Revenge of the peanut farmers

Posted: Jun 08, 2006 12:05 AM

Before I start another War Between the States, let me say that I believe New York City is a critical area of importance for this nation, and yes, I consider the Empire State Building and indeed everything in New York to be of national significance.

That's why I was shocked to read the insulting and out-of-touch comments of Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY), complaining that cities such as Jacksonville, Atlanta, Louisville and Omaha received higher percentage increases in their share of the federal Urban Areas Security Initiative grants recently announced by the Department of Homeland security than did New York City.

Leave it to Schumer, in his typical shoot-from-the-hip manner, to not only ignore the facts, but to insult areas of the country of which he knows little. A WCBS TV report on May 31 attributed Schumer as being upset that Florida received a 22 percent increase in these grants and Georgia a 40 percent increase. The report went on to say, "[Schumer] wondered if peanut farmers in Georgia are a greater target than the Empire State Building."

How insulting, ignorant and misleading. Similar comments from several New York politicians poked fun at Jacksonville's Alltel Stadium being classified, for grant purposes, as a building of national importance, while the Statue of Liberty and the Empire State Building were not.

An op-ed piece in the June 7 edition of The New York Times written by Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff set the facts straight. He noted that New York and Washington, D.C. were still the two top recipients of these funds. And that the Empire State Building, for example, had been placed under the category of "tall buildings," which scored higher in determining allocation of funds than the category of a building of importance as being a "national icon."

What Chertoff explained is that New York and Washington, D.C., along with a few other cities, were still getting the largest chunks of money. The purpose of the grant allocations was to bring other areas of national importance up to some level of adequate protection against acts of terror.

What Schumer doesn't understand is that these are the very areas for which citizens of his own state have been leaving in droves to relocate. That's why Atlanta, with nearly five million residents, is home to the Centers for Disease Control, the world's busiest airport and the largest telecommunications infrastructure in the nation.

And it's no secret now that Atlanta, home to the tallest building in the nation outside of New York or Chicago -- right behind New York's Chrysler Building -- was considered a major target following 9/11. Throw in CNN's headquarters being located in Atlanta, and I think there's a fairly good reason, beyond peanuts, to bring this area up to speed with those cities that have, to now, enjoyed the lion's share of urban security funds.

The same can be said for Jacksonville, Fla., which is rapidly becoming a home to many of America's top corporations. Its metro population is growing rapidly -- here come those New Yorkers again -- and its commercial and naval ports are critical to our nation.

As for Alltel Stadium, it's probably not an icon, but it's been host to a Super Bowl, and likely will be to more. Doesn't an emerging "Big League" city deserve a seat at the table of protection?

Omaha. Well, if nothing else, the man who owns much of America, Warren Buffet, lives there! Moreover, need I remind Sen. Schumer that a little military organization known as the Strategic Air Command is located in this critical part of our nation?

Doubtless, Schumer would wonder if wheat or livestock are more important than a New York building. Well, Omaha matters, too, senator.

And then there's Louisville. A New York website took a shot at "protecting Churchill Downs" being somehow more important than protecting New York. Have they ever heard of Fort Knox?

I truly do love New York. But as I've written before, some of its business and political leaders need to learn there's the rest of America out there, and it's important and well worth defending. The peanut farmers rest their case, Mr. Schumer.

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