President Bush has declared an emergency in the District of Columbia for the inauguration of his successor. This unprecedented move will allow FEMA to reimburse state and local governments. In reality the DC government doesn’t really view the inaugural as an emergency so much as a reason to throw a giant 5 day party. In December the DC city council passed emergency legislation allowing all bars, restaurants, and nightclubs to serve alcohol until 5 am and to stay open for 24 hours from January 17th through January 20th.
Given the number of people expected to attend the inaugural this is pretty much a security nightmare for the metropolitan police. Since this is a larger than usual inaugural, the $15 million that Congress has already appropriated to the DC government is already spoken for. Which means the DC government is on the hook for paying the triple overtime for the police, fire and ambulance services that they would need so people can keep drinking and partying into the wee hours of the morning. By declaring an emergency FEMA can now reimburse DC for security, public health and safety related expenses (at 100 percent federal funding) during the emergency. And guess when the declared emergency is? January 17th through January 21st. Coincidence? I think not.
Now I have no problem with DC wanting to throw a big party. I just don’t think that the American taxpayers should foot the bill. Bush declaring such an emergency is beyond the pale.