Inauguration Without Representation
||Arkansas Traveler (AR)
||Friday, January 21, 2005
For D.C. residents the city slogan "taxation without representation" of license-plate fame might this week have aptly become "inauguration without representation."
Nine official balls last night concluded three days of inaugural fanfare in Washington, D.C. An estimated $40 million of private donations paid for the parade, pyrotechnics and other revelries, but not for the unprecedented security costs of the first presidential inauguration since the 9/11 terrorists attacks of 2001.
Instead, the nation's capital city was asked by the U.S. government to spend more than $17 million on security for the event. The city spent $8 million on security for Bush's first inauguration.
This year sufficient security required more than 8,000 law enforcement officers and military personnel to guard 250,000 people at the president's swearing-in and a half-million spectators at the parade. More than $5 million was estimated to cover police officers' overtime pay, as well as their transportation, food and lodging.
D.C. mayor Anthony Williams complained of the misplaced financial burden in a December letter to Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security. Williams said after earmarking more than $5 million of reimbursable money set aside for special events at the capital, the city still lacked nearly $12 million.
Federal officials advised Williams to pay the remaining expenses of the unfunded mandate with some of the $240 million in federal homeland security grants the city has received during the last three years because of its status as one of the likeliest terrorist targets. But the grant money is already committed to other security measures - such priorities as equipping firefighters with protective gear and building transit system command centers, according to Williams' letter.
Gregory McCarthy, Williams' chief of staff, said this is the first time there hasn't been direct appropriation for the inauguration.
Last year the District sought unsuccessfully to increase its security reimbursement from $15 million to $25 million in anticipation of inauguration expenses. Meanwhile, New York City and Boston-area lawmakers each obtained $50 million from Congress to cover local security costs for both national political party conventions last fall.
The lavish inaugural festivities have earned widespread criticism because of their extravagance during wartime and natural disaster, as US troops die in Iraq and South Asia still recovers from last month's devastating tsunami.
It is the American way, however, to demonstrate strength and confidence despite - perhaps especially - during hard times. This trend is a particularly resolute theme of the Bush administration, whose tenure has already faced disaster in excess.
The enormous cost of the celebration might be more appropriate grounds for condemnation, particularly in light of the outlandish transfer of funding responsibility from U.S. to D.C, where citizens with no representation in Congress might see their tax dollars go not toward schools, roads, and their own security, but toward the security of one blowout, three-day party at the capital.