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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Interview With Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven, Connecticut

Aired June 6, 2003 - 20:20   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge admits the terror scale is confusing. Now he told reporters yesterday -- quote -- "We worry about the credibility of the system. We want to continue to refine it because we understand it's caused a Kind of anxiety. We've only had it in operation for a year, but our hope is to refine it in the months and the years ahead."
Joining me to talk about some of the problems with the system as he sees it, Mayor John DeStefano of New Haven, Connecticut, a place I've spent a good deal of time. He's in Denver right now for the U.S. Conference of Mayors.

Mayor, thanks for being with us. What is the biggest problem that exists, from your perspective as the mayor of a town?

JOHN DESTEFANO, PRESIDENT, NATIONAL LEAGUE OF CITIES: Three things: It's too wide, it affects the whole nation., and frankly, this doesn't affect the whole nation when something like this happen. We all go on.

The other problem is five levels. Quite frankly, you're either on or you're off alert.

And the other thing is I think it is going to tire folks out. We've stepped down, a lot of cities stepped down before the federal government takes us down because frankly we're waiting for something to happen and it doesn't.

And just one other example. The last alert happened on a Tuesday. On Wednesday I had a bombing at Yale Law School in my community. And I'll tell you, it cost us more because we were on orange alert because we obviously overreacted in investigating the incident, as we should, and covered over for commencement. And at the end of the day cities and towns' first responders haven't seen a great deal of funding from the federal government.

COOPER: Well, why is that? I mean, why are you not getting the funding you need?

I read in the research, Mayor DeStefano, that for commencement exercises at Yale, and I know there was a lot of security this year because of the bombing at the law school that you mentioned, that ate up, like, a good chunk of the allocated resources you were to get.

DESTEFANO: Well, you know, a lot of it hasn't come out. The Congress approved $5 billion. In my case, Connecticut got $14 million. I've seen $200 000. And frankly, I was disturbed by a comment Secretary Ridge made in Massachusetts yesterday that was reported in "The Globe" that talked about the fact that cities and towns have to prove that they won't waste this windfall.

I'll tell you, Yale Law School -- the first people within a minute and a half in that building were my fire department. We didn't turn it over to the FBI for six hours. New Haven had the buildings. We looked for a secondary device and were going and evacuating the building. And all we were just looking for is to get these resources to the people who respond to these incidents, which frankly are our neighbors, emergency services personnel, police, and fire.

COOPER: It's tough for cities around the country. I know it is.

Mayor John DeStefano, appreciate you joining us. Thanks very much.

DESTEFANO: Thank you.

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