Y’know, a town with money is like a mule with a spinning wheel. No one knows how he got it and danged if he knows how to use it!

Lyle Lanley

As you may recall, there was an oil incident in the gulf. As a consequence, Mobile Alabama is expecting a rather large windfall. Apparently, the fines associated with the oil spill could range from 4 to 16 billion dollars and are supposed to stay in the Gulf Coast region. Consequently, each of the affected states (though some feel more affected than others) will get some of this money to mitigate the damages.

Alabama put together a Coastal Recovery Commission, which was created by the Governor and populated by his office, various local politicians, and representatives of coastal concerns. This commission was charged with creating a roadmap leading to the transformation of the gulf region into one of increased resiliency. In their words:

We must position ourselves to respond not only to future oil spills but also to other forces beyond our control, including everything from hurricanes to sudden shifts in the economic environment. We must assure a future for our coast that strengthens its appeal to visitors and investors from around the world and protects its environmental assets for generations to come.

To do this they determined that a roadmap approach would be most effective.

Then, we will propose bold but attainable goals, based on the most authoritative research and reality-tested best practices. Our roadmap should guide Alabama, regional, and national leaders in implementing policies that protect, preserve and enhance the assets that make Alabama’s Gulf Coast so important, not only to Alabamians, but to the Gulf region and the nation as a whole.

The commission published the “Roadmap to Resiliance” here. The commission identified problems not only with the physical enviroment but the human environment (health care, education, economic development, and insurance). Problems identified may be directly related to the spill but more often than not were related to our physical location (hurricane alley) as well as the long term problems associated with limited educational resources and an economy that suffers from too little diversity.

The solutions take up 17 pages. Some are fairly vague but “feel good” such as “”Restore and enhance habitat for fisheries as needed.” Some are very concrete: “Require fire protection every 1,000 feet where public water is available.” Some are relatively inexpensive: “Combine county efforts for regional events.” Some would take all of the money for one project: “Build the I-10 Bridge and make it spectacular with reasons for travelers to stop at the Mobile end, not just pass on through – follow the example of the Sydney Opera House or the Bilboa, Spain, museum – a building that could house a Southern Cultural Center or the like.”

The aspect of this report that caught my eye was written up here in our local paper.

A gubernatorial commission making recommendations for oil spill recovery urges the creation of a Mobile-based Center for Coastal Health with a wide-ranging mission to address and research primary care, mental health, lifestyle issues and disaster response.The proposal for the independent center at the University of South Alabama is outlined in the 198-page report that the Alabama Coastal Recovery Commission gave to Gov. Bob Riley this month in Montgomery.

The commission report said that the center should focus on four areas: occupational health for coastal populations; primary care and mental health; disaster preparedness and management; and minority health care, including the mental health needs of immigrant and refugee populations.

Dr. Richard Powers, medical director for the Alabama Department of Mental Health, said the spill revealed that the coastal region is largely ill-equipped to “deal with its unique health needs” during times of crisis. Powers, a Riley appointee to the commission, said, “It would be nice to have a group of smart health care professionals wired to the national networks to be looking after our welfare, and not have to summon them up every time a disaster happens.”

Start-up of the center would likely cost $30 million to $50 million, according to Powers. He suggested that the funding should come from fines and grant payments made by BP PLC, majority owner of the ruptured well.

According to the commission report, the new center and its faculty would be supported by a foundation established for that purpose.

Now that’s a mule I can get behind.

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