Fire Chief Slams Giuliani, Calls White House Inaction 'National Disgrace'  :  Published March 2007 All Rights Reserved


Fire Chief Slams Giuliani, Calls White House Inaction 'National Disgrace'

As the 2008 presidential race grows more like the early days of the year 2000 New York Senate race between Hillary Clinton and Rudy Giuliani, nothing is holding back critics of either candidate. However on 9 March 2007 The International Association of Fire Fighters slammed Giuliani --in particular-- for how he handled the World Trade Center clean-up in the aftermath of terrorist attacks on 11 September 2001. The union president further condemned President George W Bush for absence of federal leadership in Louisiana where much of the areas hit by flooding in August 2005 remained devastated to this day. 

With union president Harold Schaitberger's first point, he wants everyone to know "the real story" behind 9.11 clean-up in New York City, and told his members that --as mayor of New York-- Giuliani sought to curtail search-and-recovery efforts at the World Trade Center site quickly in effort to get back to business as usual without an emotional scar. 

"Mayor Giuliani's actions meant that fire fighters and citizens who perished would either remain buried at Ground Zero forever, with no closure for families, or be removed like garbage and deposited at the Fresh Kills Landfill," wrote union president Schaitberger.

The World Trade Center debris clean-up was fairly quick considering no such effort to date had been undertaken in the United States. Building rubble and all other items --including millions in cash, and millions of dollars worth of gold, and other precious metals-- from within the fallen buildings were shipped to a high-security sorting facility and disposed of "properly," according to authorities. Ultimately the clean-up took half as long as original estimates suggested. 

"He valued the money and gold and wanted the site cleared before he left office at the end of 2001 more than he valued the lives and memories of those lost," Schaitberger wrote.

Not all firefighters agree with Schaitberger however. Former fireman Tim Brown, who works on the Giuliani campaign, said there was no lack of support for the former mayor. "We are honored by the support of so many first responders from across the country and are appreciative of their continued enthusiasm for mayor Giuliani's candidacy," Brown said.

The International Association of Fire Fighters further warned the United States that the nation was no better prepared for a 9.11 type of terrorist attack today than was the case in September 2001. Schaitberger delivered the sharp criticism to a House appropriations subcommittee. The union's claim is in stark contrast with the White House's efforts to curb terrorist threats at home and abroad. 

Schaitberger urged members of the subcommittee on homeland security to demand that grants are allocated on the basis of risk, as recommended by the 9/11 Commission, and to fully fund programs designed to ensure baseline capabilities for local fire departments, which are understaffed and not getting the necessary training.

According to Department of Homeland Security funding schedules, grant "encourage misuse"  by requiring localities with little homeland security need to “use or lose” appropriations.

“The result is such infamous purchases as the seven security cameras to protect a remote Alaskan fishing village,” Schaitberger quipped. Another program, the Urban Area Security Initiative has been tainted by politics, with high-profile urban areas slighted in favor of smaller communities that don’t need the terrorism security investment, he said.

The union president  said the federal government should have spent the past (almost) six years since the attack to enhance citizen preparedness and to fully fund  the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grants, which is currently funded for 11 percent.

“When local communities are forced to assume an ever-increasing share of the costs of maintaining a (search and rescue) team, the extra funds inevitably come from existing public safety budget accounts, which weakens local emergency preparedness,” he said.

Another example of failure by the White House has been in New Orleans, LA, Schaitberger said. The city was not only ill-prepared for hurricane Katrina and its aftermath, but the city remains largely uninhabitable 18 months later.

He urged Congress to amend the Stafford Act, requiring local matches to receive federal funds, to allow such devastated areas as St. Bernard’s Parish to rebuild emergency service infrastructure. All 10 of the St. Bernard firehouses were destroyed. “Because more than two-thirds of St. Bernard residents have not returned to their homes, the parish does not have the tax base to provide the local match for funds, which are sitting idle,” Schaitberger said.

“My members in the Gulf area are working out of fire stations with leaking roofs, and in many cases with no roofs,” he said. “Mold is widespread, and open sewage common. This is unacceptable and failure of our government to address this issue, 18 months after the storms, is a national disgrace.”


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