By Mike Dunn and Walt Hunter
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — Mayor Michael Nutter welcomed more than a dozen other mayors to Philadelphia on Wednesday for a three-day conference on urban violence. And the mayors voiced support for their counterpart in Baltimore in the wake of this week’s violence there.
The mayors of thirteen other cities are in town for a previously scheduled conference organized by the group “Cities United.” The topic was timely: the violence plaguing African-American men and boys across the country. Mayor Nutter, opening the session, said the violence in Baltimore makes the issue more urgent.
“Planning for this event has been in the works for months, but I cannot think of a better time for us to come together for this discussion than right now,” Nutter said. “Our great sister city to the south, the city of Baltimore, has been dealing with many troubling events. This is just one of many occurrences in cities across our nation that demonstrates why we need ‘Cities United’ and the people in this room to come together right now.”
Nutter urged his fellow mayors to support Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, whose administration has faced criticism for its handling of the violence.
Karen Freeman-Wilson is the mayor of Gary, Indiana, echoed that thought.
“One of the things that we understand as mayors who are gathering here,” Freeman-Wilson said, “and members of city administration is that ‘there but for the grace of God go we.'”
Kansas City Mayor Sly James agreed.
“I don’t think any mayor ever wants to be in that situation, because nobody wants to see their city in that situation,” James said. “When it happens, it happens fast, it happens quick, it’s changing quickly, and you have to react quickly to. So she has my sympathy and support.”
Mayor Sly James told CBS 3’s Walt Hunter that unless these issues are addressed he fears “we will see more of this unfortunately.”
Mayor Nutter said he has spoken to Mayor Rawlings-Blake several times this week.
“Every mayor will tell you, none of us ever want to be in that situation,” Nutter said. “Every one of us knows that at any moment in time, something like that could happen in one of our cities. And so there’s a strong bond between and among the mayors who are all feeling that kind of pressure.”
Addressing the gathering as it opened, Mayor Nutter cited the undercurrent of hopelessness, driven by lack of jobs and educations, that often fuels violence.
Nutter criticized Congress for the lack of meaningful action, particularly on jobs, telling the officials that while they were trying to run local government,congressmen were “running their mouths.”
The Cities United Conference continues through Friday at the Center City Marriott. Mayor Nutter and New Orleans Mayor Mitch Landrieu founded the group in 2011.
Baltimore’s Mayor did not attend the conference, but those present joined in a round of applause offering her support.