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D.C. Councilmember Kathy Patterson’s statement at the press conference to release “Homeland Unsecured: The Bush Administration’s Hostility to Regulation and Ties to Industry Leave America Vulnerable,”

Oct. 18, 2004

D.C. Councilmember Kathy Patterson’s statement at the press conference to release “Homeland Unsecured: The Bush Administration’s Hostility to Regulation and Ties to Industry Leave America Vulnerable,” October 18, 2004

Thank you to Joan Claybrook and Public Citizen for adding to the work of Stephen Flynn and others on the homeland security needs that have not been met – in this community and across the country.

In 1993 terrorists attempted to take down the World Trade Center and failed. Eight years later they came back again and they succeeded. On 9/11 terrorists pointed their fourth plane at Washington D.C. and it did not get here — it was taken down in Pennsylvania by courageous citizens. Should we in the nation’s capital assume we have eight years of breathing room before a second terrorist attack here? That thought is never far from the surface for those of us who live in Washington DC.

I was introduced as a local official. I am also a parent. In the days and weeks that followed 9/11 I, like other parents raising children in this city, gave serious consideration to whether I was being a responsible parent if I continued to live, and raise my children, here. I knew then as we all know today that it is not a matter of if; it is a matter of when terrorists strike here. I am still here, raising my kids here. Part of my own calculation in continuing to live in this beautiful city was this: that I would do everything in my power, and use every power available to me as a local official, to keep my community and my family safe.   That commitment drives my work – that is why a year ago I introduced the legislation referred to in the Public Citizen report issued today, to stop CSX from bringing dangerous shipments of chlorine through the city, unnecessarily, when there are alternate routes.

The “Terrorism Prevention and Safety in Hazardous Materials Transportation Act of 2003” will require shippers of hazardous materials to obtain a permit and to follow routes and travel times specified by the D.C. Department of Transportation when they travel through the District. We have already banned trucks carrying hazardous materials in areas where federal buildings are located, but many hazardous materials still move daily through other parts of the District, by rail and on city roads. We are also a major convergence point for freight traffic on the East Coast.

For me to know, as has been outlined in the Public Citizen report here today, that there are other officials who do not do everything in their power to keep my community and my family safe, is enfuriating. Please forgive me – but it is personal.

For the Bush Administration, from the President on down, to be fully aware of significant risks to the health and safety of residents here, of citizens all over the country, and to do nothing, is unconscionable. It is unforgivable. On the issue of chlorine shipments through downtown Washington D.C., the administration is planning to announce a plan to address that issue – after November 2. That’s when they will address this well-known, well-documented threat to the District of Columbia. This president, this administration, is playing politics in an election year with the safety of my community, and my family. That is unconscionable. It is unforgivable. And what do we expect of this administration next month? Very little. They could have ordered rerouting; CSX could have voluntarily rerouted, months and years ago.

I am here representing state and local officials – those who work most closely with the nation’s first responders. When our national policymakers in the White House and in the Congress fail to do their duty, it is left to us to take what action we can to keep our communities safe. I will be pressing for our local legislation to force rerouting for hazardous rail cargo. At the same time we are working on a comprehensive piece of legislation that I hope other communities will consider, taking whatever action we can take locally on routing, on cargo, on vulnerability assessments.   Those of us who live close to the risks have no choice.    The Bush Administration and the Republican Congress have created a vacuum where homeland security should be, and we on the front lines have a responsibility to our communities, our neighbors and our families, to act where we can, and as forcefully as we can.


To read the press release, click here.

To read Public Citizen President Joan Claybrook’s statement, click here.

To read Greenpeace Legislative Director Rick Hind’s statement, click here.

To read the report visit www.homelandunsecured.org.