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Hahn Lobbies U.S. on Funds for Safety at LAX

Mayor invites homeland security chief to inspect new measures. But officials say cities cannot rely on Washington for everything.

January 23, 2003|Beth Shuster | Times Staff Writer

WASHINGTON — Wrapping up a two-day lobbying trip to Washington, Los Angeles Mayor James K. Hahn on Wednesday turned his attention to terrorism and security while continuing to press for more federal funds to support a variety of initiatives.

The mayor met for more than 30 minutes with former Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, who oversees the Office of Homeland Security, to discuss airport and port security. Hahn and Ridge have met before and aides say the two share a practical approach to problems and a recognition that cities cannot rely on Washington to do everything.

"A strong tone of the meeting was that we will be partners in this effort to secure airports and ports," Hahn said. "It's local government that is going to protect the United States. There's a real sense that he [wants] to be as helpful as he can."

The mayor added that Ridge accepted his invitation to visit Los Angeles to see the security improvements at Los Angeles International Airport and at the port.

As the mayor has discovered on this trip, however, this is a hard time for cities to be asking the federal government for money. Before his meeting with Ridge, the mayor told a U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting on aviation security that Los Angeles has spent about $30 million on airport security and has been reimbursed $9 million in federal funds.

"This is a new burden for us," Hahn said. "We'd like to get that funding assured."

Adm. James M. Loy, the undersecretary of Transportation who oversees the Transportation Security Administration, told the mayors panel that cities entered a new security environment after the World Trade Center attacks and that there will never be enough money to make every improvement.

Since the Transportation Security Administration was formed after the Sept. 11 attacks, it has focused on airports and improving the screening of passengers and baggage. Loy said the agency is also developing plans to improve security on ships, trains and buses.

The mayor and Police Chief William J. Bratton also met Wednesday with a mayors panel on gang crime and domestic terrorism. They urged mayors, law enforcement officials and others to work together on national crime problems, rather than relying on a city-by-city approach.

And, in a lunchtime speech to an AFL-CIO fiscal summit, Hahn called on the federal government to give substantial aid to local governments to help provide jobs. As one mayoral aide put it, Hahn has used every opportunity to ask for money on this trip. It remains to be seen, however, whether the federal government will deliver.

In Los Angeles, Councilman Jack Weiss criticized the Bush administration and Congress for failing to provide more funds for local anti-terrorist efforts.

Weiss said he appreciated the fact that Ridge met with Hahn. "Unfortunately, talk is cheap -- listening is even cheaper -- and the preparedness resources we desperately need cost real money," he said.

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