O'Malley, Sen. Clinton seek anti-terrorism funds for cities

Bill would send $7 billion into metropolitan areas

March 07, 2003|By Julie Hirschfeld Davis | Julie Hirschfeld Davis,SUN NATIONAL STAFF

WASHINGTON - Warning that America's cities are dangerously unprepared for a terrorist strike, Baltimore Mayor Martin O'Malley joined Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton of New York yesterday in calling for legislation to send $7 billion in federal homeland security money to the nation's metropolitan areas.

"In this unprecedented time of challenge, when all of America's cities are stretched to the limit trying to provide for the common defense," O'Malley said, "we need a robust and immediate federal response to support our firefighters and our police officers."

Flanked by O'Malley and the leaders of national police and firefighter groups at a Capitol Hill news conference, Clinton introduced the legislation. It would provide $5 billion for communities and states to help their "first responder" law enforcement and emergency workers prepare for terrorist attacks.

The measure is one in a series of efforts by Democrats to push President Bush and Republican leaders to include substantial money for homeland defense in a supplemental spending bill that could fund military action in Iraq.

The measure is expected to move through Congress soon.

Clinton's bill would create a Domestic Defense Fund within the Homeland Security Department, including a $1 billion reserve fund for cities and states and another $1 billion for "high-threat" areas such as New York and Washington.

Democrats frequently have turned to O'Malley, who is co-chairman of the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Federal-Local Law Enforcement task force, as a local voice on homeland security. O'Malley - whom Clinton addressed as "Mike" several times during the news conference - delivered the weekly national Democratic radio address on the issue Jan. 25.

Yesterday, the mayor said that Baltimore had made little progress in preparing for a terrorist attack because of a lack of federal money to help pay for police and firefighter overtime and other security needs.

The city spent about $11 million last year on counterterrorism. It expects to spend a similar amount this year.

Despite its needs, Baltimore has received less than 3 percent, or less than $500,000, of the money sent to Maryland - about $16.8 million, city officials say. O'Malley said the bulk of the money should go to cities, which are most likely to be the targets of terrorism.

"Osama [bin Laden] isn't attacking Annapolis; he's not sending missiles into Albany," O'Malley said. "He's after the major economic and population centers, and that's where the resources have to go."

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