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Don't cut emergency radio, says Schumer

Jan 12, 2011 7:04 am
[caption id="" align="alignleft" width="200" caption="Senator Chuck Schumer addresses federal cuts to emergency radio communications in photo by Times Union's (John Carl D'Annibale."][/caption]If the Capital Region and Hudson Valley were ever under the threat of terrorism, it could be vulnerable. That's the message Sen. Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., delivered under snow flurries and surrounded by police Tuesday on the steps of City Hall according to a piece in today's January 12 Times Union, which goes on to say that Schumer issued the warning after a cut of $913,000 meant to pay for radios that enable emergency agencies throughout the region to communicate. "Our first responders behind us need the resources," Schumer said, adding that the region has the 10th-busiest train station in the country in Rensselaer and is an international leader in nanotechnology, with plants in Albany and the emergence of GlobalFoundries in Saratoga County. It also holds important assets as the state's capital. All of those factors make the Capital Region and Hudson Valley, between Albany and the City, more likely to be threatened, Schumer is further reported as saying.
The region received $1.9 million in 2009 under the Urban Areas Security Initiative program to pay for the improvements, Schumer said, but the number was cut in 2010, even though the overall amount of money distributed by the program increased. The Capital Region was one of two areas in the state to have its 2010 funding cut under the program enacted after the 9/11 terror attacks. The other was Syracuse.

Schumer did not specify how much money it would take to buy the equipment, and only said he wanted funds back to 2009 levels.

"As 9/11 becomes further and further away, some forget how important it is to make inter-operation a reality," he said.

As it stands, police, fire and other emergency responders in the five-county area spanning Albany, Rensselaer, Schenectady, Schoharie and Saratoga counties do not have the technology it takes to be able to communicate with each other via radio. Schumer said technology would be essential during a large-scale disaster such as the 9/11 terrorist attacks, a major ice storm or a pandemic.

Schumer was joined on the steps of City Hall by a number of politicians including Rep. Paul Tonko, D-Amsterdam, Albany Mayor Jerry Jennings, Schenectady Mayor Brian Stratton and Rensselaer County Executive Kathy Jimino.

Stratton said the region needs the money in light of recent national attention paid by President Barack Obama, who was to visit Schenectady on Tuesday, but postponed after the weekend's deadly shootings in Arizona.

Schumer addressed Saturday's killings, where a congresswoman is fighting for her life after being shot in the head, but said he would not comment on specifics until an investigation reveals all the facts. He said Capitol Police in Washington, D.C., are reviewing whether Congress needs additional security.

"I am going about my job," he said, "the same way I did it before Saturday."

Schumer said he is informed about a handful of threats against lawmakers every month, but they usually come from mentally unbalanced people rather than political extremists.

"Being out and about all the time helps me do my job," he said. "There's got to be a balance."

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