WASHINGTON — Cities are at risk because the Bush administration is too preoccupied with its political problems to properly prepare for another natural disaster or terrorist attack, Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid told mayors from around the country Friday.
“Any one of your cities and towns could be the next New Orleans,” Reid said at a meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors. “The federal government owes it to you and your citizens to be prepared the next time disaster strikes.”
The Nevada lawmaker said efforts to find out what went wrong after Hurricane Katrina illustrate how the administration’s priorities are wrong.
Governments at the federal, state and local level have been harshly criticized for a slow response to Hurricane Katrina, which devastated coastal areas of Mississippi and Louisiana and flooded New Orleans. Yet the White House has been slow in helping Congress investigate what happened at the federal level, Reid said.
Reid said the investigation must be completed — not to fix blame but to learn what needs to be done to avoid a repeat of the post-Katrina problems.
Bush on defense
President Bush on Thursday defended the administration’s level of cooperation, citing the thousands of administration documents given to congressional investigators. Responding to complaints that more information could be provided, Bush said that it would have a “chilling effect” on the ability of presidential advisers to speak freely.
Reid said the poor choices of the administration and Republicans in Congress are also evident in steps securing the nation after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
Efforts to spend more money for emergency workers in cities were rejected as well as efforts to restore money for extra police, he said.
And he said many steps recommended by a commission examining national security after the terror attacks have not been taken, such as strengthening security for ports and rail transportation. He questioned spending billions on Iraq and tax breaks for the wealthy rather than for security improvements in cities.
“If we can spend $2 billion every week to protect the Iraqi people, we can do more to protect our people at home,” Reid said.
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