Tuesday, August 10, 2004

Firefighters back Clooney

Covington's mayor also on board

Click here to e-mail Patrick Crowley
LATONIA - Congressional candidate Nick Clooney used the endorsement of firefighter unions Monday to roll out his platform on improving homeland security.

Clooney, an Augusta Democrat running against Republican Geoff Davis in the 4th Congressional District, was also endorsed Monday by Covington Mayor Butch Callery.

During a press conference at a Covington firehouse in Latonia, Clooney received the endorsement of the Kentucky Professional Firefighters and the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF). The labor unions represent 16 local chapters and more than 800 members in the 24-county 4th District.

"This is an endorsement that came from the bottom up," said John Cross, president of the IAFF Local 38 in Covington. "The members like and trust Nick Clooney to do the right thing when it comes to homeland security and firefighters."

In response to Clooney, Davis's campaign said he has been endorsed by IAFF's national chapter and the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport firefighters Local 2976.

"I have pledged full support for our first responders with critical homeland security duties," Davis said Monday. "We must never forget theier willingness to risk their own lives to save ours."

Clooney said his respect for firefighters was forged during his years as a Cincinnati television anchor and reporter, particularly when he covered the 1977 Beverly Hills Supper Club fire in Southgate that took 165 lives.

"I'm really honored to have this endorsement," Clooney said. "These are the people who are there when the chips are down."

Clooney also unveiled his homeland security platform, which includes:

• Full funding of the Staffing for Adequate Fire Emergency Response Firefighters, or SAFER, Act. It would provide federal grants to local departments for the hiring of up to 75,000 firefighters over the next five years. Congress passed the bill last year but has not yet provided the full $7.5 billion to pay for it.

• Money to purchase equipment and training for first responders to emergencies.

• Congressional passage of the Interoperable Communications Technology Grant Program to improve the capability of first responders to communicate over radios.

• Put more emphasis on using the U.S. Coast Guard and the National Guard to secure domestic sites vulnerable to terrorist attacks.

Clooney said his plan would cost $17.5 billion over seven years.

"There is no more important priority than funding the critical needs of the men and women who protect our homeland every day," Clooney said.

Davis said that "another valuable tool ... in the war on terror" is using intelligence, and he faulted Clooney for not mentioning in his plan.

"I believe Congress should carefully study the 9/11 Commission's recommendations, and take action to reform our intelligence community and bolster our capabilities," Davis said. "There must be reform in the intelligence community, and we must make sure we are sharing intelligence among all agencies efficiently, but we must not gut the intelligence budget in the country."

Clooney's campaign said it would address intelligence in the future.

Immediately after the press conference Callery announced his support for Clooney "because he is imminently qualified to be a congressman because his knows the national issues as well as the local issues."

"The big thing for me is that he is from Kentucky," Callery said. "I think he'll be a force in Washington and represent cities and counties very well."


E-mail pcrowley@enquirer.com

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