Hurricane Harvey battered Texas, Hurricane Irma cut through Florida, and Hurricane Maria absolutely bashed Puerto Rico. Anyone unlucky enough to be in the path of those storms will spend months, if not years, piecing their lives together again — fixing homes, rebuilding businesses, and burying drowned family.
But the good people of Cheyenne, Wyo., they will be just fine.
The Federal Emergency Management Agency just approved the city's request for a $3 million grant to build the Civic Center Commons park. As 3.4 million Puerto Ricans struggle to find safe drinking water, FEMA announced on Friday that they'd help turn a parking lot in downtown Cheyenne into a drainage pond.
The project was always controversial. The city council branded it downtown revitalization while Mayor Marian Orr said it was a waste and fought for months to shut it down.
"We've been fighting an uphill battle on the Commons park since January, given the administration's position that the park was not needed or wanted," Councilman Rocky Case agonized. "But it just goes to show that if you fight the good fight," she crooned to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, "you can win. Hopefully this will be a great park and a spark for the West Edge."
A wonderful park? Maybe. An emergency requiring federal funding? Not at all. The FEMA grant literally gives the city until Sept. 2018 to build a new drainage system. Once that's finished, Cheyenne city planners hope to build a lovely amphitheater and all the necessary amenities to attract yuppies.And a digital rendering of the greenspace actually does makes it seem like a wonderful place to fly a kite or have a family picnic.
It will be lovely and environmentally friendly, but absolutely useless for anyone in the American south struggling to survive. How this falls under FEMA is anyone's guess.
The cost of Hurricane Irma could be as high as $100 billion and Hurricane Harvey around $190 billion. It's not even clear what the cost of Hurricane Maria will be in the end because almost half of the Puerto Rico remains in the dark without power.
FEMA has already come to Congress hat in hand for cash. On Thursday, House Speaker Ryan assured reporters that the agency will receive a $6.7 billion check for approved hurricane relief. And while oversized spending is needed to address these biblically proportioned catastrophes, one wonders if FEMA would have more money for flood victims if they hadn't wasted it on pork projects.
It's a good question, one the people of Cheyenne should ponder every time they enjoy a Saturday at the park.
Philip Wegmann is a commentary writer for the Washington Examiner.