“You can’t have a great city if people don’t feel safe.”
So said former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg, according to former Philadelphia Mayor Michael Nutter. That mantra served as a north star for Nutter and for Kasim Reed, former Mayor of Atlanta. “The biggest job [mayors] have to do is to get you home and to make sure you put that key in the door,” Reed says of his focus on keeping citizens safe.
How to do that has always been the question for urban leaders. To answer that, Nutter, Reed and Citizen co-founder Larry Platt turned in Episode 3 of their How To Really Run a City podcast to one of the architects behind Oakland’s 50 percent reduction in gun violence over seven years: David Muhammad, Executive Director of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform.
The answer is data + targeted outreach
As you may recall from The Citizen’s 2019 Ideas We Should Steal Festival, Muhammad is a leader in the fields of criminal justice, violence prevention, and youth development. He helped lead a partnership of organizations that operated what was then called CeaseFire Oakland — whose mayor, Libby Schaaf, was on episode one of the podcast — with a focus on data and targeted outreach.
Over the course of the impassioned conversation, one theme becomes clear: If you’re a leader who wants to keep your citizens safe, you have to recognize what is undoubtedly the most crucial role on your team. “The most important hire you will make is police chief, commissioner, superintendent — whatever that title is after ‘police,’” Nutter says. “That is the most important hire that you’ll make.”
Because bad things will happen — they happen every day in cities large and small. But a mayor’s preparedness, action, and candor with citizens make all the difference.
“If you’re the mayor, how do you sleep at night? How do you live with [that] possibility, every day?” Platt asks his co-hosts.
Reed answers plainly: “If you’re not into all of the job, you’re not gonna succeed,” he says. You have to love your city, feel fiercely protective of your city, and feel empathetic towards every person in your city. “There’s a level of fearlessness and tenacity that you have to have.”
Tune in for more of the Mayors’ insight and to find out how Muhammad guides the many leaders he advises on reducing gun violence; then, check out the episodes you may have missed.
And stay tuned for new episodes of How To Really Run A City. Next month’s episode will welcome Oklahoma City Mayor Davd Holt, and delve into the importance of bipartisanship and practical problem-solving.
MORE SOLUTIONS FOR THE GUN VIOLENCE EPIDEMIC FROM THE CITIZEN