Executive Director's Column
September 26, 2003
Mayors released our first-ever 50 state analysis of what is happening to the billions of our first responder homeland security dollars that is being sent from Washington to the 50 Statehouses. Our survey drew much interest as we had two press conferences in New York City and Los Angeles at the same time. The bottom line is that the first responder money is not getting to the first responders.
It's worse than we thought. But we aren't carping about it. We just want it fixed one way or the other either through executive actions or legislative actions. Mayors were opposed to President Bush's plan. Congress approved sending our federal homeland security funds to the Statehouse. From the beginning, days after 9/11, we called for a homeland security block grant program to cities. Mayors praised President Bush for establishing the Department of Homeland Security and mayors praised his selection of Governor Tom Ridge to run and oversee the department. We have worked with Secretary Ridge. He has been with us and we will continue to work with him. We do believe and will continue to advocate the necessity for direct funding to cities of first responder homeland security funds.
It is a flawed delivery system that has money for our police and fire departments log-jammed in the bureaucracy of state governments when the funds are needed at the city level to prevent terrorist acts of harm and destruction to our people.
What came through at our press conferences was a recognition that these funds are being treated like they are FEMA funds, which are provided for rescue and clean-up operations after a dastardly terrorist act has been committed. Gary, Indiana Mayor Scott King in New York carried the point that these first responder funds should be given to cities to prevent or stop terrorist acts before they are committed.
We have established within the Conference of Mayors a Homeland Security Monitoring Center. We will continue to track the first responder funds and we hope the flawed system of distributing the funds will be corrected.
For over 25 years, since we worked with President Nixon to establish the HUD Community Development Block Grant program, the CDBG block grants have come directly to our cities in a most efficient and successful federal-city partnership. The question was raised this week in both New York and Los Angeles. If the federal government can get HUD community development funds to city halls, why can't the federal government get our federal first responder homeland security funds to our city police and fire departments? It's not happening. There is something wrong with this picture.
We will continue to work with New York Senator Hillary Clinton and others to correct this situation. She was the first to respond to the mayors' call for a federal-city block grant funding system of first responder homeland security monies.
We all want our first responders to have what they need. It is with a sense of true patriotism and sincere concern that we have issued our first report to the nation. Our Homeland Security Monitoring Center will continue to track these funds and let us hope that our reporting the facts and shedding light on this flawed distribution system will provide the political will of enough Democrats and Republicans to correct the present situation and do what must be done provide our first responder homeland security funds directly to our police and fire departments now.