Small cities such as Toledo, Omaha, Nashville & Baton Rouge are eligible for homeland security moneyBY Alison Gendar
April 13, 2011
Maybe Osama Bin Laden hates the Toledo Mud Hens.
That's the only way to explain why Toledo, Ohio, and other small cities like Omaha, Nashville and Baton Rouge, La., are eligible to win precious homeland security money during a budget crunch, New York lawmakers charged Tuesday.
"I guess Nashville has the Grand Ole Opry, but in terms of landmarks at risk and assets being targeted, nothing comes close to New York City," said Rep. Pete King (R-L.I.), chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee.
The eleventh-hour budget deal reached last week by President Obama and congressional negotiators sliced 20% of the funding for a program designed to protect at-risk cities and key targets from a terrorist attack.
Funding for the program - which pays for equipment, weapons and counterterrorism training - was cut from $887 million to $725 million for the current budget that ends in September.
With a dwindling pool of cash, New York's House members sought to trim the number of cities eligible to cash from 64 to 25 or fewer.
But negotiators from the Senate, where members from small states wield as much clout as colleagues representing big cities, shot down the idea.
"It is appalling that a unified House position - and common sense - weren't enough to convince the Senate that the most at-risk areas need this security funding," said
Rep. Nita Lowey (D-Westchester, Rockland), who said the large number of competitors will cost the city more than $27 million.
Mayor Bloomberg's team also dumped on the Senate's logic.
"Homeland security funding should be distributed based on risk, and New York City does not receive its fair share of funds," said Bloomberg spokesman Jason Post.
King hopes a direct appeal he has made to Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano might make a difference at reducing the number of eligible cities.
"The reality is that New York is the target, and hopefully the [Homeland Security Department] can din down the other cities," he said.
Napolitano did not immediately respond to King's lobbying campaign.
New York lawmakers are fiercely protective of the city's slice of the homeland security pie. The city pulled in 18% of the funding set aside for high-risk cities last year, pocketing $151 million.
It's unclear when the cash from this year's pot will be doled out.
Local pols say that foiled attempts by homegrown jihadists to bomb the subway system and Times Square underscore NewYork's status as a major target - and its need for federal anti-terror funds.
And they say payouts to smaller cities ($2.8 million to Nashville and $2.2 million to Toledo last year) only gobble up funds at the expense of cities in the terrorists' cross hairs.