Mayors very concerned about threats to cities, need funding for detection, survey says

Friday, June 14th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

MADISON, Wis. (AP) _ Many U.S. mayors are worried about the threat of chemical or biological attacks on their cities and say they do not have enough money to deal with such an emergency, a survey found.

Those concerns, and President Bush's plan to create a Cabinet-level department for homeland defense, are likely to be major topics of discussion this weekend in Madison, where more than 300 mayors are meeting for the annual policy meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

The survey of 122 mayors found that 73 percent expressed ``very high'' or ``high'' concern about the possibility of chemical attacks, 71 percent were very concerned about biological threats, and 67 percent expressed high concern for bomb threats.

Almost four out of five mayors said they had inadequate funding to detect threats, and three out of four said they do not have enough money for emergency response equipment or programs to protect city infrastructures.

``Mayors are on the front lines of homeland security, and we need the resources to do our jobs and prepare our cities,'' said Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, who is president of the group, which released the survey Thursday.

``Everybody says you've got to be prepared, but give us something to prepare ourselves.''

Among the resolutions the mayors will consider is one calling on Washingotn to distribute about $3 billion in block grants for homeland security directly to cities and counties rather than through the states, as Bush proposed in his budget.

``When you call 9-1-1 you don't get the highway patrol, you get a local cop, a local firefighter, a local EMS person; when we talk about first responders we're talking about local government,'' Reno, Nev., Mayor Jeff Griffin said.

The mayors also will consider a resolution calling on Congress to support an increased flow of information among local and federal law enforcement agencies.

The conference, which is expected to draw more than 300 mayors, will include addresses by Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge, FEMA Director Joe Allbaugh and Transportation Security Chief John Magaw.

Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson, who served as Wisconsin's governor for 14 years, will also speak at the conference, which starts Friday.

City officials also need to address other important issues, including affordable housing and transportation, child care and environmental concerns, Madison Mayor Sue Bauman said.

``The sense that many of us mayors have is that homeland security is important, but we also need to get back to the business of running our cities, to make sure that our cities are not only safe but that our residents continue to thrive,'' she said.