Skip to main content

Sandy debunks 'nanny state'

By Mitchell L. Moss, Special to CNN
updated 4:54 PM EDT, Wed October 31, 2012
Friends and members of the Puglia family sift through the remains of their missing home for valuables on November 6, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island, New York. <a href='http://www.cnn.com/2012/10/29/us/gallery/ny-braces-sandy/index.html'>View photos of New York preparing for Sandy.</a> Friends and members of the Puglia family sift through the remains of their missing home for valuables on November 6, 2012, after Hurricane Sandy hit Staten Island, New York. View photos of New York preparing for Sandy.
HIDE CAPTION
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
New York recovers from Sandy
<<
<
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
8
9
10
11
12
13
14
15
16
17
18
19
20
21
22
23
24
25
26
27
28
29
30
31
32
33
34
35
36
37
38
39
40
41
42
43
44
45
46
47
48
49
50
51
52
53
54
55
56
57
58
59
60
61
62
63
64
65
66
>
>>
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Mitchell Moss: Disaster reminds us how much we rely on our local governments
  • Moss: Hurricane Sandy has put President Obama and Mitt Romney on the sidelines
  • He says the storm also teaches us that we can't ignore essential infrastructures
  • Moss: We have to invest in the future by taking steps now to minimize similar disasters

Editor's note: Mitchell L. Moss is director of the Rudin Center for Transportation and Henry Hart Rice professor of urban policy and planning at New York University's Wagner School of Public Service. He served as an advisor to Michael Bloomberg during his first campaign for Mayor of New York City in 2001.

(CNN) -- It takes a disaster to remind us how much we depend on our local and state governments. In the middle of a presidential campaign, Hurricane Sandy has put Barack Obama and Mitt Romney on the sidelines, reminding us how much we count on mayors and governors to protect us, to rescue us and to keep our streets, buses, subways, airports and commuter rails running.

After a season of debates about the deficit, taxes and health care, Americans have discovered that they cannot survive without government: to provide clean water, reliable transportation systems, and emergency services when floods, fires and power outages force them to abandon their homes. Hurricane Sandy even demonstrated that sometimes politicians should do more than what we want, especially when they are trying to save us from ourselves.

When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered everyone out of Atlantic City, most residents ignored his request. And when New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, three days before Hurricane Sandy landed, activated the city's storm plan and issued an evacuation order for the city's high-risk Zone A floodplain, many observers thought he was over-preparing, like a grandmother urging you to wear galoshes in the rain.

Mitchell L. Moss
Mitchell L. Moss

Opinion: Don't let superstorm sway your vote

Become a fan of CNNOpinion
Stay up to date on the latest opinion, analysis and conversations through social media. Join us at Facebook/CNNOpinion and follow us @CNNOpinion on Twitter. We welcome your ideas and comments.



Next time, evacuation orders will not be dismissed as examples of the "nanny state."

Hurricane Sandy did not just erode beachfronts; it also eroded partisan political differences. How else can one explain Gov. Christie's warm and gracious comments about Obama after the president did far more than what was required when he suggested that the New Jersey Republican personally call him if he needed any help with federal agencies.

Disasters never go away. They become part of our culture, providing stories of danger and heroism that we share with our children and their children. Disasters take neighbors and make them friends.

New Yorkers, widely considered to be tough and selfish, are suddenly eager to share cellphones, drink beer with strangers at their local bars, and to cook meals at home -- since without subways there is no way to go out for dinner and get home easily.

There is one simple lesson we can learn from Hurricane Sandy: We cannot ignore the essential infrastructure that moves people, information and goods.

How you can help

Christie: I'm not going to play politics
Tour New York's flooded subways
Sandy floods New York City subways
Bloomberg announces NYC evacuations

These systems are under the control of mayors and governors -- not presidents, senators or members of Congress. More than two-thirds of the funds spent on transportation come from states and localities, not from the federal government. And with today's current emphasis on cutting the federal deficit, states will need to do more since the federal government is clearly in retreat, at home and overseas.

It is not sufficient to have a smartphone or an iPad if we do not have resilient, robust networks that can function when we need them most, like in a disaster. It is not sufficient to have a home, if there is no power to run appliances and water to drink and cook with. And, what good is a job if you cannot get to work -- whether by car, train, bus or plane?

New York has a subway system that is more than a century old. Our nation's airports control our airspace with obsolete technologies, needlessly adding to delays and pollution. And our commuter railroads rely on railroad bridges that are well beyond their shelf life.

Disaster relief: Obama, Romney differ on federal role

Hurricane Sandy is not over. The damage is still being assessed. The recovery is going to be slower than we anticipate. And the losses are beyond measurement. Homes destroyed, beaches reconfigured, boardwalks that cannot be replaced, and memories that cannot be renewed.

But we can recognize the vital need to invest in the future: to take steps now to minimize similar disasters. We cannot eliminate the power of ocean currents and wind and storms, but we can do more to invest in stronger, safer transportation systems that can diminish the disruptions caused by the next hurricane. Sandy certainly won't be the last of the destructive storms we encounter.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Mitchell L. Moss.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
updated 6:03 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It used to be billy clubs, fire hoses and snarling German shepherds. Now it's armored personnel carriers and flash-bang grenades, writes Kara Dansky.
updated 1:27 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Maria Haberfeld: People who are unfamiliar with police work can reasonably ask, why was an unarmed man shot so many times, and why was deadly force used at all?
updated 5:52 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Ruben Navarrette notes that this fall, minority students will outnumber white students at America's public schools.
updated 5:21 PM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
Humans have driven to extinction four marine mammal species in modern times. As you read this, we are on the brink of losing the fifth, write three experts.
updated 7:58 AM EDT, Tue August 19, 2014
It's been ten days since Michael Brown was killed, and his family is still waiting for information from investigators about what happened to their young man, writes Mel Robbins
updated 1:23 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Sally Kohn says the Ferguson protests reflect broader patterns of racial injustice across the country, from chronic police violence and abuse against black men to the persistent economic and social exclusion of communities of color.
updated 8:42 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
The former U.K. prime minister and current U.N. envoy says there are 500 days left to fulfill the Millennium Goals' promise to children.
updated 9:10 AM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Julian Zelizer says the left mistrusts Clinton but there are ways she can win support from liberals in 2016
updated 1:38 PM EDT, Wed August 20, 2014
Peter Bergen says the terror group is a huge threat in Iraq but only a potential one in the U.S.
updated 1:34 PM EDT, Sat August 16, 2014
Mark O'Mara says the way cops, media, politicians and protesters have behaved since Michael Brown's shooting shows not all the right people have learned the right lessons
updated 11:23 AM EDT, Sun August 17, 2014
Retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling says the American military advisers in Iraq are sizing up what needs to be done and recommending accordingly
updated 3:41 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Marc Lamont Hill says the President's comments on the Michael Brown shooting ignored its racial implications
updated 5:46 PM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Joe Stork says the catastrophe in northern Iraq continues, even though many religious minorities have fled to safety: ISIS forces -- intent on purging them -- still control the area where they lived
updated 6:26 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Tim Lynch says Pentagon's policy of doling out military weapons to police forces is misguided and dangerous.
updated 9:15 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
S.E. Cupp says millennials want big ideas and rapid change; she talks to one of their number who serves in Congress
updated 7:57 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Dorothy Brown says the power structure is dominated by whites in a town that is 68% black. Elected officials who sat by silently as chaos erupted after Michael Brown shooting should be voted out of office
updated 7:49 AM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Bill Schmitz says the media and other adults should never explain suicide as a means of escaping pain. Robin Williams' tragic death offers a chance to educate about prevention
updated 11:05 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Nafees Syed says President Obama should renew the quest to eliminate bias in the criminal justice system
updated 4:24 PM EDT, Thu August 14, 2014
Eric Liu says what's unfolded in the Missouri town is a shocking violation of American constitutional rights and should be a wake-up call to all
updated 3:22 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Neal Gabler says Lauren Bacall, a talent in her own right, will be defined by her marriage with the great actor Humphrey Bogart
updated 6:56 AM EDT, Fri August 15, 2014
Bob Butler says the arrest of two journalists covering the Ferguson story is alarming
updated 4:35 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Mark O'Mara says we all need to work together to make sure the tension between police and African-Americans doesn't result in more tragedies
updated 4:06 PM EDT, Mon August 18, 2014
Pepper Schwartz asks why young women are so entranced with Kardashian, who's putting together a 352-page book of selfies
updated 7:08 PM EDT, Wed August 13, 2014
Michael Friedman says depression does not discriminate, cannot be bargained with and shows no mercy.
updated 11:25 AM EDT, Tue August 12, 2014
LZ Granderson says we must not surrender to apathy about the injustice faced by African Americans
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT