Cities lobby for homeland aid
- By Dibya Sarkar
- Sep 27, 2002
Nearly 100 mayors and police and fire chiefs converged on Capitol Hill Sept.
26 to lobby for direct homeland security funding, demanding federal officials
put aside their rhetoric and provide promised funds for better training
and equipment for first responders.
In a crowded Senate building room, the municipal officials sharply criticized
the federal government for not being a good partner in homeland security
initiatives. They were joined by Sen. Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y), who has sponsored
legislation calling for direct federal funding to municipalities rather
than money filtered through state governments.
"The funding that is needed must go directly to the people who will
utilize it, not take a U-turn or a detour, but get into the hands of these
mayors, their elected council, and then get into the hands of the fire chiefs,
the police chiefs and the EMTs," she said. "Help is not on the way for our
cities, and I think we need to do so much more to support what the cities
are already doing. We need to be good partners here at the federal level."
The U.S. Conference of Mayors, a nonprofit national association that
represents cities with a population of 30,000 or more, sponsored the event,
which included 50 mayors and 40 police and fire chiefs. They met with Homeland
Security Director Tom Ridge and Attorney General John Ashcroft as well as
House and Senate leaders of both parties.
Their comments were similar to those made by a half-dozen mayors during
another Washington, D.C., press conference nearly three weeks ago, sponsored
by the same organization. The group has said that cities expect to spend
more than $2.6 billion on security costs by the end of this year.
President Bush pledged $3.5 billion in federal funds earmarked for first
responders, but that money would flow through state governments, which would
disperse the funds. Supplemental funds have also been tied up to help state
and local governments. Just last week, several governors also complained
that the federal government wasn't doing enough to help states financially.
"I guess what I'm really here to say more than anything, on behalf of
many of the police chiefs that are here, is that we're really angry and
frustrated," said Detroit Police Chief Jerry Oliver Sr., adding that his
city has special security concerns because it is near the Canadian border
and also has the largest Arab-American community outside of the Middle East.
"We're still, every single day, stepping up to the plate, paying overtime,"
he said. "We're out for the training we're giving our employees. We don't
have the equipment that we need. We don't have the technology that we need.
We don't have the apparatus that we need. We're putting our people in harm's
way and yet there's this rhetoric and there's this debate and there's this
gamesmanship that's going on now at the White House and at the Congress.
We're tired of it and we're here to say we need the money."