As I write this I am waiting for the fourth hurricane in six weeks to hit Florida. Her name is Jeanne. From what I can see on the television, she, like her sister Frances a few weeks ago, is strangely attracted to my house. No one likes hurricanes, but if you have to have them, it's good to know we have two Bushes working for us.
No politician can protect my family from a hurricane. Only the Lord can do that, and He has been most gracious in His protection of them. But in the aftermath of a hurricane, you need leaders who can make decisions. George Bush and his brother Jeb have done a great job for Florida. Both have exhibited decisive leadership.
George Bush gets a lot of ink in my columns. I really respect the man, and appreciate all he has done for our nation. But most of my praise goes to his brother Jeb this week. He has been a great governor, but for the past six weeks has been an especially great Chief Executive for this state.
Jeb did a very smart thing before the hurricanes hit. Most governors wait until there is blood in the streets before they declare a disaster. He anticipated the areas that would be hit hardest and declared them disaster areas before the winds hit us, saving precious time in getting federal aid.
George did his part by getting FEMA in gear and allocating the money that would be needed in and expeditious manner. I guess it helps to have a brother in the White House.
Both brothers have provided leadership and reassurance to a state that is literally reeling from one disaster after another. Many Floridians have been living week after week in fear. Millions have gone as long as two weeks without power, and for hundreds of thousands the wait for electricity may be longer. No showers, no hot food, no showers, no communication, no showers, no air conditioning, no showers...you get the picture. Many people have been experiencing depression and anxiety. Faced with the prospect of a fourth hurricane in six weeks draining state resources Jeb Bush joked, "I feel like Bill Murray in 'Goundhog Day.'" But he promised that once again the state government would rise to the occasion. The Bushes have been strong and steady leaders for millions of people who needed real leaders.
I want to particularly praise Jeb Bush for issuing an executive order that will make the lives of millions of Floridians better. First a little background.
My partner and I own a small construction company in South Florida. Like most custom home builders, we normally do most of the carpentry with our own crews, including shingling the roofs. But Florida has a quirky law that says builders cannot repair roofs that they applied in the first place. We're qualified to build and shingle the roof, but, according to this law, we're not smart enough to repair what we built.
As you may suspect, this law is the result of highly paid lobbyists working for the roofing industry. It makes no sense. That's how you can tell it is political. Whenever politicians pass laws that defy common sense, you can be sure money has changed hands.
In the aftermath of Hurricane Charley the news media told us that the roof damage resulting from his winds would take at least two years to repair. This was before Frances and Ivan, which caused even more damage.
At that point I did a stupid thing. I made an assumption that even bureaucrats would recognize that a state of emergency existed. I called building departments and said that we were willing and able to help the thousands of people whose roofs had been torn off. "Sorry," I was told. "You're not a roofer." That's like telling a doctor that he's not a paramedic. "Yes ma'am, I know I'm not a roofer. I'm a state certified General Contractor. I am qualified to repair shingled roofs like a roofer, and I can do dozens of other repairs that a roofer cannot do."
"But you're not a roofer." "Our crews shingle roofs on a regular basis on houses we build." "But you're not a roofer." "People have holes in their roofs! The damage to their ceilings and walls grows every time it rains!! People are getting mold in their houses because there are not enough roofers!!!" "But you're not a roofer." It was like talking to a robot.
Enter Jeb Bush on a white stallion. He said, "By the authority invested in me..." and then proceeded to issue Executive Order 04-182 on August 10, 2004. He said, "It's stupid for people to have rain poring into their homes because there aren't enough licensed roofers, when there are thousands of General, Residential and Building Contractors who are qualified to help them. So I am going to temporarily suspend the dumb law that prevents these contractors from helping fix all these homes." This is not an exact quote. He used more flowery language with lots of Whereas's, but you get the idea.
Since then he has issued additional Executive Orders following Frances and Ivan, and will undoubtedly issue another after Jeanne. Hopefully, after this emergency is over, he will work to repeal the portions of the Florida Statutes that allow the roofing industry to hold a monopoly at the public's expense. I expect that the Florida Home Builder's Association will lobby for this change.
How is the public hurt by the roofer's monopoly? The same way any monopoly hurts us - by limiting competition. Here is one quick example. Because my partner and I are both Christians, we have been careful not to take advantage of this emergency. Our prices for roofing are the same as the going rates before the hurricanes.
A few days ago we gave an estimate for re-roofing to a local man. He asked, "What did you leave out of this estimate?" We asked, "What do you mean?" He showed us an estimate from a roofer for DOUBLE the price we had given him.
This is not an isolated incident. We have seen roofers giving estimates ranging from 50% to 100% higher than they were prior to the emergency. The price of materials has risen since the hurricanes, but only fractionally. Fortunately, many roofers continue to give fair prices to those in need.
Jeb showed both leadership and courage by issuing the executive orders to help Floridians who have lost their roofs. He will undoubtedly be attacked and criticized by the roofing monopoly. But even they know he did the right thing.
Floridians are tough. We will get through this with the Lord's help. I'm just glad He has seen fit to give us strong leaders like to Bush brothers to help us through this crisis. Â