Cities a funding afterthought, NLC survey suggests

| 9/13/2002

A year after September 11, city officials put biological, chemical and cyber terrorism at the top concerns about terrorist threats, according to a new survey of 725 cities by the National League of Cities (NLC) - but few cities can afford to do anything about it.

For some threats, there are large gaps between concern and planning. Cyber terrorism is a concern of 80 percent of all cities but only 26 percent said their plans address cyber terrorism.

Meanwhile, 67 percent of all cities are concerned about dirty bombs but only 29 percent address that threat in their plans. Among large cities, 86 percent are concerned about dirty bombs and 54 percent have addressed the threat in their plans.

All this points to a need for a federal and state partnership, because cities must fund terrorism programs while also finding money for traditional needs such as infrastructure and crime, according to NLC President Karen Anderson.

"Cities are the natural targets of this evolving terrorist threat, and we have risen to the challenge of protecting citizens over the past year," said Anderson, mayor of Minnetonka, MN. "But even though cities are at the very center of homeland security, they seem to be an afterthought when it comes to federal and state priorities for providing funding and communicating key information."

The survey also found that only one in five cities (20 percent) had integrated the color-coded Homeland Security Advisory System into local planning efforts. Thirty-six percent said they had not integrated the federal alert system with their plans and 32 percent said they were working on it. Slightly more of large cities said they had integrated the alert system into their plans (27 percent) and 44 percent said they were working on it.