- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 27, 2003

BALTIMORE (AP) The city is spending between $200,000 and $300,000 a week to boost security as a precaution against terrorism in response to the war in Iraq, Mayor Martin O'Malley said yesterday.
The mayor, who heads the U.S. Conference of Mayors' new homeland security task force, said the expense is another example of why the nation's cities need direct federal help to offset costs.
"It's put a whole lot of strain on the rest of city government," Mr. O'Malley said.
The city raised its alert status to the second-highest level just before war broke out in Iraq last week. That is forcing the city to spend more money on overtime for police officers to staff additional patrols, Mr. O'Malley said.
If the city were to raise its alert status to its highest level, Mr. O'Malley estimated, it would cost about $1 million a week.
To make up for spending on security, Mr. O'Malley said, the city has been forced to squeeze city agencies and defer contracts and purchases.
Mr. O'Malley said mayors across the country have been lobbying Congress for the financial help. The Baltimore mayor said the task force he heads has been discussing ideas with leaders in the Senate and House to craft a funding formula.
Mr. O'Malley said he was "very heartened" to find federal lawmakers interested in passing legislation soon to make more direct money available to police and fire departments across the nation.
"What it will actually look like is unclear at this moment," Mr. O'Malley said. "But there are a lot of people on Capitol Hill right now who are working hard to craft some legislation that will make sure these dollars get to our fire and police first responders."
The mayor also said the problem won't go away after the war in Iraq ends.
"If Iraq was over tomorrow with total victory and no more loss of life, the threat to the United States still remains," he said. "We need to catch up with that reality. We need to catch up quickly."
Mr. O'Malley said the city has spent more than $12 million on security since the September 11 terrorist attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center.
"We didn't budget for that," the mayor said. "That's stuff we've had to make up for by doing across-the-board hiring freezes in all the other departments."

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