"Knowledge will forever govern ignorance

 and a people who mean to be their own governors

 must arm themselves with the power which knowledge gives."

Tuesday, July 19, 2005

When It Comes To Security, Facts Matter

We had planned a second piece on homeland and transit security as a follow-up to
Federal Funds For Transit Security Go Unused, so John Shabe’s reference to our post will provide a great point for us to start. In his post “You Gotta Blame Corzine” Shabe writes:
Conservative Jersey blogger Enlighten-NJ calls out Jon Corzine for the fact that New York's MTA didn't spend all of its cunter-terror dollars. This is patently ludicrous, as Jersey blogger Sloppydawg points out.
In our post cited by Shabe, we noted Senators Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Jon Corzine (D-NJ) have been demanding more money for transit security. We also wrote the demands might seem reasonable until you read the facts presented in the New York Observer, including the fact that $570 million in funds allocated for transit security in our area have gone unused. Aware of this information, what would you conclude? We wrote: “Senators Schumer and Corzine should familiarize themselves with the facts before demanding more money from taxpayers.”

We didn’t “blame” Corzine for the fact New York’s M.T.A. didn’t spend all of its transit security money as Mr. Shabe stated. If blame was assigned it went to Governor Pataki, as we wrote: “The Governor of New York, George Pataki should be banished to the ash heap of political history for his failure to ensure the funds were spent to improve security of the country’s largest mass transit system.”

However, in retrospect we probably should have also concluded, Senators Schumer and Corzine were either engaged in political grandstanding or the two have no compunction about demanding more taxpayer money when they are oblivious to the facts. Perhaps both descriptions are accurate.

The M.T.A. is sitting on $570 million of the $600 million in funds provided in 2002 for upgrading the security of a transit system millions use daily, many of them from New Jersey. The M.T.A.’s original plan was developed in conjunction with the Army and the Department of Defense. The Army and the DOE were willing to bring in the government’s latest security technologies to New York’s subways, buses, bridges and tunnels. The M.T.A. has since abandoned the plan and has spent a total of $30 million dollars “on consultants and studies, with little to show on the ground.”

New York City also received $207.6 million in federal homeland security funds for 2005. That’s $777.6 million the city has to work with in 2005 to beef up transit security. The M.T.A. now claims to have plans to spend $300 million by year’s end, but that still leaves $270 million specifically allocated for transit security on the table – so why the call for additional funding?

Not that New York is alone in its failure to spend homeland security funds. To cite just two examples: the Washington Post reported in April, the nation’s capital hasn’t spent $120 million of the federal aid it received between 2002 and 2004 and the Denver Post reported Colorado has spent less than half of the $137 million it received from the federal government for homeland security.

We would suggest it’s patently ludicrous for Senators Corzine and Schumer to be demanding additional funding for transit security when more homeland security funds seem to be sloshing around than state and local governments have figured out how to use to further protect the public.

We’ve discussed New York, now let’s turn our attention to New Jersey. Our state has allocated $382.3 million for homeland security efforts since January 2002. How has the money been spent? According to Acting Governor Codey, “New Jersey has used its share of federal homeland security funding on programs throughout New Jersey to train and equip first responders, secure our infrastructure, and keep our communities and residents as safe as possible.”

We assume the state has analyzed security risks, developed a strategic homeland security plan, established programs to execute the strategy and has budgeted and funded security initiatives in order of risk assessment priority. We also assume transit security would have been high on the state’s list of priorities and homeland security funds have been spent accordingly.

While no data is available to explain how the entire $382.3 million in homeland security money has been spent by New Jersey, we will assume high risk/high priority security issues have been addressed and funded. Otherwise it wouldn’t make sense to spend homeland security money on dump trucks for Newark or on producing booklets such as, New Jersey's Guide to Protecting Your Pets in the Event of a Disaster, available on New Jersey’s Homeland Security website.

The New Times’ article we cited earlier provides this quote: “When Americans are at risk, Americans are at risk," said Senator Jon Corzine, Democrat of New Jersey. "I would suggest anybody who wanted to seek large concentrations of people at any one time; I'll take you to Hoboken train station every workday."

We will assume the Senator is expressing concern about the safety of the train station in Hoboken. Surely, New Jersey’s homeland security plan placed a priority on mass transit and train stations with large concentrations of people passing through everyday. Does Corzine doubt the state’s homeland security and general funds have been spent in the best interest of the public? If doubt remains, we suggest Senator Corzine question his representatives in Trenton about their spending priorities.

Corzine calls Hoboken his home, which means his state representatives are – senate: Bernard Kenny (D) assembly: Albio Sires (D) and Brian Stack (D); and Acting Governor Codey (D). Would Corzine’s representatives in Trenton, members of his own Party, ignore transit safety concerns and spend taxpayer money unwisely? We can’t imagine responsible leaders would neglect the most basic role of government, the safety and protection of the public. Corzine should rest assured with Democrats in control of both houses of the state’s legislature and the governor’s seat, everything humanly possible “has been done to keep our communities and residents as safe as possible.”

Let’s face it, if there were major gaps in the state’s security, Democrats wouldn’t have spent 70 million in "Christmas tree dollars" as described by Charles Webster’s in the Trentonian. As Webster explains, Assembly Speaker Albio Sires and Majority Leader Joe Roberts funneled $20 million in fun money into their own districts. Why would Sires be willing to spend $2 million to refurbish a garage or $1.4 million for upgrading recreational facilities if the Hoboken train station was vulnerable and a security risk for the entire state? Clearly no one who took their resposnibities seriously would.

And if by some small chance transit security never achieved the same level of priority as say, the $3.5 million spent on a new office for the Camden Redevelopment Agency or $350,000 for a skate park in Woodbury, there’s always this year.

The state’s newly enacted budget will provide $192 million for homeland security and while “officials representing Harvey and acting Gov. Richard Codey remained tight-lipped about this year’s homeland security funding” a spokesman for the men said:

"We have money in the budget that addresses homeland security needs," said spokesman Sean Darcy, noting that $192 million will go towards a host of security and counter-terrorism initiatives. "That was the best use of the money this year."

Priorities and facts do matter Mr. Shabe. To say otherwise would be, as you would say, patently ludicrous.


At 6:52 AM, Anonymous Shabe said...

Nice work on the post.

Kinda like six degrees of Kevin Bacon.

At 8:06 AM, Anonymous Jim - PRS said...

Good thing for us Garden Staters that we had Golan Cipel on the case seeing to our safety.

At 8:59 AM, Anonymous TPB, Esq. said...

I wonder if part of the problem is the weird federal-state overlay of some of the places where homeland security money should be spent, such as the Federally created Port Authority of New York and New Jersey (which doesn't come under NJ's budgetary umbrella). It would be interesting to know the details of what spending should be done and what money can be allocated to accomplish the same.

At 10:26 AM, Anonymous gigglechick said...

thank god i really don't care enough about politics to have read the entire post here. jeezuz.

At 11:16 AM, Blogger Glass House said...

Gigglechick, this isn't about politics this is about our safety. As a World Trade Center survivor, I can say, we ALL should be concerned about this! Have you forgotten what happened on September 11th?????? Don't be naive enough to think it can't and won't happen again!

At 12:26 PM, Anonymous gigglechick said...

oh for the love of GOD, glass house, i certainly DO remember 9.11 so never ever ever throw that in my face again. and as someone who rides the train in and out 4 hours a day, yes i am concerned about security. i was merely stating that when it comes to yammering blog posts about politics or yapping about budgets, etc, i get turned off and really don't care to read the entire thing... and was jokingly saying that i didn't care...

don't be an ass with the "as a WTC survivor" stuff... yes, it's fantastic you lived... but just because i wasn't in the buildings when they came down do not EVER call me naive.

LIGHTEN UP enlightennj

At 2:30 PM, Anonymous SloppyDawg said...

C'mon guys, Shabe is right. Mentioning Corzine and the MTA in the same breath is patently ridiculous. And terribly misleading. Corzine has nothing to do with the MTA.

If you're criticizing Jon Corzine for asking for more transit security money when a transit authority that's not even in his state hasn't spent all they have, then rightly, you should commend him for the transit authorities that have spent their money wisely.

Two examples are Boston and Houston, cities named in the Observer piece you quote, but don't mention in your piece at all.

But as I said, the post is pure political spin to begin with. If you were really concerned with the use of tax dollars, you would have spent more than 36 words out of a total of 516 on Pataki's incompetence.

At 6:58 PM, Blogger Sluggo said...

Corzine is the one running for office. If he wants to make an issue out of transit security money, he should know better than to share the stage with a guy who has $570 million in his hip pocket. He shares the venue, he's in for some of the ridicule. As far as Corzine is concernred, I don't think Enlighten was saying any more than that. As far as the underlying issue is concerned, Enlighten is correct to focus attention on accountability.

At 8:21 PM, Anonymous SloppyDawg said...

Except that Pataki, or more accurately, his crony Peter Kalikow is the one with $570 million in his hip pocket, not Schumer.

If you want to talk about accountability, fine. I think that Pataki deserves a little bit more than the slap on the wrist that Enlighten gave him.

I can't believe that you guys are actually critcizing Corzine on this. God forbid our trains and buses should be too safe.

At 9:24 PM, Blogger Sluggo said...

S-Dawg, you seem a little touchy on this subject. You're splitting a meaningless hair by exempting Schumer. At least Enlighten gave Pataki a shot and he wasn't the one flapping his gums.

I'm sure we can agree that good use can be found for the money already appropriated and then some. Transparency isn't really possible on where a lot of the money is going. But before we start asking for more, the public needs to have a sense of improved security as an observable presence. If Schumer, Corzine or Joe Piscapo wants to make that point, I'm with them. It's frustrating, especially after 7/7, to hear calls for more dough when there's so much that hasn't been made use of.


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