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Chancellor Briefs Clinton on SAFER Program

Bill Clinton heard from Chancellor Berdahl on Feb. 26 as he and 16 other civic and community leaders from the East Bay briefed the president on local efforts to prepare for the next natural disaster.

Accompanied by FEMA Director James Lee Witt, Clinton met for a half-hour with the panel under the massive dome of the Scottish Rite Temple in Oakland. Both were promoting Project IMPACT, a $50 million chunk of Clinton’s proposed budget that is designed to encourage the country to act now to reduce the effects of a disaster later.

The national initiative, with the slogan “Building a Disaster Resistant Community,” involves a national awareness campaign, the selection of pilot communities that demonstrate the benefits of hazard mitigation through a partnership approach, and outreach to encourage businesses and communities to become disaster resistant. Oakland is one of the first seven pilot communities in the nation.

“If your projects work, it will give us a sense and provide the example to get public support to shift our spending priorities” toward larger efforts, Clinton said. Berdahl summarized Berkeley’s new SAFER program, a 25-year, $750 million effort to seismically retrofit or rebuild as many campus buildings as necessary to ensure the safety of students, staff and faculty.

With the help of FEMA and other agencies, he said, “we hope to become a disaster-resistant university.” Clinton also heard from Berkeley Mayor Shirley Dean, Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris and members of the community who have helped prepare their neighborhoods for a disaster.

“You people are a wonderful affirmation of citizenship – this is all about citizens and service,” Clinton said.

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