Mayors Complain that Cities' Homeland Security Needs Not Being Met

Funding, communication cited as top concerns


WASHINGTON (AP) - Mayors complained Tuesday that their homeland security efforts remain underfunded and lack vital information, including national terror alerts issued by the federal government.

``We mayors are expected to find out about differences in the security code through watching CNN,'' Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson told federal Homeland Security Department officials at the winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. ``I don't get it from e-mail or fax; I don't get a telephone call.''

DHS officials promised to alert high-level security authorities of the concerns from about two dozen mayors who attended the 75-minute panel on local homeland security and border patrol issues.

Chief among the complaints was the ever-present problem of states and localities fighting over dwindling federal resources. Mayors complained that states are poaching on their federal funding, even though DHS allows states to spend up to 20 percent of money earmarked for local needs.

``That's the role of the mayors: to protect their cities and get as many resources as they can,'' said DHS local coordination director David Hagy. ``And our job in the Department of Homeland Security is to make sure that the entire pool of money is efficiently and effectively sent out.''

Earlier this month, Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge released a national response plan that promised to deliver quickly federal funding to first responders at the state and local levels during catastrophes.

Mayors also worried aloud about hazardous materials being transported through their towns, like the chlorine gas that leaked from a wrecked railcar in South Carolina this month, killing nine people and injuring hundreds more.

Mayor Bob Young of Augusta, Ga., compared the train wreck to a weapon of mass destruction.

``We've been crying for three years, asking the federal government to please assist us with one easy step: tell us what's coming through our cities,'' Young said.

Hagy said the agency is looking at the problem.