October 24, 2001

U.S. Mayors Call for Strategic Infrastructure Investment to Improve Defense Against Terrorism and Create Jobs
FBI Director Pledges Better Coordination with Cities, Experts Discuss Biological, Chemical Threats

Washington, DC -- The U.S. Conference of Mayors today opened a two-day Emergency, Safety and Security Summit with calls for increased federal support of infrastructure projects to improve defenses against terrorist attacks and to create jobs.

More from Day 1
Day 2

FBI Director Robert S. Mueller, III encourages cooperation between federal, state and local law enforcement. (view the video clip | download the transcript)

Dr. Tara O'Toole discusses the anthrax vaccine. (view the video clip | download Dr. O'Toole's slide presentation [5+ MB PowerPoint file])

Detroit Mayor Archer tells mayors "we will overcome this." (view the video clip)

Mayor Morial stands with HHS Secretary Tommy Thompson (download the text of Secretary Thompson's speech)

Senator Reid backs infrastructure investment. (view the video clip | read the Senator's press release.)

New Orleans Mayor Marc Morial, President of the U. S. Conference of Mayors, said lawmakers working on an economic stimulus package should craft "a comprehensive plan that includes tax relief, benefits for the unemployed and strategic infrastructure investment to create jobs."

"We don't mind if the big dogs eat first, but we do mind if they eat it all," said Morial, in reference to those pushing for comprehensive tax cuts. "We have an opportunity to create jobs while at the same time meeting critical infrastructure needs to improve airports, ports, rails and roads."

U.S. Sen. Harry Reid, D-Nevada, who is sponsoring legislation that would provide several billion dollars in infrastructure investment as part of an economic stimulus package, said: "In addition to creating tens of thousands of much needed jobs in the short-term, these infrastructure investments will make our economy stronger and more secure for many years to come."

On the need for economic stimulus, Mayor Richard Daley of Chicago said federal lawmakers should adopt a plan that "will put people back to work as quickly as possible."

Morial said the goals of the historic two-day summit are to offer an opportunity for mayors to learn from best practices being used in cities across America to combat terrorist threats and to provide a comprehensive set of recommendations to newly appointed Director of Homeland Security, Tom Ridge. Those recommendations, to be presented tomorrow, will focus on transportation security, emergency response and preparedness, local and federal law enforcement cooperation and economic security.

Robert Mueller, Director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, told mayors he has heard the message loud and clear from mayors and local law enforcement authorities about the need for improved communication by the FBI. "Many of the concerns are valid," Mueller said. "…You have my commitment to better the communication between mayors and federal law enforcement."

Mueller said the FBI will expand the number of joint federal and local terrorist task forces now in place in 35 cities, which he described as "a model for improved communication." Mueller said the FBI is placing increasing focus on terrorist prevention but needs significant upgrades in its communication system so that it can digitize information and share information more quickly and widely.

Boston Mayor Thomas Menino, vice president of the Conference, led a panel discussion on biological and chemical terrorist threats that included Dr. Tara O'Toole, deputy director of the Center for Civilian Biodefense Studies at Johns Hopkins University; Dr. Rex Archer, director of Kansas City Health Department; and Dr. Kem Bennett, director of the National Emergency Response and Rescue Training Center.

Dr. O'Toole described biological weapons as "the poor man's atom bomb" and said they are particularly useful to terrorists because the information needed to create them is readily available, their manufacturing sites are hard to track and they can be used without having to confront a military operation.

Mayor Menino said there is a need for new protocols to improve coordination at all levels of government to adequately address the threats posed by biological and chemical weapons.

Mayors noted that their lives have changed significantly since the first terrorist attacks and subsequent use of anthrax-laced mailings.

"All of us have been called on in ways we have never been called on before," said Mayor Anthony Williams of Washington, DC. Williams acknowledged that federal and local authorities are quickly learning more about terrorist threats and appropriate responses, and cautioned against governmental groups blaming each other for difficulties. "It would be a victory for the terrorists if public servants point the finger at each other," Williams said. "We must resist the temptation to get into the normal blame game."

Williams also said it is important for government leaders "to balance the need for public safety and security with the need for openness and economic vitality."

Scheduled to speak Thursday are U.S. Attorney General John Ashcroft and Tom Ridge, Director of the Office of Homeland Security.

The U.S. Conference of Mayors is the official nonpartisan organization of cities with populations of 30,000 or more. There are about 1,200 such cities in the country today. Each city is represented in the Conference by its chief elected official, the mayor.

Andy Solomon (202) 861-6766
Lina Garcia (202) 861-6719
Chris Hayes (202) 326-1768


©2004 U.S. Conference of Mayors