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League of Cities Feels Burned by Congress

League of Cities Feels Burned by Congress



Estimated read time: 2-3 minutes

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News Specialist Keith McCord reporting

City leaders across the country are furious at Congress right now over the issue of homeland security.

Specifically, they're upset that lawmakers adjourned before approving billions of dollars to ease law enforcement budgets.

Today those leaders sounded off here in Salt Lake City.

The National League of Cities is holding its 79th annual convention in Salt Lake right now.

At conventions like this, there's always talk about the "traditional" issues: transportation, healthcare, education and such, but the mayors are really upset about what Congress didn't do earlier this month.

From the mayor of Minnetonka, Minnesota:

"We're outraged that Congress left Washington last month without approving any funds for police, fire and other local responders," says Karen Anderson, president of the National League of Cities.

To the mayor of Salt Lake City:

"We are frustrated by the lack of support for protecting our homes and families from the threat of terrorist attack," says Mayor Rocky Anderson.

The message is clear -- homeland security is priority one with leaders of cities and towns across the country.

Since the 9-1-1 attacks, law enforcement budgets have been stretched to the limit. Places and events that never were staffed with security and equipment now are.

Municipal leaders were thrilled when Congress passed the Homeland Security Act of 2002.

Unfortunately, before adjourning, Congress failed to authorize $3.5 billion to be distributed to cities and towns to help offset their law enforcement budgets.

That's not sitting well.

"These are the men and women who are first called. They're the ones that need the resources and the capability to respond when we have emergencies in our community," Rocky Anderson says.

Until that money gets freed up, police and fire chiefs, sheriffs and others, may have to make cuts just to get by.

"But it comes down to a point, particularly now, when our budgets are being looked at very closely, at what services are going to have to be cut in order to continue to provide the safety level that we have up to now," says Salt Lake City Police Chief Rick Dinse.

These city leaders want to send a loud message to Congress, and they chose the first day of their national convention in Salt Lake City to do it.

"So we're asking the president and Congress to put first responders first, and make hometown, homeland security the first priority when they return in January," Karen Anderson says.

There were about a dozen appropriations bills that were left unfinished when Congress adjourned. The word from Utah's senators is that lawmakers will go back to work earlier than usual in January to address those bills.

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