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DeStefano launches first responder funding campaign.

NLC President John DeStefano, mayor of New Haven, Conn., is calling on city officials to send a police or fire badge to President Bush to show the importance of police, fire and rescue personnel to the security of the country and as a plea to deliver money to local governments for first responders immediately.

"This is a symbolic gesture to illustrate a very real life-and-death issue," DeStefano said. "We're asking the President to hold the badges in trust and then, upon passage of first-responder funding, to keep the badges in gratitude."

Congress and the President passed the Homeland Security Act last month but failed to include any money for first responders in the legislation. Bush announced plans for a $3.5 billion First Responders Initiative last spring but the funds have not materialized.

DeStefano whose father was a police officer in New Haven, launched the campaign to send badges or other first responder emblems such as patches to the President in a speech after his election as NLC president during the Congress of Cities in Salt Lake City.

The campaign is an "appeal to the leadership of the President," DeStefano said, and part of a redefining of the relationship between cities and towns and state and federal governments.

With most states facing budget deficits and reducing funding for cities, local governments are looking for ways to cover costs for homeland security while continuing to provide all other basic services to citizens.

"Our first goal is clear, it is homeland security, now, but not at the expense of transportation or clean water or clean air or anything else in our cities and towns," DeStefano said.

Much of the Congress of Cities focused on the lack of federal first-responder funds to reimburse money spent on hometown security, including airport security and increased security functions in public buildings.

Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson said cities need resources to respond to emergencies and serve citizens.

"If you don't equip first responders, you're just talking and not acting," he said.

Dearborn, Mich., Mayor Michael Guido, co-chair of NLC's Working Group on Homeland Security, said, "I don't think anyone could have predicted that national defense would be paid for by property taxes."

More than half of large cities say providing homeland security has made it harder to perform their normal public safety responsibilities, according to an NLC survey of 221 cities released at the conference.

Among all cities, 24 percent said redeploying public safety personnel or shifting funds for homeland security has made it harder to meet normal public safety responsibilities.

"Homeland security begins with hometown security," said outgoing NLC President Karen Anderson in her address at the Opening General Session of the conference. "Cities and other local authorities are the frontlines of defense in the war against domestic terrorism. Our cities and towns present a long list of potential and likely targets, as we have been reminded many times. But we continue to get the short end of the stick from the federal government."

Partnership Resolution

Thirty-six percent of all cities and 65 percent of larger cities reported redeploying personnel or shifting funds. NLC's annual fiscal survey, released earlier this year, revealed that city fiscal conditions are at their lowest level in 10 years, and are expected to worsen in the coming the year.

Also during the Congress of Cities, NLC's membership passed a resolution committing to a partnership with the federal government in homeland security and other programs vital to American citizens.

"The National League of Cities urges the President and Congress to preserve and support federal programs, initiatives and appropriations that have--in partnership with cities and towns--benefited all Americans," the resolution stated. "The National League of Cities will seek to ensure that the President and the Congress recognize the partnership with cities and towns on programs and appropriations essential to a strong America."

Details: For more information on the badge campaign for homeland security funding, including sample letters, see
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Title Annotation:National League of Cities President John DeStefano urges federal assistance in funding homeland security measures
Author:Hogan, Cyndy Liedtke
Publication:Nation's Cities Weekly
Geographic Code:1USA
Date:Dec 16, 2002
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