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July 22, 2005
St. Paul, Minn. — Kelly says the city is asking for more than $3 million in federal homeland security grants. But one of the candidates running for Kelly's job points out that St. Paul has already lost twice that amount in homeland security funding.
Michael Chertoff watched an emergency operation training exercise and met with local officials. The Homeland Security Secretary says the state's leaders are doing a good job of keeping citizens safe. But Chertoff says the recent bombings in London demonstrate that terrorism can happen anywhere.
"The lesson I think we take from London is that the threat of terror remains with us, he said. "But one of our great weapons against that threat is our resolution, our determination, our courage, our desire to continue to pursue our way of life."
Chertoff says citizens should not avoid public transportation out of fear. He also stressed that there is no imminent threat in Minnesota, although he says authorities are concerned about the potential of a terrorist attack at the Mall of America in Bloomington.
"One of the things we want to be mindful of are those things that are potential targets because they are national icons," he said. "And obviously the Mall of America has a national and international stature."
Chertoff says his department is also focusing on border security. Authorities found a sophisticated tunnel along the U.S.-Canadian border this week, which appears to have been built to smuggle drugs. Chertoff says homeland security officials have been working with their Canadian counterparts to strengthen the border.
Chertoff came to Minnesota at the invitation of Sen. Norm Coleman, R-Minn., the former mayor of St. Paul, and current mayor Randy Kelly. Kelly is running for reelection this year, and endorsed President Bush in Bush's reelection bid last year. Kelly denies that Chertoff's visit had anything to do with politics.
"I think what it might demonstrate is that it is important for local political leaders to have relationships both at the state and at the national level, particularly in these very difficult times with respect to tight budgets," Kelly said.
Kelly says he talked to Chertoff about three homeland security grants the city is seeking. One would train firefighters, another would hire nine additional firefighters, and the third would enhance port security on the Mississippi River. Chertoff made no commitment on the grant requests.
Last year, Homeland Security officials announced that St. Paul would be eliminated from a special urban security program. That meant a loss of about $7 million for the east metro area.
Minnesota Sens. Coleman and Mark Dayton threatened to vote against Chertoff's nomination. The homeland security department then changed its funding formula, meaning St. Paul is eligible for future funding. However, that did not restore the $7 million.
The DFL-endorsed St. Paul mayoral candidate Chris Coleman questioned whether Kelly's ties to the Bush administration benefit the city.
"You get to drag out these folks from the administration, from the Bush White House, but at the end of the day the citizens of St. Paul are not being served by that decision," he said.
Chris Coleman is calling for the hiring of more police officers and firefighters in St. Paul. He says the city needs more first responders in the event of a terrorist attack. Coleman has not released a specific plan to pay for more officers, but has said he is willing to raise property taxes to pay for city services.
Coleman and Kelly will be on the primary ballot September 13, along with Elizabeth Dickinson of the Green Party and five other candidates.