Cities seek 'fair share' from feds
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 10, 2002
USCM Status Report on Federal-Local Homeland Security Partnership
Since last September, America's cities have beefed up security at airports
and public facilities, conducted vulnerability assessments of potential
targets, implemented chemical and biological surveillance technology, and
improved communications and protective gear for their first responders.
But they have done so largely without help from either the Bush administration
That's according to a half dozen mayors who discussed their cities'
homeland security efforts as they spoke Sept. 9 during a Washington, D.C.,
press conference sponsored by the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM).
The mayors said information sharing and the use of best practices is
greater among municipalities and the federal-local relationship is stronger
than before. However, they said such measures are only the beginning and
much more needs to be done. The mayors said their budgets are stretched
to their limits and, in some cases, they've had to raise taxes to pay for
security, including overtime pay for police, firefighters and paramedics.
One by one, the mayors demanded that federal officials live up to their
pledge of helping cities with such expenses.
"We're not asking the federal government to be creative," said Baltimore
Mayor Martin O'Malley. "We're asking the federal government to fund at least
a fair share for homeland defense, for common defense."
"We in cities are being asked to do more with less," said Philadelphia
Mayor John Street. "We feel today that we're being left behind and cities
are being taken advantage of."
In Akron, Ohio, which has a population of 220,000, the city has spent
about $2 million to secure public facilities, said Mayor Don Plusquellic.
But that figure may not include additional costs, such as overtime pay for
Mayor Betty Flores of Laredo, Texas, said she has been asking the federal
government for the past two years to help improve border security near her
city. She recently raised property taxes by 4 percent to fund added security
measures, and she said many border and customs agents are leaving her city
for better pay and positions at other federal agencies, such as the Transportation
Scott King, mayor of Gary, Ind., said assessments that U.S. cities are
more secure than a year ago are exaggerated. A report card would show a
"series of incompletes at best."
To help local law enforcement agencies, he called for full funding of
two federal grant programs: the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS)
program, which faces a proposed 80 percent cut in the fiscal 2003 budget,
and the Local Law Enforcement Block Grant, which faces a 23 percent proposed
The mayors also called for direct federal funding to cities. Earlier
this year, President Bush proposed $3.5 billion to help bolster security,
of which 25 percent would be given to states and 75 percent would be earmarked
for first responders. However, national groups representing municipal officials
said they feared those earmarked funds would be chipped away by state governments
facing severe revenue shortfalls.
Many of the nation's cities are calling for homeland security block
grants, where the federal government would directly provide funds to municipalities.
Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) has proposed such a bill, which is supported
by several other senators.
O'Malley rattled off eight measures where the federal government could
help cities bolster security:
* Establish one federal watch list, instead of 58, that can be easily
accessed by authorized law enforcement officers from every governmental
* Every metropolitan area should have intelligence units to coordinate
all policing actions.
* Every metropolitan area should have some type of bio-surveillance
* Every metropolitan area should perform vulnerability assessments of
* Every metropolitan area should have mitigation strategies in case
* Every metropolitan area should have updated emergency response plans.
* Every metropolitan area should have an interoperable and redundant
* First responders should be properly equipped to handle two simultaneous
emergencies, and they and their families should be inoculated against biological