State and local leaders met today to talk about the response to Hurricane Ike: what went right, what went wrong, and how to do better during the next natural disaster.

The public hearing focused on Harris County, and is the first of several scheduled by the Texas House of Representatives.

"I'm here to speak because I need the state, the county and the city government to look into better planning for the next time we have a storm," said Tomaro Bell, who volunteered at a POD (point of distribution) center, handing out food, ice and water.  

State Representative Sylvester Turner questioned more than 30 officials about everything from orders to evacuate or shelter in place, to massive power outages and picking pod locations. "What recommendations would you give to us?" Turner asked.

Houston Mayor Bill White told the committee that the plan for restoring power must be improved, "Have a realistic long-term timetable for making the power system more resilient, more durable, so we can get it back up faster and there's less power outages." The committee discussed burying more power lines, and requiring critical businesses, such as gas stations and water companies, to have back up power.

State Representative Harold Dutton says the criteria for where PODs are located should be re-evaluated. "In my district where you've got a high percentage of people who are hostage to the public transportation nsystem. To place a POD 5 or 10 miles away is like having no POD because they can't access it," Dutton said.

Bell agreed, "We as a community took it upon ourselves to take supplies and distribute them to elderly people who we knew could not get there." She says she hopes the House Select Committee on Hurricane Ike will make sure those mistakes are not repeated.  "I know they will listen. The squeaky wheel gets the oil," she Bell.

The next public hearing will cover Brazoria, Chambers, Galveston, and Matagorda counties.
That meeting is scheduled for December 3rd, at 10 a.m. inside the Johnnie Arolfo Civic Center, located at 400 West Walker Street in League City.  

Hardin, Jefferson, Orange counties: December 10, 10 am at Lamar State College, 410 Front Street, Orange