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U.S. Promises Cities Anti-Terror Aid

January 24, 2002|From Associated Press

WASHINGTON — Homeland Security Director Thomas J. Ridge assured mayors Wednesday that his anti-terrorism plan will include provisions to help cities shoulder some--though not anywhere near all--the costs of additional police officers, equipment and training.

Offering few details, Ridge gave a broad preview of the strategy being designed by his office, parts of which were to be announced by President Bush today.

The plan and Bush's budget that is being proposed next month would offer "unprecedented support" for cities to pay for police, firefighters and emergency medical technicians, Ridge told about 300 mayors gathered for the U.S. Conference of Mayors' annual winter meeting.

That came as good news to the mayors' group, which Wednesday released a new tally of what cities are spending to bolster themselves against future attacks. Based on a sample of 192 cities, the conference estimated that the nationwide cost to cities of additional terrorism-related security will hit $2.6 billion by the end of 2002. At the end of last year, the bill had totaled more than $525 million in overtime for police and firefighters, training, new equipment and other needs, the survey found.

An earlier survey sponsored by the conference pegged the total amount much lower, at $1.5 billion.

"Tightening security in the aftermath of Sept. 11 threatens to break the bank for many cities' budgets," said New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, president of the conference.

Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino said the expenses are forcing cities to cut basic services such as health care, parks and recreation.

"This unprecedented support that I'm talking to you about in this year's budget isn't a one-year-and-out initiative. This is a major investment," Ridge said.

At the same time, Ridge acknowledged the money will only go toward future costs and will not meet cities' entire need. For the budget year beginning Oct. 1, Bush is expected to request roughly double the current $13 billion for a variety of homeland security efforts.

The president will propose flexibility for cities to use some funds toward overtime expenses, one of their largest cost categories, Ridge said. But the majority of the money directed toward cities will be earmarked for such items as new personnel, hazardous-material equipment, bioterrorism training and emergency communication systems, he said.

Still, Morial, Menino and other mayors pronounced themselves pleased after Ridge's speech.

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