois residents who already paid another school, and would grant in-state tuition to out-of-state students. Northwestern plans to let students pay what they would have at their original school and forward the money to that school.

Contributing: Andrew Herrmann, Dave Newbart

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http://www.suntimes.com/output/hurricane/cst-nws-daley03.html