Mobilization decreasing city services, NLC study says

| 3/18/2003

The recent mobilization of National Guard and military reserve units will leave about one-fourth of the nation’s cities less able to provide services as they lose police, firefighters, administrators and other employees, according to a National League of Cities poll.

The poll, which was answered by 461 cities, was conducted between Feb. 24 and March 3. Almost 26 percent of the cities said they would be less able to provide the same level of services because of activations. Almost half of the cities, 46 percent, said they expect more employees to be called to active duty in the future.

Of the employees who are leaving for active duty in the Middle East:

  • 64 percent of cities (293 of 461) said police officers have been called.
  • 21 percent of cities (97 of 461) said firefighters have been called.
  • 21 percent of cities (98 of 461) said "other" staff have been called.
  • 6 percent of cities (28 of 461) said administrative staff have been called.
  • 2 percent of cities (8 of 461) said emergency personnel have been called.

"The reserve and guard call-ups come on top of fiscal problems in many states and localities as well as heightened responsibilities for homeland security," NLC President John DeStefano Jr., mayor of New Haven, CT, said.

DeStefano said 3,029 city leaders were coming to Washington, DC, this week to urge Congress and the administration to do a better job of partnering with local governments on issues like helping to provide homeland and economic security.

As of Feb. 26, 168,083 reserves and guards were stationed in the Middle East to support a possible war with Iraq. Even in those cities that said the mobilizations would not affect their ability to provide services, the call-ups are placing increased strains on already thin budgets as departments increase overtime to cover absent employees, NLC said.