Turner names czar to lead re­cov­ery ef­forts

Ex-Shell head will ‘push us for­ward’; Bush to over­see hous­ing re­lief

Houston Chronicle - - FRONT PAGE - By Mike Mor­ris and Mike Ward

For­mer Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Hous­ton na­tive, will lead the city’s re­cov­ery ef­forts from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, Mayor Sylvester Turner says.

For­mer Shell Oil Co. president Marvin Odum, a Hous­ton na­tive, will lead the city’s re­cov­ery ef­forts from Hur­ri­cane Har­vey, Mayor Sylvester Turner an­nounced Thurs­day.

Turner said he wants Odum to push lo­cal lead­ers out of their com­fort zones, not only co­or­di­nat­ing with pub­lic of­fi­cials and lead­ers from the busi­ness and non­profit sec­tors but also high­light­ing what steps the city must take be­fore the next storm strikes.

“I’m not look­ing for a re­port. We have a whole lot of re­ports,” Turner said. “What I’m ask­ing Marvin to do is to push us for­ward, to be a part of the re­build­ing process, to push us to do more at all lev­els, to push us to make this city more re­silient.”

Mean­while, in Austin, Gov. Greg Ab­bott tapped Texas Land Com­mis­sioner Ge­orge P. Bush to head the state’s hous­ing re­cov­er­ing from Har­vey.

Among Bush’s du­ties, Ab­bott said, will be the dis­tri­bu­tion of $7.4 bil­lion in Com­mu­nity De­vel­op­ment Block Grant money to fund lo­cal in­fra­struc­ture re­pairs, along with a “di­rect re­pair” pro­gram that will al­low pay­ments to home­own­ers to un­der­take their own re­pairs with­out the usual red tape.

“The goal is to quickly ad­dress lo­cal needs in each area,” Ab­bott said, adding Bush will work with state re­cov­ery czar John Sharp

and lo­cal of­fi­cials to de­ter­mine the fund­ing needs in all of the Har­vey-dam­aged ar­eas.

Ab­bott said the ini­tial fund­ing was in­cluded in a con­gres­sional ap­pro­pri­a­tion ap­proved last week that state of­fi­cials have char­ac­ter­ized as a “down pay­ment” on what even­tu­ally could be more than $150 bil­lion in fed­eral re­cov­ery as­sis­tance.

As of Thurs­day, the Fed­eral Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency es­ti­mated nearly 80,000 homes in Texas ex­pe­ri­enced at least 18 inches of flood­ing; of those, more than 23,000 re­ceived 5 feet of flood­ing.

Ab­bott said de­tails of the ex­pe­dited home-re­pair ini­tia­tive will be an­nounced next week.

He and FEMA re­gional ad­min­is­tra­tor Tony Robin­son said the goal is to speed up re­cov­ery pay­ments to home­own­ers so they can get their res­i­dences re­paired faster than in the past.

This will be the first time such a pro­gram has been used, Ab­bott said, adding that it will be aimed at short- and long-term hous­ing needs for Har­vey vic­tims.

Here in Hous­ton, Odum, who led the re­build­ing of Shell’s Gulf fa­cil­i­ties af­ter Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina and has worked with govern­ments around the world, said cit­i­zens should ex­pect him to learn from past storm re­cov­er­ies, co­or­di­nate ef­fec­tively with myr­iad part­ners and know that “speed counts.”

“This is an ur­gent sit­u­a­tion for a lot of peo­ple. Those im­me­di­ate needs won’t be for­got­ten,” Odum said.

Odum, 58, grew up in west Hous­ton and grad­u­ated with an en­gi­neer­ing de­gree from the Uni­ver­sity of Texas and an MBA from the Uni­ver­sity of Hous­ton. He stepped down as chair­man and president of Shell a lit­tle more than a year ago.

“What I’m ask­ing Marvin to do,” Turner said, “is to help us get out of our com­fort zone and put those things out there that we know can make a dif­fer­ence and then help to drive the pub­lic and the pri­vate sec­tor to get it done.”

To that, Odum pat­ted the mayor on the shoul­der and said, “I got a free card to make the mayor re­ally un­com­fort­able, so what more can I ask for?”

Turner noted that Con­gress will take up a sec­ond tranche of re­cov­ery fund­ing in the com­ing months, and that the city should do ev­ery­thing it can to se­cure fund­ing for large-scale projects that would lessen the im­pact of the next storm.

“We’ve got the fo­cus of the na­tion. We have the fo­cus of all our of­fi­cials at the state and other lev­els,” Odum said. “Now is the time to iden­tify what needs to be done on a longer-term ba­sis and get those move­ments locked in rather than ad­dress­ing that on the back end of this process.”


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