Diaz: We Are All Americans; Restore the Dream Convention Address
Diaz Releases New Crime Agenda for Next President
By Elena Temple
September 15, 2008
In the middle of the Democratic National Convention, U.S. Conference of Mayors President Miami Mayor Manny Diaz, Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, Miami Police Chief John Timoney (Police Executive Research Forum President), Conference of Mayors CEO and Executive Director Tom Cochran and several key U.S. mayors held a press conference to stress the need for a stronger federal-local partnership to combat crime in American cities and metropolitan areas.
Diaz, the second Hispanic mayor and the first person from Florida in more than 40 years to lead the Conference of Mayors, strongly believes that national problems demand national investments. Diaz said, “The next President of the United States must understand that an investment America’s cities is an investment in America’s future.”
The mayors event in Denver came on the heels of a crime forum in Philadelphia on August 6, which brought together more than 50 mayors and police chiefs from around the country to develop an anti-crime agenda focused on (1) illustrating that many of the most serious crime problems plaguing America’s cities today are national problems that require national solutions; and (2) which spells out Washington’s responsibility to support local law enforcement efforts, as part of the strong federal-local crime-fighting partnership that is needed in America today. In Philadelphia, and in the additional working sessions in which mayors and police chiefs finalized this agenda, there was significant consensus on the crime problems facing cities.
Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter, who hosted the session said, “The mayors’ forum on crime was important because it presented a unique opportunity to crystallize the challenges before us. It is imperative that we bring these issues to the next President of the United Sates because we need federal partnerships to help make American cities safe.”
Diaz stressed that mayors and police chiefs consistently work together on public safety issues. Diaz said, “Mayors and police chiefs are united on the crime problems we face in our cities. We know what can be done to respond to them and what help we need from the federal government when solutions to those problems are beyond our reach. Mayors and police chiefs also share a sense of moral outrage at the fact that, each day, 34 people – more than half of them age 29 and under – are the victims of homicides involving guns, that their deaths receive little attention, and that only limited federal resources are directed to preventing these crimes. These statistics underscore the need for federal intervention.”
Paul Helmke, President of the Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence said, “Crime prevention and public safety are not Democratic or Republican issues. They are common sense issues that require bi-partisan support to ensure that dangerous people do not have access to dangerous weapons.”
A U.S. Conference of Mayors-Zogby poll released in January 2008 showed that Americans are more concerned with crime in their local communities than they are with terrorism. Nearly half (48 percent) say they are more fearful of local crime, compared to 31 percent who worry more about terrorism.
Marc Morial, President and CEO of the National Urban League, underscored the connection between crime and community development. Morial said, “There is a link between safe communities and prosperous communities. The linchpin of a healthy city is public safety. Safe neighborhoods are neighborhoods where people want to live, work, play and go to school. Safe cities draw visitors and become growing, dynamic economic centers.”
Los Angeles Mayor Antonio R. Villaraigosa echoed Morial saying, “The issue of public safety is a fundamental issue to the quality of life in our cities. If we want to continue the renaissance that many cities were beginning to experience, we must fight crime, but fight it differently. We must deal with the root causes of crime and focus on prevention and intervention. We must support families by investing in people and chip away at the failure of our nation to effectively address this issue.”
Diaz believes that Washington no longer invests in its cities and its people. Diaz has said, “Washington has lost its values – lost its principles – lost its sense of purpose – engaging in endless debate and partisan bickering while people in this country continue to suffer. Plain and simple, Washington has abandoned us.”
Providence (RI) Mayor David Cicilline, Hallandale Beach (FL) Mayor Joy Cooper, Pembroke Pines (FL) Mayor Frank Ortis and Charleston (SC) Mayor Joseph Riley also participated in the press conference.
Recommendations from the mayors’ crime forum, listed below, will be presented to the next President of the United States during the critical first 100 days of the new administration.
National Action Agenda on Crime for the Next President of the United States
Following the Mayors’ ‘08 Action Forum on Crime held in Philadelphia August 5 and 6, Diaz asked a smaller group of mayors and chiefs to review the items discussed there and, based on that review, to draft the national action agenda on crime. That action agenda was released during the August 25 press conference held during the Democratic National Convention in Denver. Following is a summary of the National Action Agenda’s recommendations:
1 Reinvigorate the COPS program and make it more flexible to allow hiring both sworn officers and professionals trained in DNA analysis and forensics;
2 Fully fund the Byrne JAG program;
3 Provide homeland security funds directly to local governments, with flexibility that allows them to be used to meet locally identified priorities; recognize the value of allowing these funds to be used for beat officers; reinstate the Law Enforcement Terrorism Prevention Program;
4 Consider transferring responsibility for administration of homeland security grants benefiting local law enforcement agencies from DHS to the Department of Justice;
5 Consider establishing a new block grant program, modeled after the Community Development Block Grant, to provide police departments with flexible funds for prevention, enforcement, and analysis tailored to local needs;
6 Provide full support to the three criminal investigative databases most important to local police agencies – IAFIS (for fingerprints), NIBIN (for ballistics), and CODIS (for DNA ) by maintaining and upgrading them, providing better training, and establishing “best practices” protocols.
1 Begin reentry initiatives at sentencing through a strong partnership between public and private agencies which includes providing inmates with education, training, and substance abuse treatment while in prison so that, when they are released to their communities, they have a skill and are prepared to hold a job; set minimum standards for release from federal prison and provide help in finding jobs, housing, and the support needed to reenter communities successfully;
2 Fully fund the Second Chance Act and increase its authorization level significantly when it is renewed;
3 Provide substance abuse treatment – both in communities and in correctional facilities – on demand;
4 Attach a high priority at the federal level to preventing youth violence through strong intergovernmental and public-private partnerships; take a public health approach at the local level; combine tough enforcement with efforts that address the root causes of violence among young people;
5 Establish a federal interagency mechanism to coordinate the youth programs and activities supported by the various federal departments and agencies; provide cities with federal funding and technical assistance to encourage similar coordination efforts at the local level.
1 Reinstate a strengthened, effective ban on military'style assault weapons, such as AK-47s, and their component parts;
2 Enact common sense gun legislation, such as that advocated by Mayors Against Illegal Guns, to close the gun show loophole, keep guns out of the hands of terrorists, and no longer permit gun dealers whose licenses are revoked to conduct fire sales;
3 Enact legislation to limit the number of guns a person may purchase in a single transaction or in a month or other specified period of time;
4 Do not limit law enforcement agencies’ access to gun trace data by either state or federal law;
5 Require anyone purchasing a firearm in the United States to undergo a background check; provide full funding for the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; and require states to submit records, including those involving persons with serious mental health problems, to the NICS;
6 Expand the Integrated Ballistic Identification System (IBIS) to include ballistic images for all new guns, not just those involved in crimes; support the development of new technologies, such as microstamping, which can help solve crimes.
Gangs and Illegal Drugs
1 Take the same approach to gangs by federal authorities as taken to organized crime, and assign them the same high priority;
2 Respond at the federal, state and local levels to the growing problem of youth gangs through stepped-up enforcement and prosecution of the gangs that exist, and through stepped-up prevention and intervention programs that provide young people with alternatives to gang membership and gang violence;
3 Work collaboratively at the federal, state, and local levels to undermine gangs and gang culture; establish intergovernmental anti-gang task forces;
4 Provide both federal and state courts the option of sending convicted gang members to federal prisons located in other parts of the country;
5 Establish a federal'state-local partnership to help stop the use and sale of drugs in cities, in fulfillment of the federal government’s constitutional responsibility;
6 Increase funding for the drug court program, along with funding for the treatment and support services essential to the program’s success;
7 Recognize and address the onslaught of methamphetamine and prescription drug problems in the country today, including problems associated with trafficking and use.
Executive Orders and Administrative Actions
1 Assign more FBI agents, including some of the agents now dedicated to combating terrorism, to combating street crime;
2 Provide homeland security funds directly to local governments, with flexibility that allows them to be used to meet locally identified priorities; recognize the value of allowing these funds to be used for beat officers;
3 Do not preempt the authority of local governments to enact municipal ordinances relating to gun safety or other aspects of public safety.