June 5, 2004
Mayor Scolds Security Chief on U.S. Funds to Protect City
By WINNIE HU
Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg called yesterday on the homeland security secretary, Tom Ridge, to stand up to Congress over what the mayor has repeatedly characterized as its efforts to shortchange New York City on anti-terrorism money.
The mayor, appearing on his weekly radio program on WABC-AM, charged that Congress had turned the distribution of homeland security money into a political "slush fund," in which small states receive far more dollars per capita than those states at greater risk, like New York.
"This is a time for Tom Ridge to stand up and say, 'Enough of this craziness,' " the mayor said. "He has got to be out there screaming. If we are going to protect this country, we've got to send the money where the threat is, and I don't think there's any question that the No. 1 targets for anybody overseas would be New York and, arguably, Washington."
In recent months, Mr. Bloomberg has directed his criticisms only at Congress, but after coming under attack from some of its members, he has begun to focus more on the Bush administration. Yesterday, the mayor said that he had placed a call to Mr. Ridge.
"Everybody is at fault here, and everybody's got to get together and stop this craziness. This is not a pork barrel slush fund - or shouldn't be," he said.
Brian Roehrkasse, a spokesman for the Homeland Security Department, said New York City had received more homeland security money - about $300 million since 2002 - than any other city. He added that the president's 2005 budget request allocated additional money to urban areas with greater security needs.
"We believe that every state needs a minimum level of homeland security funding," he said. "However, we recognize that areas with greater homeland security needs require more funds."
Mr. Bloomberg, expressing his frustration with Congress, said yesterday that its members "all feel they have to deliver something for the hometown crowd, and sometimes, the leaders need a little prodding from the rest of us." He said that since terrorist threats were not distributed evenly across states, the money should not be, either.
"People that don't have a great threat should feel relieved, but they shouldn't be getting the money," he said. "People that do have the threat should be worried, but that's where the money should go."
The mayor also objected to proposed federal legislation that would allow a portion of the homeland security money to be spent on responding to natural disasters.
"Somebody said to me, 'Well, we have to protect our crops because we need food supplies,' " the mayor said. "Yes, you need food supplies, but I don't think there's many Al Qaeda members walking around with maps of cornfields."
Copyright 2004 The New York Times Company