For most of the country yesterday, around 4 p.m. Pacific Time, the President of the United States was addressing both houses of Congress. He unveiled, what I consider, a reasonably bold plan that should not take more than a few weeks to become law. The simple fact of the matter is that we can’t wait for politicians to haggle, wrangle, debate because all that means is delay. We can’t wait until our roads and bridges fall apart. We can’t wait to learn that our children are growing up uneducated. We can’t wait for our manufactured products and the technology that we create to be bought by people around the world.
I, and my fellow San Diegans, however, could not watch the President. We had to wait. We had to wait for more than one hour before anyone – and I mean anyone – said anything at all about why an entire County including parts of at least two other counties as well as Baja California were without any power. Outages happen and there are no perfect systems. But when the greatest nation on this planet, with all of its billions spent on homeland security, makes us wait to know if and why we are at risk, it is embarrassing at best. Why were the lights out? Why did our world come to a standstill and we not receive any information whatsoever from anyone who should know. If a real disaster happens, how long will we wait?
This isn’t a public relations mess, it is a failure of leadership. On the eve of the 10th year anniversary of 9-11, when there is a credible threat identified by the FBI, and then almost 2 million people lose power and no one says a word, it does not promote a feeling of safety. It tells us that we are incredibly vulnerable and all the people who we trust to take charge let us down.
This has to change and we can’t wait. I have to believe that all the layoffs from every sector of our society makes us vulnerable because we do not have the people power to react in disaster. This power outage could have been much worse. We were kept relatively safe by our own sense of responsibility and protocol. While we were waiting for someone to speak to us, we acted calmly and with civility. This is what we do in America.
For our own part at Townspeople, we took quick action on a several fronts. We made sure all of our staff were safe. There was the possibility that one of us was stuck in the elevator. Thankfully, that wasn’t the case but someone was looking out. A team of staff worked to figure out how to open the electric garage door so that people could be evacuated. We made a quick plan on leaving the office and then three of us headed out to check on our properties and our clients. None of that could wait. We had no idea how long the power would be out, what the long-term consequence might be, or what danger was around the corner.
So, too with our national crisis and our political embarrassment. When millions of people are out of work at a time when our infrastructure is crumbling, why in God’s name, should we wait? When thousands of soldiers come back from a war should not have to wait for months or years to get a job and return to the mainstream. Just like we should not have to wait more than an hour to know why there is no power. How long do we wait for those in power to tell us why they cannot act.
We wait no more. The President laid out a strong, clear, and do-able plan of action. He told Congress to pass it now. I agree. I believe most of my fellow Americans do as well. We tire of waiting. We want action and answers and accountability. Otherwise we simply remain vulnerable as we wait in the dark feeling like we lost all our power.