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San Diego, Sacramento won't receive any Homeland Security money
Contra Costa Times
By John Simerman
May 31, 2006

A plan to weigh terrorism risks more heavily when doling out homeland security money was bound to help the Bay Area, local officials figured.

They figured wrong.

The region fell short Wednesday in its bid for a big slice of the homeland security pie, awarded $28.3 million -- $5 million less than a year ago -- under a program that for the first time required urban cities and counties to set aside parochial disputes and submit a unified application.

The grant paled to the $333.2 million that the Bay Area requested in an application that was admittedly ambitious, given that 46 regions were competing for $740 million under the "Urban Areas Security Initiative" program.

But local officials figured on perhaps $50 million, and Wednesday's announcement brought a miffed reaction.

Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff had touted a refined funding formula aimed at placing threats above population or politics. Local officials pointed to the Port of Oakland, Bay Area bridges, East Bay refineries and Silicon Valley as potential terrorist targets that they claim should have vaulted the region up the funding scale.

Meanwhile, the Los Angeles/Long Beach area got a boost, from $69 million to $80.6 million.

But the Bay Area was not alone in seeing its funding slide. The San Diego area, for instance, saw a drop from $14.8 million to $8 million, leaving it beneath Omaha, Neb., Louisville, Ky. and Milwaukee, Wis., among others.

"It's definitely not fair. Those cities, with all due respect, don't have the potential targets we do," said Oakland City Council President Ignacio De La Fuente. "We believe we are a threat. The federal government has told us so."

The San Diego and Sacramento areas have been dropped from the federal list of eligible high-risk regions, meaning next year they will no longer receive funds under the program.

The awards were among $1.7 billion in federal grants that the DHS announced on Wednesday. State and local agencies in California will receive a total of $232 million, down $32 million from last year. It amounts to a higher share of homeland security funds compared to last year, but the pie is shrinking, said Chris Bertelli, spokesman for the Governor's Office of Homeland Security.

Overall, the Bay Area ranked sixth among urban areas awarded the high-risk money, behind New York, Los Angeles/Long Beach, Chicago, the Washington D.C. region and Jersey City/Newark, N.J. New York City saw its funding plummet, from more than $200 million last year to $124 million.

Federal officials have discussed the funding formula only in general terms, saying it weighs most heavily on the threat risk in urban areas.

"I really don't know how they got to where they got with the Bay Area, just like I don't know how they determined New York was half as at-risk as they used to be," said Bertelli. "I think they missed some of the big-picture items."

The new regional approach was announced in January, and the regions had less than two months to submit their requests. San Francisco, San Jose and Oakland led a rushed process that left officials elsewhere in the Bay Area, including Contra Costa County, grousing over a lack of input.

A panel of city and county officials will begin next week to decide how to spend the money.

The biggest-ticket item on the Bay Area application, for $107 million, was for equipment upgrades to help police, firefighters and other emergency workers communicate after a massive terrorist strike or national disaster.

Other requests included about $50 million to better secure landmarks and key facilities such as the BART system; $31.5 million for a regional emergency training center; and $26.3 million for medicine to combat chemical or radiation exposure.

San Jose Mayor Ron Gonzales was trying to take a better-than-nothing outlook, said his spokesman, David Vossbrink.

"You can always say we deserve more. We need more," said Vossbrink. "We have to do the best with what we've got."
Reach John Simerman at 925-943-8072 or e-mail jsimerman@cctimes.com.

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