Barrett invited to White House to discuss youth violence
Chief Flynn joined Barrett for second round of Washington meetings
By Lynda L. Jones, Editor
This week, Milwaukee Mayor Tom Barrett joined 17 other mayors from across the U.S. at the invitation of President Obama to sit down and discuss the nation’s crisis of youth violence at the White House.
In addition to the mayors were Attorney General Eric Holder, and Valerie Jarrett, senior adviser to President Obama.
According to Mayor Barrett who addressed local media on Wednesday, the day after the meeting, President Obama made it clear from the beginning that he did not have a new federal program or more resources to help cities battle youth violence. But Barrett said the president told the mayors it was important that the federal government become a better partner with local stakeholders who are on the front lines of youth-related violence.
Barrett said that he was impressed, but not surprised that in the midst of an international crisis with Syria, and on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington President Obama took the time and made it possible to meet with 18 mayors to discuss this issue. It demonstrates that this president is not out of touch with the daily challenges that individual cities are facing with youth violence.
Barrett said that the president also acknowledges that the issue needs a broad and varied set of solutions, and he wanted feedback from the mayors on what the root of their city’s challenges are. He also pledged to find ways to coordinate programs involving young people among myriad federal agencies, including Education, Health and Human Services, and the Department of Housing and Urban Development.
Barrett said that many of the mayors are experiencing similar issues. Barrett shared with the group the frustration that he has with the ineffective gun laws that Milwaukee has in dealing with gun straw buyers and with felons having guns, and being arrested to only be released back on the streets by the court system.
Through a statement from the White House regarding the meeting, President Obama also told the mayors that he would try to reduce gun violence in the country through executive action and to lobby members of Congress to pass legislation to expand background checks and crack down on gun trafficking.
The mayors all agree that a more comprehensive resolution is needed with this crisis. Involvement from churches, community groups and education just to name a few are all needed.
Although many mayors had similar types of crimes going on in their individual cities, when asked by The Courier, if there were any type of crimes that stood out in his mind that Milwaukee was not experiencing but other cities were, he stated that he did hear a few mayors speak on crimes against babies and children for retaliation, and he said Milwaukee had not experience that.
He was also asked if there would be a follow up meeting, and he stated that there were plans to follow up with advisers to President Obama, but not directly with the president yet. Barrett also stated that he believed that he was invited to the meeting based on his good relationship with the president and the White House. He said that there were some mayors who participated who had experienced a decline in youth violence.
The mayor of Memphis, A.C. Wharten shared that his city was experiencing an increase in violence in large apartment complexes. And the mayor in Cincinnati, Mark Mallory offered an analogy that Barrett shared at the press conference, he said that Mayor Mallory stated, ““If we had plane crashes every week where forty people are killed, the National Transportation Safety Board would be on this problem immediately — and what we have is a situation where people are being killed on the streets of this country between midnight and 4:00 a.m. on Friday nights on a weekly basis.”
Mayor Barrett said that this recent wave of violence in July and August has been the worst since he has been mayor of Milwaukee. There have been over 2,000 arrests during this wave of violence along with over 550 illegal guns taken off the streets. Yet, Barrett is still concerned that the existing laws may not keep these individuals and guns off the streets permanently due to the flexible gun laws.
Following the meeting with the president, the Barrett attended a second round of meetings with Chief Flynn and the other mayors along with Attorney General Eric Holder.