2007-05-11 / Community

Weiner Sponsors 'Transparent' Spending Bill

Put Money Where It's Really Needed, Congressman Says

The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Wednesday night authored by Representative Anthony Weiner, a member of the House Subcommittee on Crime, Terrorism, and Homeland Security, which will require public disclosure of all anti-terror spending by cities and states.

The Homeland Security Transparency Act, passed by a bipartisan vote of 296 to 126 as part of the Department of Homeland Security Authorization bill, requires any government entity that spends federal homeland security dollars to send quarterly expenditure reports to DHS.

The bill also requires that DHS post these expenditure reports on a publicly available website within one week of receiving them from a grantee.

Earlier this year, Weiner released a report detailing some of the most outrageous homeland security spending boondoggles from coast to coast.

While New York and other large, high threat U.S. cities compete with small cities and low threat states for vital anti-terror dollars, millions of dollars that are supposed to fight terror are actually going to the very worst kind of pork barrel programs. Under the current system, for example, funding for New York City terrorism cops could be spent on bulletproof vests for dogs instead. In fact, Columbus, OH spent $7,348 on 11 bulletproof vests for dogs in 2005. And when questioned about the purchase, Ken Morckel, director of the Ohio Department of Public Safety defended his decision by saying, "I challenge anyone to spend $8 billion and not find something to pick on."

What will these cities do with anti-terror funds?

Hard to tell, but here's a possible list:

FUNDED WITH FEDERAL HOMELAND SECURITY DOLLARS:

Alaska: Security Cameras for Fishing Village, $202,000.

Arizona: A Tactical Robot for Peoria, $15,000.

California: Kennels for Stray Animals,$3,500.

Indiana: Truck for A County Employee, $30,000.

Indiana: Gym Equipment, Nutritional Counseling & Fitness Instruction, $55,000.

Kentucky: A Grant to Protect Bingo Halls, $36,200.

Maryland: Eight Large Screen Plasma Television Monitors, $160,000.

Ohio: Bulletproof Vests for Dogs, $7,348.

South Dakota: On-Site Paging System for the State Agricultural Fair, $29,995.

Texas: A Custom Trailer for the Mushroom Festival, $30,000.

`Texas: A Trailer Used for Lawnmower Drag Races, $3,000.

Wisconsin: Onalaska (pop. 16,150) Fire Dept. Clowns and Puppet Shows, $8,000.

After the federal government awards homeland security grants, the money trickles down to local emergency management agencies without adequate reporting back to the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) about how the money is used. Because there is no central depository of homeland security grant information, Weiner had to cull through newspaper accounts and old press releases to compile the attached report on homeland security spending. "It is an ongoing battle to keep New York and other large cities safe," said Rep. Weiner. "We've got to fight for every homeland security dollar, or we'll lose them to bulletproof vests for Fido. That means a comprehensive approach, at every level, and proper disclosure of homeland security spending."

Currently, under the Urban Area Security Initiative (UASI) program, New York and other large cites have to compete for high density, high threat anti-terror dollars among 45 areas that include over 600 different cities and towns, covering 54% of the country's population. And, under the State Homeland Security Grant program, every state is guaranteed a minimum amount funds whether needed or not.

Weiner has also authored legislation, known as the THREAT Act (Targeting Homeland Security Resources Effectively Against Terrorism Act), to reduce the number of high density, high threat areas eligible for UASI grants from 45 to 15.

Focusing on the 15 cities most at risk would ensure that more high threat funding comes to New York City and other large cities with real, documented threats.

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