Submitted by Mayor Tim Sbranti:
For the past three days, Mayors from all over the country gathered to attend dozens of workshops, task force meetings, and seminars on important topics affecting cities.
Some of the seminars that the Tri-Valley Mayors attended included sessions on economic development and job creation, water conservation, technology and innovation, creating healthy communities, fighting blight, housing and community development, the environment, education, energy, human services, transportation, communications, parks and recreational services, public safety, veterans affairs, and leadership development.
We heard from multiple Cabinet officials from the Obama Administration, state and municipal officials, along with business and community leaders on best practices that we could utilize in our own Tri-Valley region.
Yet unlike any of the other four national conferences I’ve attended, there was a very direct call to action for the U.S. Mayors related to advocacy on the issues of gun control.
In fact, Vice President Joe Biden was the keynote speaker who was personally charged by President Obama to create a plan addressing the epidemic of gun violence. In addressing the Conference for more than an hour, Biden detailed his background as a hunter and reiterated the Administration’s support of the 2nd Amendment and responsible gun ownership. He went on to characterize the Obama Administration’s gun control plan as a “sensible, responsible, holistic, and comprehensive” approach to gun violence.
During his remarks, Biden methodically outlined the highlights of the Administration’s proposals which include the following: requiring criminal background checks for all gun sales; reinstating the national assault weapons ban; restoring a 10-round limit on ammunition magazines; eliminating “cop killing” armor-piercing bullets; providing mental health services in schools; allocating funds to hire more police officers with an emphasis on additional school resource officers; instituting a federal gun trafficking statute; creating additional awareness and enforcement of existing laws; and more
comprehensive study and analysis by the Center for Disease Control on the impact of violent movies, television, and video games on behavior. California Senator Diane Feinstein, Maryland Governor Martin O’Malley, Philadephia Mayor Michael Nutter, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel all gave emotional addresses to the Conference in support of President Obama’s plan.
As you can imagine, there were many divergent opinions amongst the nations’ Mayors on a topic this controversial. There was generally quite a bit of support for the President’s efforts although there was quite a bit of conversation and differing opinions on the specifics, with their perspectives shaped largely based on regional differences and personal experiences.
Some Mayors from Southern and Western states lamented that the proposals were too restrictive and could infringe on individual rights and local customs where gun ownership is a proud tradition in their local communities. On the other side were Mayors from the nation’s urban areas who stated that their cities’ were plagued by daily gun violence and that sensible gun control was critical to act as a means to protect public safety. Sadly,
I also had the chance to speak with the Mayors of Blacksburg, Virginia and Aurora, Colorado, both who served during the tragic mass shootings at Virginia Tech and the movie theatre respectively. It was not hard to understand why they were such passionate proponents for Congressional action on this topic as the carnage forever changed their communities.
In addition to all of the workshops and discussion in topics like gun control, one
final point I want to highlight from the Conference was on the importance of disaster preparedness. During one of the luncheon sessions I was sitting with three Mayors from New Jersey. They all indicated that after Hurricane Sandy it took weeks to restore power in their communities and they still have received very little assistance. The Mayor of New Orleans was also at our table and recounted the incredible suffering and delayed federal response after Hurricane Katrina.
This made me think about how vulnerable we are in the Tri-Valley or anywhere else in California as we are living in the heart of “earthquake country.” It is imperative for every household to have extensive emergency supplies such as bottled water, non- perishable food, flashlights, blankets, etc. In the City of Dublin we do extensive disaster preparedness training on a regular basis and we have a coordinated response plan in place with multiple agencies. However, the reality is in the event of a true emergency the response from local, state, and/or federal government can be delayed as first responders assess and prioritize the allocation of resources, so everybody needs to be prepared.
I am proud of the fact that past lobbying efforts of the Tri-Valley Mayors secured millions of dollars in funding and initiated the creation of the East Bay Regional Communications Systems Authority (EBRCSA). EBRCSA is in the final stages of creating an integrated radio communication system with full interoperability of every public safety agenda in the entire East Bay. In the event of a future emergency, Tri- Valley residents can take some comfort in knowing that this valuable resource is one of the most advanced in the country and will definitely help with the disaster response.
Now that the U.S. Conference of Mayors has concluded, we will be gearing up for the Presidential Inauguration followed by two full days of lobbying federal officials on issues of concern in the Tri-Valley. I will look forward to giving an update in the coming days.
Did you miss Mayor Sbranti's previous guest column?