On May 17, stakeholders from across the state--including state legislators, members of local government, community leaders and educators--met for the first hearing of the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay, chaired by Assemblymember Rob Bonta. The goals of the hearing were to identify some of the root causes of gun violence in the East Bay, and to highlight successful efforts taken by stakeholders to address this problem. The hearing consisted of three panels: local perspectives on gun violence in the East Bay; prevention strategies currently used in the East Bay; and statewide prevention strategies. For a complete agenda and list of panelists, click here. Some of the key findings of the hearing are outlined below.
There is no single, easy solution to cure gun violence. In order to successfully address the problem of gun violence, a solution must involve all members of the community. Cities that have effectively reduced gun violence have done so through the development of comprehensive planning strategies. These plans are designed by all groups invested in ending the violence, including educators, community organizers, law enforcement, etc. Plans are then collectively implemented by all stakeholders. Through collaboration, these strategies increase the likelihood of reducing gun violence.
Currently, community groups throughout the East Bay use limited resources to do a tremendous amount of work to assist victims of gun violence. However, with greater means these groups would increase their ability to assist victims. These resources should go towards not only funding local programs, but also increasing job opportunities, educational prospects, and counseling options for both victims and their loved ones. In addition, more outreach must be done to inform victims and their families of existing services already available to them, as some of these services are currently underutilized.
Gun violence is not simply a public safety problem; it is a public health problem. Victims of gun violence include not just those who are directly involved in shootings, but these individuals’ families and other loved ones, emergency care providers who try to save lives, and the greater community, among others. Healthcare providers must be involved in the search to identify solutions to end gun violence. They can help identify weaknesses in our healthcare system with respect to gun violence, and help provide mental health support for communities. Leaders should also look to the Affordable Care Act to identify services directed to youth who suffer from the effects of gun violence.
California has led the nation in enacting strong gun laws to protect its residents. However, there are still many flaws in existing laws and regulations. These include, for example, laws regarding the victims’ compensation fund; laws that prevent the illegal use of weapons; and laws intended to assist those affected by gun violence. State legislators must continue to work to strengthen current legislation addressing gun violence and those affected by gun violence, and to increase the efficacy of such legislation.
When determining the best solutions to the problem of gun violence, it is imperative to work directly with members of the community who have been on the “front lines” in the war against gun violence. In addition, it is important to work with the actual perpetrators of gun violence to address their reasons for engaging in this violence. Much of the current violence is committed by a very small percentage of the community; if we can help those individuals overcome the inclination to engage in gun violence, the community would be much safer.
Assemblymember Bonta would like to thank all who participated in the inaugural hearing for the Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay. He invites all those interested in participating in future hearings to contact his office at (510) 286-1670 or to visit http://assembly.ca.gov/gunviolenceeastbay for more information. The next hearing is tentatively scheduled for August 2013 in Stockton.
Assemblymember Bonta - Chair, Select Committee on Gun Violence in the East Bay
Reverend Dr. Charley Hames - Welcome
Jean Quan - Mayor, City of Oakland
Office of Congresswoman Barbara Lee - Colin Foard
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner - Select Committee Member
Senator Loni Hancock - Chair, Senate Public Safety Committee
Service Provider Perspective - Marilyn Washington, Khadafy Washington Foundation
Faith-Based Perspective - Pastor Zack Carey, True Vine Ministries
Youth-Based Perspective - Olis Simmons, Youth UpRising
Youth Leader - De'Mario Williams, Youth Leader
Law Enforcement Perspective - Ken James, Chief of Police, Emeryville
Business Perspective - Jose Duenas, CEO, Hispanic Chamber of Commerce
Health-based Perspective - Dr. Randi Smith, ER doctor, Highland Hospital
Youth Strategies - Kevin Grant, Violence Prevention Network Coordinator, Oakland
Community Enforcement Strategies - Kelly McMillin, Chief of Police, Salinas
Health Strategies - Ray Colmenar, Senior Program Officer, The California Endowment
Law Enforcement - Captain Ersie Joyner, Oakland Police Department
Planning Strategies - Mario Maciel, Mayor's Gang Prevention Task Force, San Jose
Strategies to Identify Vulnerable Populations - DeVone Boggan, NSD, Richmond
Lifelines to Healing - Pastor Michael McBride
Model laws - Julie Leftwich, Senior Counsel, Legal Community Against Violence
School-based Strategies - Christopher Yanov, Founder of Reality Changers in San Diego
Family-based Strategies - Guillermo Cespedes, Gang Reduction/Youth Development, Los Angeles
Assemblymember Bill Quirk - Select Committee Member
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner - Select Committee Member
Senator Loni Hancock - Chair, Senate Public Safety Committee
Assemblymember Rob Bonta - Closing Remarks
Assemblymember Rob Bonta represents the 18th Assembly District, which includes the cities of Oakland, Alameda, and San Leandro. He serves as Chair of the Public Employees, Retirement, and Social Security committee, and as a member of the Health, Transportation, Banking and Finance, and Elections and Redistricting committees. Prior to serving in the Assembly, Bonta was elected Vice Mayor of the City of Alameda. Throughout his career in public service, Bonta has distinguished himself as a strong advocate for the East Bay’s and California's public schools. He has fought to prevent layoffs of firefighters and police officers, foster economic development and job creation, exercise fiscal responsibility, and protect the social service safety net. He has also served as a member of the Alameda Health Care District Board of Directors, Chair of the City of Alameda’s Economic Development Commission, and Deputy City Attorney for the City and County of San Francisco. He is the first Filipino American to be elected to the California State Legislature.
Assemblymember Bill Quirk was elected in November 2012 to represent the 20th Assembly District, which consists of Hayward, Union City, Castro Valley, San Lorenzo, Ashland, Cherryland, Fairview, Sunol and North Fremont. Prior to being elected to the Assembly, Quirk worked as a climate change scientist at NASA before beginning his career at the Lawrence Livermore National Lab, where he played a key role in the negotiations for the Nuclear Test Ban Treaty. Quirk has served as a leader for more than 30 years in many local organizations including the local PTA, Hayward Rotary, the Friends of the Library, the Hayward Library Commission, the Board of Communication Workers of America Local 9119, and the Bay Area Water Supply and Conservation Agency. In 2004, Quirk won a seat on the Hayward City Council. He worked with his colleagues to prioritize neighborhood safety, revitalize downtown, improve traffic in the Mission-Foothill corridor, and create more jobs and housing around South Hayward BART.
Assemblymember Nancy Skinner represents the 15th Assembly District, including East Bay cities that stretch along the I-80 corridor from Hercules to Oakland. Assemblymember Skinner chairs the Assembly Rules Committee and formerly chaired the Assembly's Natural Resources Committee. She also sits on the Assembly Public Safety Committee and the budget subcommittee on Public Safety. A graduate of UC Berkeley, Skinner served on the Berkeley City Council and the East Bay Regional Park District Board, is a former small business owner, and founder of an international association of cities, Local Governments for Sustainability. She has an extensive background in climate change, including time as director of the Cities for Climate Protection Campaign and coordinator of the 2005 Climate Action Summit between CEOs, Governor Schwarzenegger and UK Prime Minister Blair. Assemblymember Skinner’s successful legislation includes bills that required Amazon and other internet retailers to collect sales tax, made food stamps more available to hungry families, and protected renters and homeowners from foreclosure.
Jean Quan is the first woman and the first Asian American to be elected Mayor of Oakland, and the first female Asian American mayor of a major US City. She was also the first Asian American woman elected to the Oakland School Board and to the Oakland City Council. Since her start in Oakland politics in 1989 as a parent trying to save the schools’ music and arts programs, Jean Quan has strived to make public institutions work for people. She is the past chair of the Asian American Municipal Officials, and currently a member of the National League of Cities, Central City Caucus, Big 10 California Cities, Emerald Cities, and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission. She is also chair of the International Affairs Committee of the US Conference of Mayors, and Chair of the Local Government Commission focused on smart growth planning policy.
Marilyn Washington Harris is an activist for families of violent crime and an advocate for human rights. In August 2000, 18-year-old star athlete Khadafy Washington’s opportunity to play for University of California-Berkeley Bears was cut short by a still-unsolved homicide that took his young life. That October, Harris began organizing a campaign in honor of those whose lives were lost to homicide in Oakland, as part of an effort to end homicides in the Oakland community. Since that time, Mrs. Harris has led many efforts to inspire community activism for non-violence. She works with the Victims of Crime Bureau to help families obtain their loved ones’ remains and prepare for them a proper service. Mrs. Harris and her team of crisis responders aid 90% of the families that suffer the loss of a loved one in Oakland.
Zachary E. Carey is the current pastor of a West Oakland icon: True Vine Ministries. Born and raised in Oakland, Pastor Zack began his ministry career walking and teaching in West Oakland neighborhoods--specifically, the Acorn housing project. As a former youth pastor, Pastor Zack conducted church services in Santa Rita Prison for several years. It was during this time that he began to understand how the cycle of violence, under-education, and drug abuse destroys families and our community. Under Pastor Zack’s leadership, True Vine Ministries was selected by former Senator Don Perata as one of two Oakland sites for the Senator’s gun buy-back program, aimed at reducing handgun violence in Oakland. Pastor Zack also founded True Vine’s S.A.V.E. (Stand Against Violence Everywhere) Ministry, which organizes weekly peace “stand-ins” in locations of recent homicides throughout Oakland.
As the founding President and CEO of Youth UpRising in East Oakland, Olis Simmons is a rare combination of visionary and implementer. She is a passion-driven, data-informed leader who is equal parts youth leadership developer, policy-wonk, systems changer, and community economic developer. Her integrated approach to community transformation is grounded in over twenty years of policy, program administration, and research experience. Her commitment to developing our nation’s highest-opportunity youth (young people ages 16-24 disconnected from school and work, often viewed as the problem) into community leaders makes her the beating heart behind Youth UpRising, which provides comprehensive, integrated services and leadership development programs as an engine for authentic community revitalization that transforms the community without displacing its people.
De'Mario Williams was born and raised in East Oakland and is an alumni of Fremont High School. Like most other youth in Oakland, he was raised in a neighborhood and school where violence and gun play were common occurrences. After graduation, he worked sporadic odd jobs without a steady pay check. Youth UpRising helped De'Mario get an internship with In Yo' Face Productions, where he found to his surprise that making videos didn't feel like work. Last summer, after three babies were shot in Oakland, De'Mario decided he had to do something. He started developing a film about violence against Oakland children. He had heard that Oakland had not always been so dangerous, and wants to help return Oakland to the safe, vibrant city it once was.
Chief Ken James began his police career with the Emeryville Police Department in 1975. As a patrol officer, Chief James has served in all the assignments available in the department from K-9 officer to patrol sergeant and criminal investigations section sergeant. During his tenure as chief, Chief James has worked to build a community responsive organization with all departmental employees accountable for building community partnerships and solving community problems. Under his direction the department implemented many programs to build partnerships with the community such as a Youth Diversion Program, a Neighborhood Partnership Program, a Security Coalition Program and a walking patrol program in which all uniformed personnel are encouraged to get out of their cars and walk the residential neighborhoods of the City. Chief James’ efforts resulted in the Police Department receiving an 88% approval rating from the residents of the City.
Mr. Dueñas is currently the CEO/President of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County in California where he represents over 18,000 Hispanic owned firms. He is in charge of building a sustainable economic and financial foundation for Latino businesses to grow and prosper through shared business partnerships, alliances and workforce development in Alameda County. Also assists businesses with their international business needs. During his tenure he has also helped create a Latino PAC to help promote Latino candidates and issues that are politically driven. He also runs his own company Global 8 Partners which focuses on international trade, government affairs and Hispanic business marketing.
Dr. Randi Smith is a general surgery resident at the UCSF East Bay Program in Oakland. She completed her medical school education at UCSF. Prior to beginning her surgical residency, she completed a Master’s Degree in Public Health at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health in Baltimore, Maryland. There, she focused her studies on health disparities, international health and women’s reproductive health. She was inducted into the Delta Omega Honor Society for outstanding academic achievements at that time. Her interests in global health began early in her academic career where she focused on serving disparate communities both locally and abroad. She has a strong relationship with the Dominican Republic where she organized and participated in multiple medical missions in a town neighboring Haiti. Additionally, she worked in a clinic in the capital city, Santo Domingo, which provided HIV positive patients antiretroviral treatment, basic healthcare and health education.
For more than two decades, Kevin Grant has worked to help youth and adults involved in the juvenile justice system and individuals living in Oakland's most impoverished neighborhoods find alternatives to violence and crime and live healthier lives. Grant is a renowned expert in street outreach, violence mediation and the development of re-entry programs. As a consultant, he provides probation and parole re-entry services and conducts trainings and workshops for law enforcement agencies, community service providers and school districts at the local, state and federal levels. Grant also serves as violence prevention network coordinator for Measure Y, which was passed by Oakland's voters in 2004 to fund violence prevention and public safety. Today, Grant leads three skilled outreach teams — made up of members of the community — that work to stop violence before it happens.
Kelly McMillin began his law enforcement career in 1984 and was hired by the Salinas Police Department in 1988. Kelly has held the ranks of Officer, Corporal, Detective, Sergeant, Lieutenant, Commander and Deputy Chief. He was appointed Chief of the Salinas Police Department on June 11, 2011 after 24 years of service to the Department, and was the first Chief to be promoted from within the ranks since 1965. Kelly implemented the department’s Ceasefire strategy and is the police department’s representative to the California Cities Gang Prevention Network and the National Forum for Youth Violence Prevention. He is a 2003 graduate of the 213th session of the FBI National Academy at Quantico, Virginia. Kelly was recognized by the White House as a “Champion of Change” in April of 2012.
As senior program manager for Health Happens in Neighborhoods under The Endowment’s 10-year strategic program Building Healthy Communities, Colmenar is responsible for shaping and implementing The Endowment’s programmatic strategy to improve the community and neighborhood environments to promote health. He is also responsible for coordinating the Endowment’s statewide work on improving the health of boys and young men of color—a key cross-cutting program priority of the Building Healthy Communities strategy. Prior to joining The Endowment, Colmenar was an associate director at PolicyLink, a national nonprofit research, communications, capacity building and advocacy organization. Colmenar has also served as an associate director at PolicyLink, senior research associate with The Rockefeller Foundation, executive director for the South of Market Problem Solving Council, and policy analyst for the San Francisco Department of Human Services.
Ersie Joyner was awarded the Department’s Medal of Merit six times and in 2002 was named office of the year by the Oakland Police Department. He is a lifelong Oakland resident and attended Bishop O'Dowd High School and Cal State Hayward. Joyner has been a member of the Oakland Police Department since 1991. He has held various positions, ranging from narcotic/gang enforcement to homicide investigations and was assigned to the FBI to work a violent narcotic wire case for 2 years. Joyner is a certified instructor in several areas of law enforcement, and trains law enforcement and the private sector throughout the United States.
Mario Maciel is a native Californian, born in San Jose and raised in the local Bay Area. He attended San Jose State University, graduating in 1996 with a BA in Industrial and Organizational Psychology. Upon graduation, he gained front line experience in the non-profit sector, focusing on youth substance abuse, case management, gang intervention, and domestic violence. In 1997, he became the Clean Slate Tattoo Removal Program Coordinator for the City of San Jose. Since that time, he has supervised nearly all of the city’s intervention programs as well as several community improvement initiatives, and most recently, the Mayor’s Gang Prevention Task Force.
DeVone Boggan has been the Director for the Office of Neighborhood Safety in Richmond, California since 2007. He is responsible for guiding the city’s efforts to provide and coordinate intervention services to those identified as most likely to be perpetrators of gun violence. Under his leadership, the office has created real alternatives to gun violence by ensuring greater accessibility and connectivity to culturally competent human, social and economic service opportunities to young men caught up in this public health crisis. In 2011 he was honored as a “Bay Area Achiever” by the National Forum for Black Public Administrators for his leadership.
Pastor Michael McBride lives in Oakland, CA and is the Pastor of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley. He is a graduate of Duke University’s Divinity School with an emphasis in Ethics and Public Policy. He leads the national campaign for the PICO Network’s Lifelines to Healing Campaign, a comprehensive violence prevention, mass incarceration and life transformation campaign led by hundreds of faith congregations throughout the United States. Recently, Pastor McBride was selected as the #9 Top Clergy Leader in the US by the Center for American Progress. He is married to Cherise McBride and they have two beautiful daughters, Sarai and Nylah.
Julie Leftwich is the Legal Director of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence (formerly Legal Community Against Violence), a national law center that provides legal assistance and expertise to legislators seeking to advance effective, legally-defensible laws to reduce gun violence. She has worked extensively on the development and drafting of state and local gun laws throughout the United States, and has testified at numerous public hearings in support of such laws. She is a member of the American Bar Association’s Standing Committee on Gun Violence and the Association of Bay Area Government’s Youth Gun Violence Task Force, and has served as Co-Chair of the Alameda County Bar Association’s Gun Violence Prevention Committee. In 2013, she was appointed as an American Bar Association advisor to the Study Committee on Firearms Information of the National Conference of Commissioners on Uniform State Laws.
Recently named by San Diego Magazine as one of San Diego’s new civic power brokers, Christopher Yanov raised and awarded over $1,000,000 in scholarships to inner-city students before turning 30 years old. Previously, Mr. Yanov worked with gang members for five years before starting Reality Changers in May 2001 with just $300. Since then, the program’s 700+ students have earned over $50,000,000 in scholarships from all sources. He credits his appearance on Wheel of Fortune in late 2001 for providing the initial financial support for Reality Changers to truly become a bona fide program.
Most recently, Mr. Yanov was selected as an inaugural commissioner of the San Diego Commission on Gang Prevention and Intervention, served as the chairman of the San Diego Regional Chamber of Commerce’s Education and Workforce Development Committee, and is putting the finishing touches on his book, “Ending Gang Violence One Kid at a Time.”
As Deputy Mayor, Mr. Cespedes guides the conceptualization, implementation, and coordination of Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa’s comprehensive gang reduction and youth development initiative. During his tenure in the Mayor’s Office, Mr. Cespedes has combined empirical data and program design principles to implement the “GRYD Model” throughout the areas of Los Angeles most impacted by gang related violence. Deputy Mayor Cespedes has provided briefings and technical assistance on violence reduction strategies to contractors, government officials and private sector collaborators in El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras. In 2010, he made policy recommendations, while in service to California Attorney General Kamala Harris, as a member of the Transition Policy Team on Gangs. He currently sits on the Advisory Group to the USAID Central America Regional Security Initiative (CARSI) Programs.