Local mayors brainstorm with counterparts in Washington

Laws of the land are made on Capitol Hill, yet local laws began at the Capitol Hilton. More than 300 mayors packed the hotel for a three-day event. For the third time, Harrisburg Mayor Linda Thompson made the trek to Washington, D.C.

Throughout the day, several workshops consist of brainstorming and hearing new ideas and policies on various issues facing American cities. We caught up with Thompson at a session focused on improving the workforce, specifically creating more opportunities for youth.

While, yes, Harrisburg does faces quite a fiscal challenge, most mayors concentrated on gun control. Vice President Joe Biden spoke gun policy during the plenary luncheon. Biden told mayors “we must act” on enforcing stricter gun laws.

Thompson said she has had multiple conversations with mayors on their views and local policies, and noted she is excited about the progress.

“The work has just begun and I'm very excited about it,” said Thompson. “It's something that has to be done now.”

York Mayor Kim Bracey and Lancaster Mayor Rick Gray are also in Washington for the conference. The three mayors joined the Mayors Against Illegal Guns, an 800-strong alliance. Since the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut, the group urged for a ban on “assault” weapons.

Yet, there is a dilemma in D.C. defining assault weapon.

“A lot of these things at this point are just concepts,” said Mayor Gray. “The devils' in the details. So, that would be a very difficult thing to define.”

Thompson said mayors are actively discussing how to tackle this very issue.

“We discussed how we can define these guns and high-capacity ammunition guns,” said Thompson. “[We need to define] what their specific purpose should be used for. And, now we can identify and explain how 10 rounds or less will do the job.”

Like any industry conference, the opportunity to talk shop and learn from others' successes and failures helps the country grow, starting locally. Gray and Thompson use the conference and a forum to garner ideas to better the community.

“You mean I'm not the only one?” Thompson joked. “Sometimes what works in Chicago may not work in Harrisburg, but there's always something in that best practice that you can tweak to make it your own.”

“For mayors, recognizing the problems we have, it's interesting,” Gray added. “I have a lot of good ideas.”

The conference concludes on Saturday, but after three days mayors explained they're rejuvenated, refreshed and stock full of ideas.

“A lot of good things come out of this conference,” Thompson said. “Over the last two years I attended, great things I've been able to bring to Harrisburg.”

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