In seeking Senate OK on funding and security, L.A.'s mayor
says legislation is "absolutely critical" for city.
WASHINGTON -- Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa and
Rep. Jane Harman joined Tuesday in pressing for Senate
approval of a House-passed bill to improve security at the
nation's seaports, stressing the importance of the Los
Angeles port to the national economy.
Segundo, said she was pleased that Villaraigosa was visiting
on the day "when we find out whether the Safe Ports Act ...
will have traction in the Senate."
The ports security bill, introduced by Harman and Rep.
Dan Lungren, R-Gold River, would guarantee an increasing
level of funding for port security, financed mainly by
customs fees, and would mandate security improvements,
including increased inspection of the thousands of shipping
containers that pass through the major seaports daily.
Villaraigosa said the issue of security "is absolutely
critical to the citizens of Los Angeles," citing the capture
six years ago of the "millennium bomber" who planned to bomb
Los Angeles International Airport and the more recent
discovery of a homegrown terrorist cell in the city.
He praised Harman for the "critical role" she played in
helping the city get an increase in homeland security
funding when other cities were getting cuts. Both also noted
the importance of increased security at the Port of Los
Angeles, which, along with the neighboring Port of Long
Beach, handles 43 percent of the nation's foreign trade.
After a 25-minute meeting in Harman's office, the two
Democrats went across Capitol Hill to the Senate to meet
with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, who was pushing for
passage of the Safe Ports Act.
One of the Democrats' moves that could hold up Senate
passage was a proposed amendment by Sen. Bob Menendez, D-N.J.,
who is in a tight campaign, seeking 100 percent inspection
of all the shipping containers entering from overseas. Fewer
than 10 percent currently are checked by X-rays or other
Villaraigosa and Harman both said they support 100
percent inspection but were willing to accept less than that
to get an improvement in port security.
The two also discussed the effort to extend the Los
Angeles rail system's Green Line to Los Angeles
International Airport, which Harman said is one of her
Villaraigosa said he supports the Green Line extension
but noted that there were "technical issues" that had to be
resolved, which Harman said included the requirement to run
the rail line under the airport's runways.
Both said they were confident those issues could be
Earlier in the day in a speech to the Golden State
luncheon, Villaraigosa described his effort to gain control
over the Los Angeles public school system, which he said was
failing its students and their parents.
The mayor said a key to improving the schools was to get
greater parent involvement.
He said he was "going to spend a lot of money" to give
parents a greater voice in how the schools run.