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Mayor Finds Friendly Ears on Senate Homeland Security Panel

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  • Ram Lau
    January 10, 2007 Mayor Finds Friendly Ears on Senate Homeland Security Panel By SEWELL CHAN and ERIC LIPTON
    Message 1 of 1 , Jan 10, 2007
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      January 10, 2007
      Mayor Finds Friendly Ears on Senate Homeland Security Panel
      By SEWELL CHAN and ERIC LIPTON
      http://www.nytimes.com/2007/01/10/nyregion/10bloomberg.html

      WASHINGTON, Jan. 9 — Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg took his perennial
      pitch for more security money to Congress on Tuesday, but this year,
      for a change, lawmakers seemed poised to listen.

      Though Mr. Bloomberg is a Republican, the Democrats who now control
      Congress may well be sympathetic to his pleas — and those of other big
      city mayors — for more money to protect transportation systems. Hours
      after Mr. Bloomberg appeared before a Senate committee and criticized
      the Department of Homeland Security, the department announced that the
      New York region would be awarded $90 million in new grants for
      transit, port and ferry security — representing nearly a quarter of
      all of the port and transit financing given out by the department this
      year.

      The single biggest grant is for the New York, New Jersey and
      Connecticut transit systems, which will get $61 million to spend on
      training and equipment to prevent or respond to an attack.

      "Our goal," Michael Chertoff, the secretary of homeland security, said
      at a news conference, "is to put our resources where the risk is the
      greatest and where the funds will have the most impact."

      Mr. Chertoff said the department was trying to direct grants toward
      the highest-risk targets, like New York, so that less grant money was
      available for communities that might have used their grants in past
      years to "spend money on leather jackets or gym equipment or things of
      that sort."

      Earlier in the day, Mr. Bloomberg was the first witness to testify at
      a hearing before the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs
      Committee on the recommendations of the 9/11 Commission.

      The mayor has important allies on the panel. The incoming chairman,
      Senator Joseph I. Lieberman of Connecticut, was re-elected as an
      independent — after losing the Democratic primary — with help from Mr.
      Bloomberg, who sent political operatives to help the senator.

      A second committee member, Senator Claire C. McCaskill of Missouri, a
      Democrat, received help from Mr. Bloomberg in her challenge to a
      Republican incumbent last year.

      The mayor exchanged warm words or glances with other Democratic
      members of the committee, including Senators Jon Tester of Montana and
      Mary L. Landrieu of Louisiana.

      Three members of the 9/11 Commission — former Representatives Lee H.
      Hamilton and Timothy J. Roemer and former Senator Slade Gorton —
      testified alongside the mayor on a wide range of intelligence and
      preparedness matters.

      Last year, New York and Washington officials were enraged when
      Homeland Security announced a reduction in antiterror grants for the
      two cities. Last week, Mr. Chertoff announced adjustments in the rules
      used to distribute the grants.

      At the hearing, Mr. Bloomberg called those adjustments "a step in the
      right direction." Under that plan, 55 percent of $747 million in
      security grants this fiscal year would be reserved for six high-risk
      urban areas (including the New York area), although the mayor
      predicted that the total money available to the six regions will be
      "virtually the same" as last year.

      The mayor said that the city's "calls for fully risk-based homeland
      security funding have been ignored" repeatedly. "Instead, we have seen
      large sums of homeland security money spread across the country like
      peanut butter. More than $3 billion has been distributed in this
      irrational way so far."

      Mr. Bloomberg did praise the department's decision to loosen
      restrictions on how the grants could be spent. The city will now be
      allowed to use 25 percent of its grant money to pay for the roughly
      1,000 police officers dedicated to intelligence and counterterrorism.

      The mayor, however, criticized restrictions on the use of federal
      money for construction projects that "harden" buildings and monuments
      against attack. The mayor also said the city received just $4.34 per
      capita for bioterrorism, making it 27th among 54 states and cities
      eligible for such money.

      Because the city uses a different frequency from the 700 megahertz
      band specified in federal law, it risks being ineligible for any of
      the $1 billion set aside for improvements in public safety
      communications, the mayor added.

      Mr. Bloomberg said the existing rules, if allowed to go forward, would
      represent "the height of foolishness," adding that instead of "uniform
      solutions," cities need "more nuanced and individual attention."

      "Do not confuse risks with targets," he warned. "Every place there are
      risks, but there aren't that many targets, and targets are what the
      enemies of this country will focus on."

      Responding to a question from Senator Barack Obama, Democrat of
      Illinois, Mr. Bloomberg said: "Our corn crop is very important. We
      can't eat in this country without it. But homeland security monies
      shouldn't go to protect the corn crop because that's not what
      terrorists are going to try to attack."

      After he testified, Mr. Bloomberg met privately with Ms. McCaskill and
      Alphonso R. Jackson, the secretary of Housing and Urban Development.

      Later he visited Adrian M. Fenty, the new mayor of Washington. Mr.
      Fenty has modeled his office arrangement after Mr. Bloomberg's,
      working out of a "bullpen" alongside top aides instead of a
      traditional private office.
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