Remarks as Delivered
“Steve, thank you, and good afternoon, everyone.
“Let me start with a special thanks to Tom Cochran and his staff for putting this all together.
“When I was first elected mayor it was just two months after 9/11, and Tom brought the Conference’s winter meeting to New York.
“That really gave New York City a big lift, and it meant a lot to us, and I just wanted to say again, Tom, thank you. You’re the greatest.
“I also want to thank our host, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser, who is with us today.
“And I want to say thank you to at least one other executive in Washington who knows how to keep a government open – the Mayor of this great city. She deserves a real round of applause.
“I didn’t plan to speak about the shutdown today. However, I do want to touch on it because it’s related to everything else that all of us do want to talk about: Creating jobs, reducing poverty, fighting climate change, increasing public safety, stopping the opioid crisis, and the list goes on and on and on.
“On all of these issues and many more, it is the American mayors that are hard at work.
“As Mayor Benjamin mentioned, our foundation created the Bloomberg American Cities Initiative as a way to help all of you tackle tough challenges – and accomplish your goals.
“The initiative has brought me all over the country, meeting with mayors and talking about the work they’re doing on all the big issues I just mentioned.
“Everywhere I’ve gone, I’ve seen mayors in both parties working across the aisle to develop innovative new policies and programs, and to do what people elected you to do: solve problems. That’s what mayors do. And I’ve always thought that the best job in the world is being a mayor.
“And if you talk to Ed Rendell, who had been Mayor of Philadelphia and then Governor of the State of Pennsylvania, he would tell you the mayor’s job is far and away the best. You really get a chance to do something.
“And then there’s the federal government. The shutdown has been going on for 35 days, and nearly all of you have seen the effects in your cities and towns. Can you imagine shutting down your city governments for 35 days? Inconceivable.
“Some 800,000 federal workers aren’t getting paid, including, disgracefully, some of our men and women in uniform.
“That has ripple effects across businesses in every community.
“Then there are the families who can’t get a mortgage, farmers who aren’t getting payments they’re owed, and small business owners who can’t get loans to expand and grow.
“As bad as all this has been, and it is really bad, imagine what would happen at the local level if we shut down. The garbage would pile up, and schools and libraries would close. After-school programs and daycare centers closed. Businesses couldn’t get permits to open. Families couldn’t get access to benefits. Need to call 911 to report a crime, or a fire, or a heart attack? Good luck.
“Let’s get real, people would never stand for it. They would be outraged.
“And do you know who they would blame? The mayor, of course. And rightly so.
“In government, the buck stops at the executive’s desk. That’s true at the local level, as all of you know. But let’s not forget, it’s also true at the federal level.
“Mayors could never get away with closing the government, and I don’t believe we should let this president get away with it, either.
“Now, I’ve never been a partisan guy. In fact, I’ve been a Democrat, a Republican, an Independent, and a Democrat again.
“So if anyone is an expert on party politics, it is me.
“But this isn’t about party to me. This is about competence and the lack of it that we are seeing in the White House.
“The government shutdown is a complete failure of executive leadership, and it’s one of the worst cases of incompetent management I have ever seen.
“As all of you know, being an executive is a leadership and a management job. And I’ve been lucky enough to have that job in both the public and the private sectors.
“People always ask me the difference between government and business, and I always say: Business is a dog-eat-dog world. And in government, it’s exactly the reverse.
“There are differences, of course. But the fundamental leadership and management principles are basically the same.
“In government, if you can’t even keep the doors open and the lights on, you’re going to make matters a whole lot worse for the public. And that’s exactly what’s happening.
“There have been a lot of stories in the press about all the people who have been hurt by the shutdown. But that’s not the end of it.
“We are also paying a collective cost, as a country.
“For five weeks, President Trump has forced all debate in Washington to focus on a wall we don’t need instead of the real challenges that are crying out for attention and that all of you are working on day and night.
“I’d like to touch on one of them today, the one that probably best exemplifies the gulf between Washington and the rest of the country: and that’s gun safety.
“I don’t have to tell you that a mayor’s number-one job is protecting people’s lives, so that they can go home to their families each day. It is government’s most fundamental responsibility, and it is impossible to meet it by ignoring the fact that criminals and other dangerous people have easy access to guns.
“Over the years, I’ve spent a lot of time traveling around the country –with mayors, volunteers, and students about gun violence.
“Everywhere I go, whether it’s Las Vegas, Tulsa, Minneapolis, Atlanta, San Antonio, or anyplace else, people tell me how important this issue is to them. And it should be.
“Every day, innocent people who might have been saved by common-sense gun laws lose their lives.
“All of you know this because you see the effects of America’s lax gun laws in your communities every day.
“Gun homicides are concentrated in our cities, and African-Americans represent the majority of the victims.
“Tragically, guns are the leading cause of death for African-American children and teens. And every time a child is struck by a stray bullet, every time a woman or a responding police officer gets shot by a domestic abuser who never should’ve had a gun in the first place you get the phone call.
“I’ve been there, and let me tell you something, I know those calls and those conversations with the families never get any easier.
“For mayors, it’s not about ideology. It’s about real life. That’s why there are more than 1,000 current and former mayors in a group called Mayors Against Illegal Guns, including, I’m glad to say, many of you here today.
“I started the group with the late Boston Mayor, my friend Tom Menino, back in 2006. Back then, practically nobody in Congress would stand up for basic gun safety laws. The conventional wisdom was if you stood up the NRA could end your political career.
“I never believed that conventional wisdom. But if there was ever any truth to it, it is certainly dead today, now.
“When I left City Hall, our team created a national organization called Everytown for Gun Safety and we teamed up with a group of mothers for gun safety called Moms Demand Action. Together, these groups are serving as the counter-weight to the NRA. And, with a lot of support from you and your constituents, we’ve been making progress in both blue and red states.
“Over the past year 20 states have enacted stronger gun laws, including states where the NRA had long dominated.
“Now not only is the NRA losing around the country, they are losing in their own backyard.
“This hotel is only 20 miles from NRA headquarters, which is just across the river in Virginia. In 2017, candidates in Virginia for governor, lieutenant governor, and attorney general all took on the NRA, and they all won their elections.
“And, if you’re looking at the polling data, it wasn’t that the NRA was just ineffective or unconvincing. The NRA’s endorsement was toxic, in the eyes of suburban voters, women voters, and voters overall. That got the pundits’ attention.
“Then, we all saw what happened in 2018. People had always favored sensible, common-sense gun laws. But in the midterms, millions of Americans stood up and demanded action, and candidates responded by making gun safety a top priority.
“So this movement is on the march and I know mayors are eager to lead. But here’s the problem: many of you are stuck between a rock and a hard place.
“Here’s what I mean by that: on one side, the federal government does nothing to help you. On the other side: your state government might block you from even trying to take action.
“One way they try is to pass what is called firearms pre-emption laws, which the NRA has pushed. Over 40 states now have these laws.
“The laws are intended to restrict cities and towns from passing sensible public safety laws that are tailored to local conditions.
“In some states, these preemption laws are so punitive that City officials can face personal fines, or even removal from office, just for passing responsible, common-sense gun laws that help protect the public.
“You can’t make this up. But we also can’t accept it. And if you want to fight back and defend your local laws in the courts, I can tell you my organization Everytown For Gun Safety will have your back.
“Let me tell you what I mean. Everytown already works with mayors, police chiefs, parents, gun violence survivors, and more.
“And now, Everytown has added a team of legal experts to their staff so they can help you protect your right to take local action.
“Let me give you a couple of quick examples. After Seattle enacted a responsible gun-storage ordinance, the NRA sued, naturally.
“Well, I can tell you that Mayor Jenny Durkan wasn’t going down without a fight. Everytown helped her defend the law in court – and I’m glad to report: they won.
“In Columbus, Ohio, Mayor Andrew Ginther is fighting in court to defend the city’s ban on bump stocks and we’re glad to support him.
“We’re also helping Missoula, Montana, defend its background check law.
“We’re helping Boulder, Colorado, defend its limits on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.
“And we’re helping dozens of Florida mayors and cities challenge the state’s punitive pre-emption law, which they did after last year’s Parkland shooting.
“Everytown lawyers are representing them, along with Florida attorneys. Several of those mayors are with us today, including Parkland Mayor Christine Hunschofsky, and I know this is very personal for them, but we are with you.
“Everytown is supporting each of these cities because these are fights worth having. And they’re ready to stand with you, as well. Remember, where there’s a will, there’s a way.
“So once you’re back home, talk to your legal counsel about which fights you might want to take on. Then call Everytown and put them to work.
“Let me share one final thought with you. I’ve devoted many years on how to fight gun violence. When we started, other mayors and I would come to DC for meetings. Lawmakers would hear us out, nod their heads, and then give us the cold shoulder.
“But now, members of Congress want to talk about gun safety and the House wasted no time in introducing a background check bill after the last election and after they were put in office. So what’s changed?
“Well, it’s not just public opinion. People were outraged a long time before Parkland, before Charleston, and Newtown, and on and on.
“We’ve been outraged for a long time. But now, we are organized. That’s the key difference. And strong leadership from mayors has helped make it happen.
“So I want to thank you all for standing up for gun safety when others wouldn’t, and I want to urge you to keep up the fight and take it to the next level.
“We’re ready to work with you. And, I should mention, we work for free.
“Helping you protect your cities is one of the best investments I can make in our country as a philanthropist. And together, we can really make America safer and stronger, and save an awful lot of lives.
“So, thank you for having me. I love this conference. Been coming for many, many years. Tom, you’re the greatest. And Mayor Benjamin, you really are the mayor’s mayor. Thank you all for coming, and thank you for having me.”