Despite Anthrax Scare, Mayors Press Congress for Economic Security Measures
By Gary Mayor Scott L. King
October 22, 2001
As we convene in Washington, D.C. this week for the U.S. Conference of Mayors Emergency, Safety and Security Summit, we, as mayors, face a growing anxiety among our citizens that the terrorists have a broader plan to continue their attack on America.
As if the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon were not enough, the terrorists have now shut down, temporarily, the Congress of the United States with a few well placed letters containing powerful anthrax.
It was a stunning site last Wednesday when Atlanta Mayor Bill Campbell, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson, Las Vegas Mayor Oscar Goodman, and I met with Senator Harry Reid of Nevada for a press conference to tout congressional initiatives to spur our economy. The Capitol Building resembled more a ghost town than the house of the people, the seat of democracy.
Just that morning Senator Reid, the second ranking majority leader in the Senate, had learned that 29 of the Majority Leader Senator Daschle's staff had tested positive for exposure to anthrax. As the hill staffers stood in long lines to be tested in the Hart Senate Office Building, we sat in Senator Reid's U.S. Capitol leadership office talking about whether we should proceed with the press conference in light of the growing concern for the health and safety of workers ranging from Capitol Hill police to committee staffers to lobbyists like our Ed Somers who visited Senator Daschle's office the Friday before the anthrax was discovered.
Every mayor, and Senator Reid, himself, joined by Senator Jeffords (VT) agreed that we should do it, even though we knew that the anthrax story would snuff out any other stories for the day.
So out we came onto the empty capitol steps abandoned but for one capitol police officer standing guard. Down we went to the stakeout, and in front of twelve cameras we talked about how the fight had now been joined on American soil, even on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol. And we pledged to the American people that we would fight back by not letting the terrorists destroy our economy by propagating fear. We pledged to protect our economic security as well as our personal security. We told the cameras that in the end the terrorists wanted to destroy our economy and that we, along with Senator Reid and Senator Jeffords, were not willing to give them that victory.
So, we talked about putting Americans back to work through building and restoring our nation's infrastructure, the lifeblood of any competitive economy. We talked about building a new national high speed rail system that would diversify our national transportation system and we promoted more investment in security systems for aviation, rails and our nation's water systems.
We did so because the end game of the terrorists is not just to kill Americans, but to destroy our way of life. Our freedoms, our security, and our economy. The terrorists want us to cancel events, travel plans, outings, out of a sense of profound fear. In the end they want to destroy our economy, because our economy is our power and our opportunity.
So as we convene in Washington to talk about safety and security, we will talk about an incredibly important set of issues. How do we make our airports safer? How do we create a new system of communicating between the FBI , mayors and law enforcement, how do we protect our critical infrastructure and public utilities, and how do we prepare ourselves for future acts of terrorism?
But added to this list, must be our economic security, of helping those who have been thrown out of work, of building new infrastructure to make our economy more productive.
For in the end it is the terrorists prized outcome to destroy us from within, and to decimate our economy.
We felt good about going ahead with the press conference. We will feel even better when Congress, working with the nation's mayors, fights back by securing our economic future. So will our citizens.