Monday, March 12, 2018

Blogger Candidate Forum: Which Side Are The Cities On?

http://www.citylab.com; March 1, 2018


Hello Everyone:

Time for the weekly edition of Blogger Candidate Forum.  Power to the students who to part in the National Walkout today.  Blogger is so proud of you, the teachers and administrators who support your  free speech.  Fair warning to all elected officials, across the United States, some of these "children" will be old enough to vote in the midterm elections.  They will remember which side of the gun control issue you are on.  Speaking of what side of the issue you are on, where are the mayors?

Sad to report that it took the horrific killing of seventeen people at the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, on February 14, to force a serious national conversation on gun control.  Some perceive mass shootings as a mental health issue and in the case of school shootings, a school safety issue.  Gun control advocates point their collective fingers (metaphorically speaking) at the widespread availability of assault-type weapons and ammunition.  Truthfully, mass shootings are the product of all the above and more.  It is not an issue that will be easily resolved with a few feel good laws, federal commissions, definitely not lame thoughts and prayers.  One way to get the need for sensible gun control message across is with your wallet.  The decision to not to (or to) patronize a company, like Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart, that sell guns sends a powerful message to said company it will not be supported until changes are made.

Recently, Dick's Sporting Goods and Walmart took a more proactive approach on the issue of gun.  One Wednesday February 28, Dick's released a forceful media statement,

We at DICK'S Sporting Goods are deeply disturbed and saddened by the tragic events in Parkland.  Our thoughts and prayers are with all of the victims and their loved ones.

But thoughts and prayers are not enough....(Ibid)

 Dick's announced that it will no longer sell assault-style rifles and bump-stocks, sell high-capacity magazines to anyone under the age of 21 (pressroom.dicks.com; Feb. 28, 2018; date accessed Mar. 12, 2018).  Further, they listed certain demands upon elected officials: Ban assault-type weapons, raise the minimum age a person can buy a weapon to 21, require universal background checks including relevant mental health information and previous interactions with law enforcement (Ibid).  Following suit, Walmart announced that it would raise the age limit. 

Kriston Capps writes in his CityLab article "Businesses Spurn the NRA.  Where Are the Mayors?," "A national debate about gun policy has turned into a consumer politics arguments about the NRA itself.  Major airlines, rental-car companies, retailers, insurers, and other firms have all ended their agreements with the NRA [chicagotribune.com; Mar. 1, 2018; date accessed Mar. 6, 2018] since the Parkland massacre."

As corporations drop their sponsorship of the National Rifle Association, the question becomes what will the mayors of NRA convention host cities do?  It seems that the civic leaders in the position to say something and have responded, in some cases, with deafening silence.  For example, Dallas City Council begged the organization (citylab.com; Feb. 20, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) to reconsider hosting its convention the city this coming May.  Dallas Mayor Mike Rawlings said, "he shares those concerns, the contract is already."  Like a lot of cities, Dallas pays the NRA a great deal of money to host the annual convention and its attendees.

However, other host cities have not followed Dallas' example.  Mr. Capps reports, "Leaders from the circuit of Bible Belt cities that frequently host the NRA have followed suit are slow to jump into the public debate over the group."  In 2010, then-Charlotte Mayor Jennifer Roberts announced that she would happy to host the organization, like in 2010, when "Charlotte paid the NRA $150,000 in free rent at the convention center plus  $15,000 in cash.  (That was less memorable than in 2000 , when Charlton Heston lifted a rifle over his head telling NRA convention attendees in Charlotte that if Al Gore want his gun, he'd have to pry it from his 'cold dead hands [weeklystandard.com; May 1, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018]')."  Charlotte's current Mayor Vi Lyles declined to tell CityLab whether or not the city would continue to support the NRA.  Kriston Capps points that the city "recently submitted a bid to hold the 2020 Republican National Convention."

Of the seventeen cities that played host to NRA conventions over the past twenty-five years, only one has absolutely committed to never bringing the organization back: big surprise, Seattle.  Amazingly, Seattle, one of the bluest of the blue cities, did play host to the organization for one and so far, last time in 1997.  Mayor Jenny Durkan told CityLab,

The minute the NRA stands for responsible gun ownership nod supports policies that will save lives in Seattle and every other city, then we might be willing to discuss it.

The Mayor of Kansas City, Missouri Sly James showed similar backbone.  A spokesperson told CityLab,

If the NRA changes certain positions on common-sense gun-safety laws he would entertain talking to the organization.

Kriston Capps writes, "A spokesperson for the city of Phoenix, which hosted the NRA convention in 1995 and 2009, said that the city has no current plans to bring the convention back to town."  However, City Council member Thelda Williams said "that the city complete a $600 million expansion of the Phoenix Convention Center with an eye toward hosting large conventions like the NRA.  Ms. Williams said in a statement, We would welcome a repeat visit.

Orlando, the site of the horrific 2016 Pulse Nightclub shooting that claimed the lives of 50 including the shooter, has not ruled out a repeat visit from the NRA convention.  A spokesperson for Mayor Buddy Dyer deferred to the county, saying "Orlando's conventon center belongs to Orange County, Florida."  Mr. Capps notes, "The county did not respond to an inquiry." 

Breaking news:  Flipped. A very well earned congratulations to Conor Lamb (D-PA18) on his razor thin victory over Republican Rick Saccone.  This proves that every vote counts.  If you have not registered to vote, go to vote.gov for information and do not forget to cast your ballot.  Alright back to the post.

As Yours Truly was saying, Mr. Capps observed that "the Orange County Convention Center is probably too small to host the NRA convention today--not unless it completes the  $500 million expansion [orlandosentinel.com, Oct. 29 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018] under discussion."  Charlotte may lack both the hotels and convention space (bizjournals.com; Feb. 27, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) to suit an NRA gathering.  The city of St. Louis, where the group gathered in 2007 and 2012 is planning a $120 million in convention center improvement (stltoday; Feb. 18, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018), which would retain its elite status metropolitan read eligible to bid six figures on the NRA convention.

Nebraska Governor Pete Ricketts would like to bring the NRA convention to his state--tweeting this on Friday March 9, 2018 (twitter.com; Mar. 9, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018)--but there is no city large enough to play host.  Mr. Capps writes, "An average NRA convention, with an attendance size of 70,000 members, would rank as Nebraskas third-largest city."

Refusing to host the NRA convention on free speech grounds may not be a viable options for civic leaders.  Contested legal space: After Dallas banned Exxxotica from renting its convention center in  February 2016 (dallasnews.com; May 12, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018), pornographic convention sues.  The case is currently on appeal (Ibid; June , 2016).  There is no doubt whatsoever that the NRA would aggressively respond to any and all local efforts to keep guns out.

However, it is federal politicians, not local politicians, that would feel the brunt of the NRA's wrath if they shun the organization.  The organization typically does not bother with state campaigns, giving a 
paltry $309,000 spread out over 500 contributions in 2016 and 2017 races according to the National Institute on Money in State Politics (followthemoney.org; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).  In Orange County, California, the NRA's only listed donation (Ibid) in a local was to Republican Todd Spitzer, who received $1,600 for his supervisor campaigns.  Of course, this is not to dismiss the "NRA's massive influence in mobilizing voters (nytimes.com; Feb. 24, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) through issue spending and member outreach."  What could be worse for a big city Democrat than an "F" grade on guns?

Currently, only a few cities are large enough and southern enough to play host to the 70,000 member strong NRA.  Among the cities are: Dallas, Atlanta, Louisville, Nashville, Houston, and Phoenix, most of whom are repeat hosts.  Tallahassee, Florida Mayor Andrew Gillum took on the NRA last and won (citylab.com; Feb. 7, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018)--now he is running for governor.  He is campaigning to be Florida's next governor with the message of stricter gun control (andrewgillum.com; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) and local freedom from state preemption (citylab.com; Jan. 6, 2017; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).  His call for stricter gun control will resonate loudly in the wake of the Parkland shooting and the passage of Florida's luke warm gun control bill.

Mayor Gillum's "common-sense gun-safety proposals" (wtxl.com; (citylab.com; Feb. 15, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) are aligned with the proposals proposed by Dick's Sporting Goods.  Additionally, pension funds are under pressure to to divest from gun manufacturers.  While previous calls for divestiture have never made a dent (citylab.com; June 15, 2016; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) in gun company stocks, gun manufactures are more susceptible to changes in the market place (bloomberg.com; Feb. 26, 2018; date accessed Mar. 14, 2018) for reasons that, surprisingly, little to do with the shootings in Parkland, Orlando, and Las Vegas.  Public outrage that produces action from retailers can only result in more losses in gun manufacturer stocks (marketwatch.com; Feb. 28, 2018;  date accessed Mar. 14, 2018).

What do we want? Gun control! Mayor Gillum's rallying cry to a column of 1,000 students from Florida State University and others marching to the state capitol.  In the past, the call for gun control would have gone unheeded but now things are different.  Public opinion and corporate sympathies may finally be falling on the right side of the issue.