Area officials attend national mayor’s conference

LOS ANGELES — The three-day winter meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors began Jan. 17 in Washington, D.C., with Mayor Eric Garcetti among the 28 Southland mayors set to attend and Vice President Mike Pence scheduled to speak at a luncheon.

The first day’s agenda included Beverly Hills Mayor John Mirisch making a presentation on his city’s Ambassador Program, which was announced in June as the small cities winner of the City Livability Award.

The program coordinates local government, private and nonprofit organizations to address homelessness and improve the city’s quality of life. It provides hospitality, safety and social services to residents, businesses and individuals in need.

“Our ambassadors’ consistent presence and knowledge of those in need has allowed for efficient coordination of outreach and services to the homeless, producing a 50 percent decrease in the number of people in our annual homeless count,” Mirisch said last year.

“The ambassadors presence on our city streets has led to a reduction in aggressive panhandling and provides a sense of safety and enhanced quality of life.”

Garcetti participated in a news conference Jan. 18 on bipartisan immigration efforts, along with Anaheim Mayor Tom Tait and their counterparts from Seattle, Gresham, Oregon, and Providence, Rhode Island.

Garcetti, who is chair of the conference’s Latino Alliance, also led a discussion panel with Tait and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, the co-chairs of the conference’s Immigration Reform Task Force; Seattle Mayor Ed Murray, the chair of the conference’s Mayors & Police Chiefs Task Force; and Seattle Police Department Chief Kathleen M. O’Toole.

Long Beach Mayor Robert Garcia, the vice chair of the Ports and Exports Task Force, spoke Jan. 19 at a meeting of the task force.

A record 312 mayors registered for the meeting at the Capitol Hilton Hotel to engage with administration officials and congressional and business leaders to ensure the health and economic recovery of America’s cities, according to conference officials.

In addition to Garcetti, Tait, Garcia and Mirisch, other area mayors registered for the meeting were David Mejia (Alhambra); Albert Robles (Carson); Jim B. Clarke (Culver City); Mark E. Henderson (Gardena); Vivian Romero (Montebello); Mitchell Ing (Monterey Park); Bob J. Archuleta (Pico Rivera); and Lauren Meister (West Hollywood).

 

Obama on gun control: ‘We need a change in attitude’

SAN FRANCISCO — Making his second call in as many days for tighter gun control laws, President Barack Obama on Friday told a crowd of mayors it was again time for a national conversation on the scourge of mass shootings in America.

“We need a change in attitude,” Obama said in remarks to the annual meeting of the U.S. Conference of Mayors in San Francisco. He said the country was “shocked and heartbroken” by the shooting deaths of nine churchgoers in Charleston, South Carolina Wednesday.

The morning after the shooting, Obama made a direct and personal call for bolstering gun control laws from the White House, admitting the current balance of power in Washington makes any meaningful action unlikely.

But he said on Friday he wasn’t resigned to inaction in Congress.

“We have to move public opinion,” Obama said. “We have to feel a sense of urgency. Ultimately Congress will follow the people.”

Obama last made a push to tighten gun control laws in the aftermath of the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in 2012. A measure that would have expanded background checks during gun sales gained bipartisan support, but ultimately failed to surpass a filibuster in the Senate.

While the Obama administration enacted nearly two dozen executive actions meant to improve gun safety, the issue has largely been dormant on Capitol Hill since.

On Friday, Obama said the lack of action in Washington wasn’t an excuse to ignore a problem he noted took the lives of 11,000 Americans in 2013 alone.

“I refuse to act as if this is the new normal or to pretend that it’s simply sufficient to grieve and that any mention of us doing something to stop it is somehow politicizing the problem,” he said.

The president suggested that tighter gun laws can be passed despite a lack of bipartisan support from Congress.

“We have to shift how we think about this issue and we have the capacity to change, but we have to build a sense of urgency about it,” he said. “That’s how we honor those families [in Charleston]. That’s how we honor the families of Newtown, and that’s how we honor the families in Aurora.”

In his speech to mayors, the president acknowledged the racist motivations of Dylann Roof, who sources say admitted to shooting nine people at the historic Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church on Wednesday night.

Roof, according to witnesses, told his victims that he came to “shoot up black people.”

“The apparent motivations of the shooter remind us that racism remains a blight that we have to combat,” Obama said on Friday. “We have made great progress, but we have to be vigilant because it still lingers.”

Violent acts — often committed by young people — “betrays our ideals and tears our democracy apart,” he said, adding later that other countries, despite confronting similar mental health problems, “don’t see murder on this kind of scale, with this kind of frequency.”

“At some point as a country, we have to reckon with what happens. It is not good enough simply to show sympathy,” he said.

The president’s comments came on the same day he issued a statement on the 150th anniversary of Juneteenth, when the abolition of slavery was announced in Texas.

“We don’t have to look far to see that racism and bigotry, hate and intolerance, are still all too alive in our world,” he said.

Obama was speaking in the middle of a four-day swing through California. On Thursday, he began his trip with two fundraisers hosted by Hollywood heavyweights: actor and filmmaker Tyler Perry and television writer Chuck Lorre.

Addressing the shootings at Perry’s house, Obama told the crowd of 250 Democratic donors if they were “dissatisfied that every few months we have a mass shooting in this country, killing innocent people, then I need you to mobilize” and help elect pro-gun control politicians.

Later on Friday, Obama attended a fundraiser for congressional Democrats at the San Francisco home of climate change activist Tom Steyer.

Following the two fundraisers, the president spent the rest of Father’s Day weekend in his favorite desert oasis, Palm Springs, where he is expected to golf.

Allison Malloy reported from San Francisco. Kevin Liptak and Eugene Scott reported from Washington.