San Diego Union Tribune

January 26, 2007

Sanders wants anti-terror funding made permanent

Mayor meets local lawmakers in D.C.

COPLEY NEWS SERVICE

WASHINGTON – Fresh from his victory making San Diego eligible once again for federal homeland security grants, Mayor Jerry Sanders made the rounds here this week, plugging for permanent anti-terrorism money and promoting his city as a leader in fighting climate change.

While nothing eye-popping came from the mayor's meetings Wednesday and yesterday with lawmakers and White House officials – no great promises about future funding – Sanders said his trip reaffirmed the need to build on the city's recent successes.

“When you do a good job with the money they give you, they're more apt to give you more,” said Sanders, who was attending the 75th annual U.S. Conference of Mayors meeting.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security recently singled out San Diego for having one of the nation's best emergency communications systems, a feat the city managed with the help of federal grants.

This time last year, the Department of Homeland Security removed San Diego from its list of cities eligible for Urban Area Security Initiative grants – one of the most lucrative of the department's grant programs – saying the city was not at high risk for a terrorist attack or a natural disaster. Sanders was widely praised for keeping pressure on federal officials to reverse that decision, which the department did this month.

Sanders said he spoke Wednesday with one of President Bush's special assistants for governmental affairs about making the anti-terrorism grants permanent. Right now, Congress must decide each year if the program will get money.

“It doesn't mean (San Diego would) get it permanently, but that the money would be there for homeland security issues” for the entire nation, Sanders said. “(White House officials) basically said it's something they'll look at. We had better reception with our senators and our congressional delegation, honestly.”

Sanders also used his time here to promote federal legislation that would create a new grant program for interoperable communications, which can help local law enforcement and emergency agencies better communicate with one another.

“We're back here telling people that we have very close cooperation between federal, state and local agencies – and that (San Diego) is a good test bed” for emergency communications funding, the mayor said.

The mayor met with all five members of San Diego's congressional delegation and with the state's two U.S. senators, Democrats Barbara Boxer and Dianne Feinstein. He participated in conference panels on increased crime rates and on climate change, speaking at the latter event about San Diego's successes in energy conservation, including a city Environmental Services Department building that uses a fraction of the energy and half the water of comparable buildings.

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