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Bush Urged to Reconsider Withholding Funds from Local Emergency Services - 2002-12-06

New York Senator Hillary Clinton joined police and firefighter unions at a New York City firehouse Thursday to urge the Bush administration to reconsider its decision to withhold funds from local emergency services.

Senator Clinton said that $1.5 billion in funding already allocated by Congress for local emergency services in the United States is currently being withheld, hurting the new Homeland Security initiative. "I don't understand how we can, in a two-front war, only provide resources for one of those fronts, namely the international front," she said. "Seems to me what most people are really worried about we have all of these warnings, yellow, red is what's happening to us at home. What's happening with our port. Our bridges, our subway systems, our utility plants."

Creating a Homeland Security Department without funding first responders, Senator Clinton said, is like "building a hospital without hiring doctors and nurses."

Peter Gorman, President of the Uniformed Fire Fighters Association, said New York City's emergency services are deteriorating. "As I speak to you right now, there are six percent less firefighters today than there were on September 11," he said. "There are several thousand less police officers than there were on September 11. The sacrifices of police officers and firefighters speak for themselves. We are part of the national defense, and it's time the federal government realized that."

Mr. Gorman hopes the federal government will be able to come up with funding where New York City has failed. The city is facing a budgetary shortfall of $1 billion this year, and Mayor Michael Bloomberg has been making broad cuts in city services as a result.