HomeLocal government“We all need this”: City Commission discusses hopes and expectations for their upcoming Gun Violence Summit
“We all need this”: City Commission discusses hopes and expectations for their upcoming Gun Violence Summit
August 4, 2023
BY JENNIFER CABRERA
GAINESVILLE, Fla. – Yvette Carter, Government Affairs and Community Relations Director, and Jennifer Smart, Communications Director, gave a presentation at the August 3 Gainesville City Commission meeting to provide commissioners with an overview of what to expect at this weekend’s Gun Violence Summit.
The presentation highlighted the 154 shooting incidents and seven homicides (not including the two that happened last weekend) in the city limits between July 1, 2022, and July 1, 2023.
“Choose Peace – Gun Violence Must Cease”
The Summit, which has been titled “Choose Peace – Gun Violence Must Cease,” will be held this Sunday and Monday at the Hilton University of Florida Conference Center and was funded with part of the City’s American Rescue Plan Act allocation.
Sunday is “Community Day,” anchored by Gainesville City Commissioner Desmon Duncan-Walker; the program begins at 2:00 and includes a panel discussion at 2:30, breakout sessions at 4:30, a Youth Town Hall at 6, and a reception from 7:30 p.m. to 9 p.m. Registration is not required for the Youth Town Hall, which will examine the role of music and the choices that young people make; registration for the rest of Sunday’s events is sold out.
Monday is “Policy Day,” anchored by Gainesville Mayor Harvey Ward; it will cover prevention strategies and support services and programs; the event is targeted at elected officials, education professionals, healthcare professionals, public safety, justice system professionals, and the business community. The breakout discussions will be guided by the CDC’s Social Ecological Model. The program will operate as a workshop, and the public is welcome to observe. The keynote address at lunch will be given by Ariel Cathcart from Everytown for Gun Safety.
Carter said the objectives of the Summit are to enhance communication, improve leveraging of resources, and centralize data collection. The City’s goal is to “develop a framework that holds us all accountable as we move forward in the search for solutions.”
“It’s coming to a neighborhood near you”
After the presentation, Duncan-Walker thanked staff for their work and said, “What I hope to leave this Summit with… is a community that is empowered and chomping at the bit to help create the infrastructure that is needed to do this work. How we sustain this is the question.” Duncan-Walker also said she was looking forward to the City Commission’s joint meeting with the Alachua County Commission on August 28 to discuss the County’s upcoming vote on declaring gun violence a public health crisis.
Duncan-Walker said the Summit will also be a “great data collection effort. In those two days, we will get a lot. How we harvest that, where we house that, how we make that accessible to the community is going to be really, really important.”
She continued, “For anyone who is watching, please come out. Because this is a public health crisis. And that means all hands on deck. Everybody, we cannot do this without you, don’t want to do this without you. So please come, whether you have been impacted by it or not. The scary thing is, if you haven’t, you will be. It’s coming to a neighborhood near you. That is how rampant this is.”
Shooting incidents by City district
Carter showed a slide on the overhead that broke out shooting incidents by City district:
“I intend to altar-call all the institutional partners at 4:30 on day two”
Commissioner Casey Willits asked whether a plan will come out of the Summit, and City Manager Cynthia Curry said that will be in the “Next Steps” part at 4:30 on the second day: “That’s where we will at least start the conversation. We need a part two, we need a convener, we need a clearinghouse of data… We’ll have some time on day two… but I think the larger conversation will probably occur at the joint meeting with the City and the County.”
Ward said, “I intend to altar-call all the institutional partners at 4:30 on day two.”
Duncan-Walker said, “We all need this. We have to be able to sleep at night, knowing that we are moving in the right direction. Are we gonna get some things wrong? For sure. We might make some missteps. No one has gotten this right. The truth is, this isn’t a new issue. This is old. Gun violence is old. It’s just changed. The perpetrators and the victims are younger. And that’s really scary. That’s why for me it was so important to do a Youth Town Hall. I believe, in a lot of ways, the children are going to lead us, but we have to give them the opportunity to do that.”
Ward said, “I think this is going to be an event, a kickoff, so to speak, that we can all be very proud of. It is not a solution. It is how we begin to create a solution. I also want to say that there are folks working on the solution and have been working on the solution, never stop working on the solution, in the community every day, going back decades. You know, our police, our Sheriff’s Office, the Black-on-Black Crime Task Force has been working for decades, there have been folks really honestly daily engaged in trying to stop us from getting to this point for a very long time.”
He added, “Part of my intent is to spread the mantle of responsibility across all 270,000 people in the county, including the 145,000 of us in the city of Gainesville, because everybody has a piece of this, everybody. And it’s time to take it off the shoulders of just police officers and just a dedicated small group of people outside of the police force and bring it on to the entire community. That is my hope for this.”
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