Big cities get less anti-terror money

Administration cuts funds for Baltimore, N.Y., D.C.

June 01, 2006|By LUIS PEREZ AND J. JIONI PALMER | LUIS PEREZ AND J. JIONI PALMER,NEWSDAY

NEW YORK -- Despite pledges to direct a larger portion of anti-terrorism money to high-risk cities, Homeland Security officials announced yesterday that grants for New York and Washington would be cut by 40 percent while funding for smaller cities such as Omaha, Neb., and Louisville, Ky., will surge.

New York's 2006 anti-terrorism allowance - slated to pay for continuing emergency preparedness and training - will plummet to $124.5 million, from $207.5 million last year, according to figures released yesterday.

"I really look at this as a declaration of war on New York," said House Homeland Security Chairman Peter T. King, a New York Republican.

King said he was told by Homeland Security Undersecretary for Preparedness George Foresman that New York got a smaller share of federal dollars this year because of alleged shoddy paperwork.

"I have not received one rational responsible answer," King said.

Earlier this year, Congress slashed $100 million from the pot of anti-terrorism money doled out to 46 cities across the country. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff said at the time that the agency was shifting its overall grant-making formulas to direct money to cities at risk.

New York and D.C. officials, who since the Sept. 11 attacks have fought for more funds, were flabbergasted by the rollbacks.

"When you stop a terrorist, they have a map of New York City in their pocket," Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg said yesterday. "They don't have a map of any of the other 46 or 45 places."

Jarrod Agen, a Homeland Security spokesman, did not comment on King's remarks. However, Agen said New York is experiencing the double crunch of less money to go around and more cities qualifying for funds.

"I want to be clear that New York isn't any less at risk than previous years," Agen said. "There is just less total [money] to work with."

Baltimore will also receive less funding this year. The city will get $9.6 million in grants, a 15 percent cut from the $11.3 million the city received last year. In the 2004 fiscal year, the region received about $16 million, according to officials with Mayor Martin O'Malley, who has become a national spokesman on the issue.

Loss of federal money to the Baltimore area came under this year's new risk-based, competitive formula, which O'Malley officials argued overlooks the city's vulnerability because of its proximity to Washington. In all, the region requested $49.5 million in grants this year, officials said.

"What's been going on since the creation of homeland security funding is that every year we have a new mechanism for how it's awarded," said O'Malley, who chairs the U.S. Conference of Mayors' Homeland Security Task Force. "Every year, the shell game is played. Once the shells are lifted, we see there's less money overall to invest in homeland security."

O'Malley argued that the continual erosion of homeland security money would suggest that the initiative is slowly vanishing. That's especially alarming, he said, given cuts the federal government has made to police and other homeland security grants in recent years.

The amount of money available for state homeland grants fell by one-third this year to $1.7 billion, and Maryland's slice of federal homeland security dollars declined by 38 percent from $39 million to $24 million. The department altered the formula it uses to direct state and local grants toward those that faced the greatest threat and were spending the money most effectively, Chertoff told reporters yesterday.

Noting that Baltimore's funding was about average for the high-threat cities, Homeland Security spokesman Russ Knocke emphasized that the allocations are "driven by risk."

He added, "We understand fully there are going to be people who don't like it. At the end of the day, we have an obligation to be as effective as we can be with the taxpayers dollars."

O'Malley spokeswoman Raquel Guillory said the city did not anticipate receiving homeland security money in this coming year's budget because estimating how much would be allocated was impossible.

Luis Perez and J. Jioni Palmer write for Newsday. Sun reporters John Fritze and Siobhan Gorman contributed to this article.

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