D.C. mayor: July 4 event bankrupted se­cu­rity fund

The Washington Post - - FRONT PAGE - BY PETER JAMI­SON AND JULIET EILPERIN

Pres­i­dent Trump’s over­hauled Fourth of July cel­e­bra­tion cost the D.C. govern­ment about $1.7 mil­lion, an amount that — com­bined with po­lice ex­penses for demon­stra­tions through the week­end — has bankrupted a spe­cial fund used to pro­tect the na­tion’s cap­i­tal from ter­ror­ist threats and pro­vide se­cu­rity at events such as ral­lies and state funer­als.

In a let­ter to the pres­i­dent Tues­day, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser (D) warned that the fund has been de­pleted and is es­ti­mated to be run­ning a $6 mil­lion deficit when the cur­rent fis­cal year ends Sept. 30. The mayor also noted that the ac­count was never re­im­bursed for $7.3 mil­lion in ex­penses from Trump’s 2017 in­au­gu­ra­tion.

Bowser re­quested that the White House fully re­im­burse the fund. With­out that money, city of­fi­cials say, Wash­ing­to­ni­ans will

be put in the un­prece­dented po­si­tion of fund­ing fed­eral se­cu­rity needs with lo­cal tax dol­lars.

“We ask for your help with en­sur­ing the res­i­dents of the Dis­trict of Columbia are not asked to cover mil­lions of dol­lars of fed­eral ex­penses and are able to main­tain our high stan­dards of pro­tec­tion for fed­eral events,” Bowser wrote.

White House spokesman Judd Deere said in an email that Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials “have re­ceived the let­ter and will re­spond in a timely man­ner.”

He did not ad­dress the spe­cific con­cerns Bowser raised.

“Pres­i­dent Trump led our na­tion in a great Salute to Amer­ica and rec­og­nized the brave sacri­fice our ser­vice men and women have made through­out his­tory,” Deere said.

Chris Rodriguez, di­rec­tor of the D.C. Home­land Se­cu­rity and Emer­gency Man­age­ment Agency, said in an in­ter­view that the es­ti­mated costs for the Fourth of July were six times as much as in years past and were likely to grow as the city con­tin­ues to tally ex­penses.

The pres­i­dent’s In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion, called the “Salute to Amer­ica,” in­cluded a speech by Trump at the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial, fly­overs by mil­i­tary air­craft and a dis­play of ar­mored ve­hi­cles on the Mall.

The Pen­tagon es­ti­mated this week that it spent $1.2 mil­lion for the event. In a let­ter Wed­nes­day to House Nat­u­ral Re­sources Com­mit­tee Chair­man Raúl M. Gri­jalva (D-Ariz.), In­te­rior Sec­re­tary David Bern­hardt con­firmed that he had di­verted $2.8 mil­lion from ex­ist­ing ac­counts to cover ex­penses as­so­ci­ated with the “Salute to Amer­ica.” Bern­hardt tapped $2.5 mil­lion in en­trance and re­cre­ation fees, in­tended to im­prove parks across the coun­try, to cover the pres­i­dent’s cer­e­mony, along with $354,000 from a chal­lenge­grant pro­gram to pay for fire­works-re­lated ex­penses.

In­te­rior is “clearly within the bounds of its author­ity in tak­ing th­ese ac­tions,” Bern­hardt wrote, not­ing that the funds “have long been used by the Na­tional Park Ser­vice for cel­e­bra­tory events to en­hance the vis­i­tor ex­pe­ri­ence and to pro­vide crit­i­cal safety when there is a tem­po­rary in­flux of peo­ple.”

The agency spent $500,000 on the Abra­ham Lin­coln Bi­cen­ten­nial Com­mem­o­ra­tion and the re­lated 2009 reded­i­ca­tion of the Lin­coln Me­mo­rial on the Mall, Bern­hardt noted.

All told, this year’s In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion on the Mall cost tax­pay­ers at least $9.15 mil­lion, ac­cord­ing to govern­ment es­ti­mates. That in­cluded nearly $3.9 mil­lion for the “A Capi­tol Fourth” con­cert on the Capi­tol’s West Lawn, an ex­pen­di­ture specif­i­cally des­ig­nated by Congress.

The changes to the na­tion’s pre­mier In­de­pen­dence Day cel­e­bra­tion stoked protests of the pres­i­dent at what is typ­i­cally an apo­lit­i­cal event, with demon­stra­tors fly­ing a “Trump Baby” bal­loon near the World War II Me­mo­rial.

On Satur­day, some of the pres­i­dent’s sup­port­ers gath­ered at a rally or­ga­nized by right-wing ac­tivists on Free­dom Plaza. That event also drew a large coun­ter­protest, and hun­dreds of po­lice of­fi­cers were de­ployed to pre­vent vi­o­lence be­tween the two sides.

The Dis­trict’s Emer­gency Plan­ning and Se­cu­rity Fund is filled by fed­eral money that re­im­burses the city for its unique public safety costs in its func­tion as the na­tion’s cap­i­tal. Those in­clude pro­vid­ing se­cu­rity at pres­i­den­tial in­au­gu­ra­tions, vis­its by for­eign dig­ni­taries and huge ral­lies, which have be­come more fre­quent dur­ing the Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion.

Kim Dine, a for­mer as­sis­tant D.C. po­lice chief and for­mer chief of the U.S. Capi­tol Po­lice, said no other po­lice depart­ment in the coun­try faces such con­stant pres­sure from large events and from po­lit­i­cal fig­ures’ se­cu­rity needs.

The chal­lenges are com­pounded, he said, by the lack of a state or county po­lice force to pro­vide sup­port — al­though Dis­trict of­fi­cers fre­quently part­ner with other agen­cies, such as the U.S. Park Po­lice, Capi­tol Po­lice and the Se­cret Ser­vice.

“Man­ag­ing those types of events is al­most like chore­ograph­ing a bal­let or di­rect­ing a play. There’s a lot of dif­fer­ent mov­ing parts,” Dine said.

“I don’t know that there’s any depart­ment that could pick that [ex­pense] up by them­selves,” he said. “Shar­ing the costs, at least in our view, is in­her­ent in tak­ing on all those du­ties.”

Al­though it once car­ried large bal­ances from year to year, the city’s emer­gency se­cu­rity fund has dwin­dled since Trump’s elec­tion.

The Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion and Congress still owe the Dis­trict more than $7 mil­lion in ex­penses from Trump’s $27.3 mil­lion in­au­gu­ra­tion, ac­cord­ing to fed­eral and city fi­nan­cial records.

By con­trast, the Obama ad­min­is­tra­tion re­im­bursed $8.9 mil­lion in over­runs for the 2013 in­au­gu­ra­tion, fed­eral records show.

Trump ad­min­is­tra­tion of­fi­cials say the Dis­trict agreed to use un­spent money in the emer­gency fund to pay for in­au­gu­ral costs and have not asked for ad­di­tional dol­lars, an as­ser­tion de­nied by Bowser’s of­fice.

Congress and the White House have been plac­ing less money in the ac­count each year than the city is spend­ing — in fis­cal 2017, for ex­am­ple, $14.9 mil­lion was added to the fund, while $24.4 mil­lion was spent.

Bowser said in her let­ter to Trump that the De­cem­ber fu­neral of for­mer pres­i­dent Ge­orge H.W. Bush also con­trib­uted to the fund’s de­ple­tion.

Del. Eleanor Holmes Nor­ton (D), the Dis­trict’s non­vot­ing rep­re­sen­ta­tive in Congress, said she will re­quest an emer­gency in­fu­sion of $6 mil­lion to keep the se­cu­rity fund from go­ing into the red.

Nor­ton and Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) last month wrote a let­ter to lead­ers of the House and Se­nate ap­pro­pri­a­tions com­mit­tees with a sim­i­lar re­quest.

“This has be­come dan­ger­ous,” Nor­ton said in an in­ter­view, not­ing that the city’s po­lice force is si­mul­ta­ne­ously con­tend­ing with gun vi­o­lence that is con­tribut­ing to a rise in homi­cides com­pared with this time last year.

“It is about the worst time for a deficit to con­tinue to mount for the Dis­trict’s role in what amounts to home­land se­cu­rity for the na­tion and the na­tion’s cap­i­tal,” Nor­ton said.

Rodriguez, the city’s home­land se­cu­rity di­rec­tor, said the Dis­trict won’t cut back on its lo­cal law en­force­ment du­ties or fed­eral se­cu­rity pres­ence, even as the emer­gency fund runs out.

The dif­fer­ence, he said, will be who pays.

“We will con­tinue to pro­vide those ser­vices,” he said. “It’s just, in this case, D.C. tax­pay­ers are the ones that are go­ing to have to foot the bill for it.”

MICHAEL S. WIL­LIAMSON/THE WASH­ING­TON POST

Fourth of July fire­works are vis­i­ble from the White House. The event cost the city $1.7 mil­lion, D.C. Mayor Muriel E. Bowser said.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.