Ben Joravsky's article ("High and Dry," September 19) about government response to the August flooding on Chicago's north and west sides contained the bizarre statement, presented as pure fact, that "no one toured the neighborhood or checked the damage" in the wake of that devastating thunderstorm.
The phone call that Mr. Joravsky mentioned from me to Streets and Sanitation commissioner Eileen Carey resulted in a small army of municipal workers being sent into the flood areas even as the rain continued to fall. These workers removed damaged trees and fallen branches, repaired storm-disabled streetlights and traffic signals, and performed other emergency tasks that continued around the clock until everything was fixed.
The next day all 50 ward superintendents were sent to thoroughly survey the damage in their areas and assess the amount of ruined furniture and other water-damaged property that people began hauling out of their basements. When their reports came back to City Hall indicating the extent of the destruction, Commissioner Carey personally toured the worst-hit wards with their aldermen. Mayor Richard M. Daley also ordered city departments to assist flooded residents with extra services, including help carrying damaged goods out to the alleys for special bulk pickup.
All of this was widely reported in the news media as it occurred, and several of the aldermen were extremely vocal about the hardships caused by the flooding. I can't imagine how Mr. Joravsky could have missed all of this (or why he didn't ask about it while researching his article, except that he told me it was to be concerned more with the cause of the flooding rather than its aftermath).
Mr. Joravsky also quoted a local resident who complained that City Hall operators made "no attempt to help me at all," referring him instead to the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA). Those operators also worked around the clock helping thousands of callers to receive a wide variety of municipal services.
However, some callers wanted the type of financial assistance that is provided through FEMA and so were quite properly referred to that agency. Since FEMA plays a crucial role in the assessment process that results in an official disaster declaration and the subsequent availability of financial aid (which now has happened), there is nothing wrong with that agency hearing directly from flood victims regarding the magnitude of their losses.
Terry A. Levin
Department of Streets and Sanitation
Ben Joravsky replies:
The subject of my story, Vernon Williams Jr., accused the city of not responding to his questions about how he and his neighbors might receive flood assistance. His main complaint had nothing to do with whether Streets and Sanitation crews cleaned up debris after the storm.