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New York Waits, Upstate Is Fed Security Pork
December 10, 2004 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Less than 60 percent of federal homeland-security funding sent to New York State this year has ended up in New York City.

New York’s elected officials often complain about the way the Department of Homeland Security distributes money. They repeat the finding that America spends more money per capita securing Wyoming than protecting New York State. Quietly, however, New York officials in both parties have created a local copy of Congress’ spending priorities, distributing money to places like remote Wyoming County.

For example, Ontario County (pop. 100,000) is purchasing a climate-controlled mobile command post, said Jeffrey Harloff, director of the county’s emergency-management office. Mr. Harloff will buy the vehicle with his share of the Department of Homeland Security’s main grant to the state. How will he use the command post? It depends on who’s asking.

"If it’s the federal government asking me, it is for the intended purpose of W.M.D. incidents and HazMat incidents," Mr. Harloff said. "In reality, we’re going to use it for everyday stuff in our office."
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood (41 comments total)

 
Mirrored here, in case the page changes.
posted by Steve_at_Linnwood at 1:57 AM on December 10, 2004


I work at a 9-1-1 center and thanks to Homeland Security, we are literally hemorraging money. We have a brand new radio system (that was desperately needed) and are now in the process of surrounding our center with a chain link and barbed wire fence and state-of-the-art entry with a swipe card instead of the tacky keypad entry we have been using.
We have spent millions and millions in the last few years, a lot of it from Homeland Security grants.
posted by leftcoastbob at 2:35 AM on December 10, 2004


look, the whole homeland (btw i hate that word, americans don't say "homeland," we say "nation") security business is simply a way to raid the treasury. when dems do it on social programs it's called waste, fraud, and abuse, when republicans do it for national security it's called an imperative. the result is the same: politicans giving huge sums of the public's money to their supporters. unfortunately for the taxpayers the republicans have hit on the winning strategy: a 500 billion dollar deficit from the party of the balanced budget amendment and they got re-elected. those pigs feeding at the trough all stink of GOP.

btw leftcoastbob - you 9-1-1 guys do a great job and that money should go to pay rises, not contractors. anyone can build a fence, it takes something special to deal with emergency calls.
posted by three blind mice at 3:11 AM on December 10, 2004


3blindmice simply a way to raid the treasury

Exactly. I bet that the fence installation is highly expensive while the fence itself is a dime a meter. Really, these days it may comparatively pay more to be fence installers then doctors.
posted by elpapacito at 3:28 AM on December 10, 2004


. We have a brand new radio system (that was desperately needed) and are now in the process of surrounding our center with a chain link and barbed wire fence and state-of-the-art entry with a swipe card instead of the tacky keypad entry we have been using.
We have spent millions and millions in the last few years, a lot of it from Homeland Security grants.


That's, ummm, fantastic?
posted by The God Complex at 3:48 AM on December 10, 2004


we are literally hemorraging money

Longview, WA, known around the world as a prime target for terrorist attacks.

Steve, extra paragraphs inside, please!
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 3:59 AM on December 10, 2004


fuck this. Upstate is constantly robbing NYC. Education funds? More per student spent upstate. Public Transit? Gov Pataki is currently pulling a scam where he tells the city that the MTA is in the red and raises our fares (for the second time in two years) while he fleeces a 200 *million dollar surplus* from the MTA and puts it in a state rainy day fund. This is just ludicrous.

WE GOT ATTACKED, folks! Just us and the Pentagon. No one else in the entire country (save the passagers on the jets) got hit. No one. Yet NYC has had to fight for the money that we were promised for rebuilding, been scammed so that we have a lower per capita Homeland Security fund, etc. What a load of crap. So far the only results of Homeland Security funding have been that the NYPD have tons of new scooters and helicopters that they've been using to shut down Critical Mass. What a load of garbage we are being fed.

On top of being stupid (ie not making any significant security improvements since 911) our government is just corrupt and (morally) bankrupt.
posted by n9 at 4:37 AM on December 10, 2004


Yet NYC has had to fight for the money that we were promised for rebuilding, been scammed so that we have a lower per capita Homeland Security fund, etc. What a load of crap. So far the only results of Homeland Security funding have been that the NYPD have tons of new scooters and helicopters that they've been using to shut down Critical Mass. What a load of garbage we are being fed.

yeah, and bush calls it an act of war but expects private insurers to pick up the costs.

it's not about security, it's just massive program for the transfer of wealth.
posted by three blind mice at 4:44 AM on December 10, 2004


It's also a simple way of building political support. If the money were concentrated in NYC, imagine the complaints.
posted by atchafalaya at 4:49 AM on December 10, 2004


Just saying, the population of NYC is quite a bit less that 60% of the population of NYS, so it's not really a local copy of Congress' spending priorities at all.
posted by queen zixi at 5:17 AM on December 10, 2004


It's also a simple way of building buying political support.
posted by three blind mice at 5:18 AM on December 10, 2004


yeah, and bush calls it an act of war but expects private insurers to pick up the costs

Half of MeFi would cry "corporate welfare!!!" if the government let Big Insurance off the hook.
posted by trharlan at 5:32 AM on December 10, 2004


Having lived upstate in Ithaca for 13 years, and in the city for one, the perspective I've picked up about the way the NYS government works is pretty clear: they are failing both sides of the equation.

NYC, yes, has been shorted for MTA funding, homeland security funding, and school funding.
Upstate has also been seriously shorted for school funding - Pataki in fact vetoed the use of emergency funds that had been earmarked for distribution to schools, I believe both upstate and downstate, last year.
Little has been done about the quick rate of job destruction as industries pull out of upstate and move wherever.

I mean, fuck, Pataki vetoed the minimum wage increase, obviously content to keep us at $5.15/hr. I'm amazed the state congress had its shit together enough to override the veto.

People from upstate blame the city for their woes; people from the city blame upstate.

I think it's time we all united and started seriously pointing the finger at Albany. It's all gotten way out of hand.
posted by Remy at 6:00 AM on December 10, 2004


Seems to me that while you'd expect NYC to get a lot of money, you'd also expect a lot of money to go to Nassau/Suffolk on the coast, and to counties that border Canada or almost do.

Which is everywhere the article mentions except Albany.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 6:06 AM on December 10, 2004


It's interesting that a lot of people are looking at this as a suprise. While much of the funding for projects related to 9/11 is clearly for a security/humanitarian purpose, it was inevitable that, like every other new government project, the opportunity for pork and pet projects to be exploited from new funding was taken, to a considerable degree.

I lived in New York during/post-9/11, and especially after the mistake the Red Cross made with some of its funding, the "you hate Freedom!" fear from charites basically led to giving cash first, asking questions later. People making $350,000 salaries were given twice that because they had to evacuate their Tribeca apartments for a week. Because of the way pension structures work (your pension is based on your last 6 months' salary) firemen/policemen who worked a month of triple-overtime suddenly were allowed to retire at nearly twice the pension as would be calculated for their career. I'm sure I'll get scornful looks for this, but great as the torment of the 9/11 victims' families was, the idea that some of them recieved millions in compensation is ludicrous.

This isn't to say the firemen didn't deserve HUGE bonuses for their work, or that families didn't deserve insurance and security after the loss of a family member. But no one bothered to look at the financial logic against the emotional "reasoning" for giving everyone fistfuls of cash. A year later, they're closing fire stations in NYC, 'cause clearly there's not enough money for that.

Every time I read/hear about some random small county demanding DHS funds for "terrorist prevention" I immediately picture the "bear patrol" choppers from that episode of The Simpsons.
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 6:31 AM on December 10, 2004



Just saying, the population of NYC is quite a bit less that 60% of the population of NYS, so it's not really a local copy of Congress' spending priorities at all.


The official population of NYC is more than 8 million, with the actual population being estimated at about 9 million.

The population of NYC is 18.9 million, with the actual population being estimated at 20 million.

So 50% would be an even share, but less than 40% is nowhere close.
posted by n9 at 6:54 AM on December 10, 2004


I found leftcoastbob's comment particularly interesting, as up until recently I sold equipment to 911 centers. I'm outta that game right now, but Motorola was no doubt enthused by your grant.

The number one thing I heard at the major public safety tradeshows: "You need this equipment, no doubt. Let's figure out a way to get HS to pay for it, okay? Our reps will help you write the grant request with the right language..." etc...

I have sat in conference rooms in municipalities all over the country while Emergency Operations Directors have "gamed" the grant process to figure out how to pay for things which were not really related to HS - like new chairs and countertops in the operations center.

Every time I read/hear about some random small county demanding DHS funds for "terrorist prevention" I immediately picture the "bear patrol" choppers from that episode of The Simpsons.

There are certain municipalities in Louisiana who have applied for funds to modernize their equipment and been denied. These are the same agencies who are nearest to refineries and other economic targets. Yet there are other places in South Carolina who have received money, and the most "dangerous" thing that could happen there is someone uses some C4 to relocate a bunker on the 7th fairway.

Some of what I've seen has been "grey area" and some of it has been blatant misuse of funding.

I'm out of that game these days.
posted by TeamBilly at 6:54 AM on December 10, 2004


correction: sorry the population of NYS (state) is 18.9 million.
posted by n9 at 6:55 AM on December 10, 2004


Just to point out the water for NYC comes from upstate and surrounding areas. I think there is an argument for funding areas to ensure first notification of an incident. Of course a logical distribution of funding would be nice, I just wanted to point out that NYC is not an island unto itself (pun intended.)

Perhaps some of the money could go to taking the maps offline. And if you worried about NYC business, then go to here.
posted by fluffycreature at 7:01 AM on December 10, 2004


I'm not sure what the situation is in New York, but there's been a long trickle-down of fund depletion over the last few years in my state. Once federal money to the state started drying up, the state tried to make due. Then state funding to the cities dried up, because they were out of money by that point. At that point, city organizations like schools and police departments were out of luck, and facing a lot of new demands (homeland security issues, No Child Left Behind, etc). Is it really any surprise that the police are trying to make up the deficiency by drawing from whatever funds they can get?
posted by mikeh at 7:03 AM on December 10, 2004


Perhaps some of the money could go to taking the maps offline. And if you worried about NYC business, then go to here

Right, because providing online maps is just inviting a terrorist attack.

Any idea how much water NYC uses a day? Any idea how much poison / botulinum toxin / LSD you'd have to dump in a reservoir to affect anyone?

It's not a small amount.
posted by bshort at 8:21 AM on December 10, 2004


Someone other than Halliburton, Bechtel, and Wackenhut might as well get some use out of the money. :::shrug:::
posted by rushmc at 8:41 AM on December 10, 2004


I don't buy the argument that security boils down to a handful of targets in Washington DC and NYC. Especially given that Oklahoma City was also a target by a major terrorist attack.

One of the defining characteristics of terrorism in over 100 years of history is that terrorists work through the gaps in security. In Israel, if things get to hot for young palistinian males, start recruiting women. We have seen a shift to attacks on hotels as well with two successful terrorist attacks on tourist hotels since 9-11. There may be intelligence about plans to hit high-rise apartment buildings in Florida.

The planes that hit NYC didn't originate in NYC. They originated at airports that were known for having security gaps. Aftewards, we hit ourselves in the forehead and said, "whoops, should have seen that coming."

So, I think we are really fooling ourselves in thinking that terrorists are going to let our sentimentality about NYC and DC to guide their next action. If I was an evil terrorist, I'd start thinking about malls and hotels with nice big underground parking structures, I'd start thinking about transit lines and busses where a person with a suitcase and a plastique overcoat can go unnoticed, I'd start looking at direct flights from Mexico to a number of hub airports, or just taking a bus over the border.

Per capita spending is a bad way of defining pork.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 8:43 AM on December 10, 2004


But isn't the real issue that if we are going to spend any money at all on DHS security upgrades we should be spending it on protecting high-pop coastal areas first -- and that the opposite is happening?

Is it that they want to punish the liberal urban centers or that they really know deep down that there is next to nothing that can be done anyway and all this is just a cash transaction to them?
posted by n9 at 8:44 AM on December 10, 2004


Perhaps some of the money could go to taking the maps offline.

Yeah right, censor maps. How Soviet. As if no terrorist could find a paper copy somewhere, or simply follow the aqueduct. 30 years before "9/11" -- 20 years before the World Wide Web -- I knew where my city's water came from, and I was a schoolkid then.

What I'd want to know is how much built-in redundancy there is to the water supply: in the unlikely event one pipe is blown up (still a far more likely attack than botulism, bshort),
how many other sources remain. (I should feel lucky there's no way for Al Qaeda to stop the Ohio River, but unlucky I suppose that there's no need to poison it.) And the same for every such-like utility, whether taking out one line will crash the whole system.

I can see it now though: what we'd see instead are big Homeland Security projects, so big they couldn't afford to use any but convict labor ("We need more litterers, Boris!"), to do things like paint all the electrical power stations and municipal office buildings and so on in military camouflage. ("I went to pay my parking tickets but the county courthouse has disappeared!")
posted by davy at 8:54 AM on December 10, 2004


If I was an evil terrorist, I'd start thinking about malls and hotels with nice big underground parking structures, I'd start thinking about transit lines and busses where a person with a suitcase and a plastique overcoat can go unnoticed

You'd better be careful about saying such things in public, somebody might call the FBI on you. "Since 9/11 we have to be more careful!" ("He was talking about blowing up the mall! Then where would I buy flipflops?")
posted by davy at 9:00 AM on December 10, 2004


From the vantage point of upstate NY (read as anywhere but NYC) it's always viewed as an "us and them" with the city. But the truth is there's a symbiotic relationship between NYC and the rest of the state and we'd be better off acknowledging it than whining about which side "got more". A good first step would be, as mentioned above, fixing that festering pool of corruption in Albany.
posted by tommasz at 9:30 AM on December 10, 2004


n9: But isn't the real issue that if we are going to spend any money at all on DHS security upgrades we should be spending it on protecting high-pop coastal areas first -- and that the opposite is happening?

Well, that is an interesting question which is one reason why per capita spending is misleading. Certainly, NYS gets less per capita than Wyoming, but that's still a huge amount of money. The other factor is that HS is not just about anti-terrorism, having absorbed coast guard, immigration and secret service.

Is it that they want to punish the liberal urban centers or that they really know deep down that there is next to nothing that can be done anyway and all this is just a cash transaction to them?

Interesting statement burried at the bottom of the article. NYC's grants might increase from $37 mil to $171 mil. But I suspect that it is more the latter. I think that the problem with pork is that you have to evaluate each grant in relationship to local needs.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 9:33 AM on December 10, 2004


TeamBilly: Then you know that the ones with the greatest need aren't the ones who get the money. The ones with the greatest grant-writers are the ones who get the money. There's not a lot of common sense involved in the whole thing.
posted by leftcoastbob at 9:44 AM on December 10, 2004


leftcoastbob:

You're absolutely correct. There are grant-request writing schools that many of the manufacturers (NENA and APCO-types) have attended expressly for these purposes.

I wish there was more common sense on this. I really do. The way it gets done now scares the shit out of me.
posted by TeamBilly at 11:07 AM on December 10, 2004


or that they really know deep down that there is next to nothing that can be done anyway and all this is just a cash transaction to them?

Bingo.

You'd better be careful about saying such things in public, somebody might call the FBI on you.

You may be joking, but too many aren't with that sort of statement. As has been pointed out repeatedly, in this forum and many others, the terrorists are way ahead of you in thinking about our vulnerabilities (they have, after all, been thinking about it for years and years), and any notion you toss out is not likely to flash any lightbulbs over the heads of those eager to follow through on them. People really need to get over themselves and stop underestimating the threat (while, ironically, at the same time overestimating it).
posted by rushmc at 12:01 PM on December 10, 2004


rushmc: I don't see how noting that shopping malls and hotels are potentially vulnerable targets is all that much more inflamatory than pointing to the manhattan business district as a vulnerable target.

Really, I think one of the problems is that 9-11 was so big, so massive, so horrifying that it has pretty much defined our view of terrorism in terms of the huge, massive, attacks. Something more like the Jiddah consulate attack, the Jakarta hotel bombing (killed 350), the Madrid railway bombing (180 killed), or the strategy of hitting public cafes, nightclubs, theatres and public transportation. (Perhaps borrowing the IRA strategy of putting very public bombs near "legitimate targets".) The Anthrax attacks and the Muhammad/Malvo sniper spree reveal that you don't need a high death toll to inspire panic.

I'm personally of the opinion that the money would be better spent hacking through the backlog of Arabic intel that is in despirate need of translation than giving funds for banning photography in subways, but that is just my opinion.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 12:46 PM on December 10, 2004


Bridges is where it's at. Many major cities have large bridges that permit medium and heavy truck traffic. Load up a 5 ton with explosives (ala OK); park it on the centre span; make escape via motorbike; 30 sec later kaboom. 18 terrorists could take out 18 bridges and tunnels putting a severe crimp in places like NYC, SF, Seattle. Food ain't getting in and people ain't getting out.

Your target doesn't allow trucks? How about school and charter busses? 5-15 passenger vans can haul as much weight and more volume that a single 5 ton truck and can pretty much go anywhere. Label the bus as a church group and your go to go.
posted by Mitheral at 2:48 PM on December 10, 2004


Bridges is where it's at. Many major cities have large bridges that permit medium and heavy truck traffic. Load up a 5 ton with explosives (ala OK); park it on the centre span; make escape via motorbike; 30 sec later kaboom. 18 terrorists could take out 18 bridges and tunnels putting a severe crimp in places like NYC, SF, Seattle. Food ain't getting in and people ain't getting out.

I swear I saw this in a video game somewhere....
posted by TeamBilly at 4:50 PM on December 10, 2004


rushmc: I don't see how noting that shopping malls and hotels are potentially vulnerable targets is all that much more inflamatory than pointing to the manhattan business district as a vulnerable target.

It shouldn't be, but many perceive it to be. And that's the foolishness I was trying to point out.
posted by rushmc at 5:27 PM on December 10, 2004


make escape via motorbike;

If history has taught us anything, it's that the kinds of people willing to go through the trouble aren't concerned very much with surviving the catastrophe. In fact, they're much more likely to pull it off if they have absolutely nothing to fear, including death.

No matter how much money we spend, we'll never be able to stop those willing to kill themselves to make a point. Never.
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 6:12 PM on December 10, 2004


take out 18 bridges and tunnels putting a severe crimp in places like NYC, SF, Seattle. Food ain't getting in and people ain't getting out.

You are aware there are giant boats sitting in these harbors, yes? I'm pretty sure food could get in. And with the ferries, getting out would take a while, but you could.

Also, I am tired of upstate stealing my money. But I am even more tired of Pataki existing and Bloomberg doing nothing to force the state's hand. Moronatards all.
posted by dame at 9:51 PM on December 10, 2004


Further, correct me if I'm wrong, but Seattle and San Fransisco aren't actually islands. Neither is NYC (though Manhattan is); and they aren't going to take out every little bridge to the Bronx. So, actually, this plan would certainly make life a pain, but I don't think it's really seige level.
posted by dame at 9:57 PM on December 10, 2004


You know, you fancypants commie New Yawkers wouldn't have so much cause to bitch about withheld funds if you'd just voted for Bush.
posted by AlexReynolds at 10:20 PM on December 10, 2004


For all this talk about how smart these terrorists are they aint done shit since 9/11, over three years ago, so either they are flat out of ideas or the cash is doing something to ward em off.
posted by zeoslap at 10:03 AM on December 11, 2004


(your pension is based on your last 6 months' salary) firemen/policemen who worked a month of triple-overtime suddenly were allowed to retire at nearly twice the pension as would be calculated for their career

this sounds like pure bullshit to me. every pension plan i've ever been involved in pays out according to an average of BASE wage during some specified time period. overtime is not base wage.
posted by quonsar at 2:47 PM on December 11, 2004


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