WASHINGTON (January 23, 2002) - On the eve of a U.S. Conference of Mayors' meeting with President Bush to discuss security needs for America's cities, Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge today pledged financial assistance that would give mayors help and some flexibility in covering mounting security costs.
Ridge said more details of the administration's plan for assisting cities on homeland security needs would be discussed Thursday by President Bush at a White House meeting with mayors. However, Ridge said the administration intended to provide mayors with flexibility to spend some money on overtime costs for police, fire and emergency workers and to distribute the money "in a very timely way."
Speaking to 300 mayors at the opening session of The U.S. Conference of Mayors' four-day meeting on defense and economic security issues, Ridge and Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta pledged a close, long-term federal-city partnership.
"You are the domestic troops (on the war on terrorism). You are the front line," said Ridge, emphasizing that a federal, state and city partnership "unlike any other" in the nation's history is needed because "this isn't about what Washington wants, this is about what America's cities need."
New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, President of the U. S. Conference of Mayors, said a study released today by the Conference projects at least $2.6 billion in additional homeland security costs for cities from last September 11 to the end of this year. "We have borne the burden of these added security costs exclusively," Morial said, pointing out that those expenses were to defend not just individual cities, but "all of America."
"All we're asking for is fairness," said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino, Vice President of the U.S. Conference of Mayors, pointing out that cities are spending money for improved security but that the investments are "drawing money away from other important programs."
Morial said the most effective way to provide homeland security assistance to cities would be through a direct grant that goes straight to cities as opposed to one moving funds through state channels.
Secretary Mineta updated mayors on the status of establishing the newly created Transportation Security Administration and said the nation's mayors were needed to play a critical role in "a war time effort to implement" a new national security system. As evidence of the federal-local partnership in this effort, newly appointed Under Secretary for Transportation Security, John Magaw, remained with the mayors today to participate in a workshop on transportation security issues.
Mineta thanked the Conference for working with him closely and playing a leadership role in shaping new federal policies for improving transportation security.
The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are 1,139 such cities in the country today, each represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the Mayor.
Andy Solomon (202) 861-6766
Lina Garcia (202) 861-6719
Chris Hayes (202) 326-1768