Early on in responding to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama recognized that this must be more than simply killing the well and doing a short-term clean-up. He understood the importance of looking beyond the immediate crisis to consider the long-term implications for the citizens of the Gulf Coast.
I grew up in Mississippi, which is one reason I was so honored when the president asked me to lead the effort to create a long-term recovery plan for the Gulf. It is also why I was so appreciative of his insistence that a recovery plan come from Gulf citizens themselves, rather than imposed from Washington.
In his Oval Office address of June 19, the president said this recovery plan would be designed by the “states, local communities, tribes, fishermen, businesses, conservationists and other Gulf residents.” Following that guidance, in late June I began the first of a series of trips to the Gulf Coast, culminating in nine town meetings across the Gulf in early August.
During this time, I’ve met or talked with every governor, U.S. Senator, and member of Congress whose district touches the Gulf from Key West, Fla., to Brownsville, Texas. I’ve spoken with hundreds of mayors, county and parish officials, state legislators, and representatives of community and issue advocacy organizations.