The following is a statement by Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO, president of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA):
“Today, the Senate Judiciary Committee has confirmed Jeff Sessions as the next Attorney General of the United States. The African American Mayors Association is ready to work with him as our nation’s chief law enforcement officer to ensure that all members of our communities are afforded safety and justice.
AAMA has been actively involved in reforming our criminal justice system with stakeholders nationwide. It is our hope that Attorney General Sessions will continue the path of reform including ensuring sentencing is fair, particularly for first-time nonviolent offenders; allocating appropriate resources in the federal prison system to reduce recidivism; prioritizing positive community policing practices by strengthening the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS); initiating swift and thorough investigation of officer-involved shootings through the Civil Rights Division when appropriate; and keeping guns out of the hands of dangerous people.
While we share concern about Sessions’ past statements and legislative history, AAMA will work tirelessly as an accountability partner to ensure that the office of the Attorney General seeks justice for all American people equally.
AAMA Members signed the below letter led by Seattle, WA Mayor Ed Murray
Dear Chairman Grassley and Ranking Member Feinstein:
We write to express our deep concerns about the record of President-elect Trump’s nominee for Attorney General of the United States, Senator Jeff Sessions (R-AL). We urge a thorough vetting of Sen. Sessions’ policy positions, especially those that we believe will be detrimental to the country’s progress towards becoming more inclusive and our cities’ efforts to create strong and safe communities.
Diversity is rapidly increasing in our cities, in part, due to immigration. We believe this growth and integration in our communities promotes a more vibrant economy and life for all our citizens. However, with changing demographics, we must also work to promote and encourage trust between the public and law enforcement. Senator Sessions’ legislative record lacks a commitment to these goals, and to upholding civil rights for all. And, as a result, we question whether Senator Sessions can fairly lead an agency charged with protecting the constitutional and civil rights of rights of all Americans.
Senator Sessions has consistently opposed bipartisan efforts to reform our immigration policies despite his consistent criticism of the status quo. Moreover, he opposes any path to citizenship for people illegally brought to the U.S. as children by their parents, known as Dreamers. Additionally, Senator Sessions has also aligned himself with several anti-immigration groups, such as NumbersUSA.
Given Senator Sessions’ history and the critical issues under the Department of Justice’s jurisdiction, we believe that Senator Sessions is unable to fairly enforce our nation’s laws and will not work to advance justice and equality. We encourage you to oppose Senator Sessions nomination to serve as Attorney General of the United States.
(Washington, DC), On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO and President of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA), released the following statement in response to Ben Carson’s nomination to serve as Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD):
“My colleagues and I at AAMA look forward to learning about Dr. Carson’s plans to ensure that every American is afforded a decent place to live. His past statements criticizing government safety net programs, including the housing programs that serve the most vulnerable in this country, have troubled us. However, we are ready and willing to share our experience as leaders at the front lines of revitalizing local communities.
HUD is an important partner in community development in cities across the country and a vital driver of housing opportunities. We are hopeful that Dr. Carson will not only continue the Community Development Block Grants (CDBG) Program, the HOME Investment Partnerships Program, the Emergency Solutions Grant (ESG) Program, and the Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) Program, but will also call for an increase in funding for these essential programs. We also request the continuation of the Choice program so that more cities can benefit, just as Kansas City has benefitted, from the place making and improvements to public housing that this program affords. We would also like to see the continuation of the Continuum of Care Program, which is a major funding source for the homeless, as well as federal low income housing tax credits, which are a major source of funding for affordable housing. Historically, Federal Housing Administration (FHA) backed mortgages have been vital to allowing middle income persons to purchase a home, just as rental vouchers have been vital for low income people to be able to afford to live in opportunity areas. We hope that these programs will also continue.
Finally, we look forward to collaboration across federal agencies as well as federal-state coordination and cooperation, so that our communities will see increased weatherization of facilities and other improvements that require a multifaceted approach. We are hopeful that Dr. Carson will choose to prioritize the aforementioned programs, while also leading HUD fairly and effectively, to foster a vibrant 21st century for American cities.”
The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is pleased that the Fulton County Superior Court (Atlanta, GA) has resolved any concern regarding former Sacramento, California Mayor Kevin Johnson’s role in the history of the National Conference of Black Mayors (NCBM) and his role as founder of the AAMA. With the conclusion of the litigation, AAMA now also possesses the exclusive rights to the unified history of the NCBM and the AAMA. AAMA also thanks the extraordinary pro bono efforts of Ballard Spahr LLP in seeing this matter to its conclusion.
For over 40 years, African American mayors have empowered citizens and cared for the most vulnerable among us, while building communities that showcase the best that America has to offer. Mayor Johnson, along with a dedicated Board of Trustees, launched the AAMA in May 2014 to preserve the vital voice of African American Mayors, and by doing so, rekindled the spirit of some of the greatest African American mayors this country has seen, such as Maynard Jackson, Harold Washington and Andrew Young.
AAMA now boasts a geographically diverse membership that tackles the nation’s most pressing issues in our cities, such as economic development, digital access and literacy, and criminal justice reform, among many others. AAMA will carry forward the rich and inspiring legacy of all African American Mayors as it continues to empower mayors across the country for the benefit of their communities.
AAMA President, Mayor Sly James (Kansas City, MO) provided the following statement:
“AAMA commends Mayor Johnson’s efforts in turning the page to a new chapter for the history of African American Mayors. His extraordinary efforts have helped to establish AAMA as a premiere organization representing black elected officials. Mayor Johnson has been a dedicated public servant to the City of Sacramento and a leader for African American mayors around the country. As he concludes his last term as mayor, we also congratulate him on his many accomplishments in Sacramento, and wish him well on all future endeavors.”
Former Mayor Johnny Ford (Tuskegee, AL), a founder of the National Conference of Black Mayors, and a founder and Trustee Emeritus of AAMA provided the following statement:
“Since the Reconstruction Period, African American mayors have led a freedom and empowerment train for communities across the country. Decades later, Mayor Kevin Johnson answered the call to hop on board and took the train to new heights, preserving and uplifting our voices during an important time in our nation’s history. We applaud his efforts, and look forward to AAMA continuing a on a track of success.”
(Washington, DC) Today, the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) Board of Trustees added two new members: Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. and Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochester, N.Y. Both are pioneering leaders; Mayor Warren is the first woman to serve the city of Rochester in this role, and Mayor Bowser is only the second woman to serve the District. Both mayors bring with them a depth of policy experience and an important perspective from two of the Northeast’s largest cities. Mayors Bowser and Warren will join the current 15 members of the Board of Trustees to drive the strategic leadership of the organization, which represents the over 500 African American mayors across the country.
“I am thrilled that AAMA can now count these two illustrious leaders among our Board of Trustees,” said Mayor Sly James of Kansas City, MO., President of the African American Mayors Association. “Mayors Bowser and Warren have been important voices not only in the African American community, but in the community at large. They have committed years of service to Washington, D.C. and Rochester, N.Y., respectively, and they have records of real impact during their tenures. These accomplishments include building pathways to the middle-class, getting tough on ending homelessness and championing statehood for the District of Columbia. It is an honor to add two women leaders at the head of this organization. I’m very much looking forward to working with Mayor Bowser and Mayor Warren in the new year.”
“I’m honored to join the African American Mayors Association Board of Trustees,” said Mayor Muriel Bowser of Washington, D.C. “AAMA does essential work representing Black mayors from across the country in our nation’s capital and nationally. I look forward to working with Mayor James and the exemplary members of the Board to advance our policy work, build the network of the African American mayors, and advance excellence in the municipal leadership AAMA represents.”
“Never have local political activism and skilled municipal governing been more important or been more of a national focus,” said Mayor Lovely Warren of Rochester, N.Y. “It is this work to which AAMA has been committed since its inception, and its voice in the areas of diversity and inclusion, civil rights, and government is a testament to this commitment. I’m excited to join the Board of Trustees and get to work for our communities and our cities.”
U.S. TREASURY’S CDFI FUND PARTNERS WITH PRIVATE SECTOR AND MUNICIPALITIES TO INVEST IN COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT, JOBS GROWTH AND AFFORDABLE HOUSING
WASHINGTON- 2016 marked a banner year for the United States Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund). In total, the CDFI Fund invested over $500 million in financial assistance, technical assistance and loan guarantees to over 200 CDFIs, including Native CDFIs, through the CDFI Program, Native Initiatives, Capital Magnet Fund and Bond Guarantee Program. These resources will be leveraged many times over to improve economic growth in underserved communities. It is hoped that 2017 will bring more of the same focus on promoting economic prosperity.
CDFIs are private sector financial institutions that invest in economically distressed communities. Once certified by the Treasury Department, CDFIs are eligible to apply for funding through a highly competitive application and selection process administered by the CDFI Fund. CDFIs leverage their awards with capital from other investors to support small businesses, affordable housing, community health centers, grocery stores, child care facilities, and other economic development initiatives that contribute to economic revitalization.
In addition, the CDFI Fund allocated a record-breaking $7 billion in tax credits through the New Markets Tax Credit Program. Municipalities, through subsidiary corporations, can be certified as Community Development Entities (CDEs) making them eligible to apply for New Markets Tax Credits. To date, the New Markets Tax Credit program has allocated $50.5 billion in tax credits, helping generate $8 of private investment for every dollar invested by the federal government.
Since the program’s inception in 1994, the CDFI Fund has helped build a nation-wide network of over 1,000 CDFIs committed to ensuring that underserved areas have access to affordable financial services products.
Upon your election, you told the world that you intended to be a president for all Americans. We welcomed and were somewhat relieved by that statement. However, since making that statement, some of your supporters have made it clear that they do not honor your pledge.
According to the latest numbers released by the FBI, anti-Muslim hate crimes in the United States rose by 67 percent – from 154 incidents in 2014, to 257 in 2015. This recent uptick in hate crime across America is widely viewed as a consequence of the divisive tone and statements that characterized your presidential campaign. Classroom teachers have openly intimidated Muslim children by calling them “terrorists” and telling them they would be deported once you took office. All of this is happening in your name.
Vicious attacks have been perpetrated on African Americans, Hispanics, and Muslim people on the streets. Women in hijabs have been physically assaulted and threatened as they attempt to do nothing more than go about the business of their lives. Places of worship have been desecrated with hateful graffiti. Again, all in your name.
While we applaud your recent entreaty to your supporters to “stop it,” we believe you must go further and acknowledge your role in inspiring and uplifting their animus in the first place. You have consistently given tacit approval of these provocative actions with the divisive and hateful rhetoric you relied upon throughout your campaign. Your calls to “stop it” should at least be as strident and loud as your campaign rhetoric.
As municipal leaders, the members of the African American Mayors Association build relationships across party lines to serve our constituents. Our mayors, as part of a diverse bipartisan group of elected officials, recently met with Republican National Committee leaders to hopefully foster a shared vision of America’s future. Our country’s success must be inclusive, and encourage all Americans to live their hopes instead of their fears.
In the early days of your transition to power, a very disturbing trend has already emerged. This includes your appointment of Stephen Bannon, a White nationalist, as chief strategist and senior counsel to your administration, drawing up a plan to register all Muslims, threatening mass deportations, and naming Jeff Sessions as your choice for U.S. Attorney General.
As president-elect, you must act decisively before the country spirals further into discord. Now is the time for you to make uniting the country an urgent priority, not to sit idly by while hatred and intolerance rage.
We call upon you to appoint people to your transition team and to cabinet-level positions that represent the whole of this nation, rather than extreme factions. We ask you to work with mayors and other policymakers to ensure that the policies that your administration pursue lead us collectively on a path to prosperity and indeed make America great. We, the members of AAMA, representing over 500 mayors from across this great nation, offer our help and support in making America greater than it has ever been.
We are watching and waiting for you to act as the leader you claimed you would be. Count on us to hold you accountable on behalf of our constituents.
Mayor Sly James
Kansas City, Missouri
President of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA)
The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) is the only organization exclusively representing African-American mayors in the United States. AAMA exists to empower local leaders for the benefit of their citizens. For more information, visit the AAMA website
See the letter on JetMag.com (Dec 6, 2016): http://www.jetmag.com/talk-back-2/trump-aama-open-letter/
On behalf of the 500 African American mayors across the country, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, the Mayor of Baltimore and the head of the African American Mayors Association (AAMA) clemency initiative issued the following statement in light of AAMA submitting a letter to the President highlighting a priority list of clemency applications:
“Black Mayors across the country applaud and strongly support President Obama’s administration’s significant initiatives to address policies confronting the criminal justice system, many of which disproportionately impact African American men and women who reside in our cities. This is President Obama’s last window of opportunity to provide clemency for the next four or possibly eight years.
Working with the Justice Roundtable, a collective of over 100 organizations working to reform criminal justice laws, we have identified a priority list of clemency petitions from individuals whom we would welcome back into our communities. We feel that special consideration should be given to certain categories of applicants as well, such as the elderly and women. There are also non-citizens, some of whom wish to return to their home countries, where our tax-paying citizens are paying for their continued incarceration.
We are thrilled with President Obama, the White House Counsel’s Office, the OPA and the DOJ with the accelerated pace of commutations and we submit that there be an “all out all hands on deck” policy to commute the sentences of as many people consistent with public safety before January 20th. The President can take this action without the need Senate confirmation as in Supreme Court nominations, and he doesn’t have to rely on Congress to pass legislation.
We as mayors have witnessed firsthand the devastation drugs have caused, but we also bear witness to the harm that has come from the war on drugs. Harsh and lengthy sentences have snatched mothers from children, men from loved ones, furthered the destabilization of families and communities in our cities, and caused the displacement of our constituents in federal facilities throughout the country.
Our staff has reviewed the petitions of each of these candidates, and we implore the President to give them consideration as he winds down the last two months of his historic presidency.”
The African American Mayors Association (AAMA) was launched in 2014 to represent over 500 African American mayors and their 48 million constituents across the United States. We are a premiere organization representing black elected officials, and we focus on empowering mayors in their communities and elevating their voice on a national stage. We strengthen the executive abilities of our member mayors, and we advocate for public policy positions that benefit our constituents.
Mr. President, we applaud and strongly support your administration’s significant initiatives to address policies confronting the criminal justice system, many of which disproportionately impact African American men and women who reside in our cities. One such policy is your use of clemency to review and remedy lengthy sentences, particularly where newer law has discredited old sentences. With the abolition of parole in the federal system in 1984, there are extremely limited options for review of sentences, resulting in prisoners not having the opportunity to show they have reformed.
To date, you have beneficially changed the lives of over 900 people, most of who never thought they would ever see life outside of prison walls. You gave them a second chance, allowing them to return to our communities to show they can be productive citizens. Your initiative reinvigorated the policy discussion around widespread incarceration and the proper role the executive can play to alleviate harsh punishments via clemency. This is helping to bring balance to a justice system that for decades has meted out extraordinarily lengthy sentences that often have not fit the crime.
Mr. President, we as mayors have witnessed firsthand the devastation drugs have caused, but we also bear witness to the harm that has come from the war on drugs. Harsh and lengthy sentences have snatched mothers from children, men from loved ones, furthered the destabilization of families and communities in our cities, and caused the displacement of our constituents in federal facilities throughout the country.
Because of the slow pace of legislative change, correcting the injustice of severe, fiscally unsound and often racial discriminatory sentences through clemency is imperative.
We know that you have set forth specific criteria for release pursuant to the clemency initiative, including a ten-year threshold, conviction of a non-violent offense, and having a clean institutional record. We want you to know that we welcome back to our communities all those who no longer present a threat to society, whether they fit all the parameters of the criteria or not. This would allow consideration of deserving candidates whose prison term may not have reached ten years, those whose crimes may have been misleadingly not characterized as non-violent, as well as a serious consideration of increasing numbers of elderly applicants who have aged out of criminality.
The spiraling growth of the prison population must be stunted. We reject the “lock ‘em up and throw away the key” narrative, and recognize the executive power of clemency as a key safety valve in correcting the injustice of harshly severe, fiscally unsound and often racially discriminatory sentences.
It has often been said that “each of us is more than the worst thing we have ever done.” We believe in mercy, forgiveness and fairness.
We respectfully submit the attached list of clemency petitions to you from individuals whom we would welcome back into our communities. We feel that special consideration be given to certain categories of applicants as well, such as the elderly and women. There are also non-citizens, some of whom wish to return to their home countries, where our tax-paying citizens are paying for their continued incarceration. Our staff has reviewed the petitions of each of these candidates, and we implore you to give them consideration as you wind down the last two months of your historic presidency. They may or may not come from or plan to return to our specific cities, but because circumstances are similar across the board in Black America, we are united in calling for their release.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings Blake
City of Baltimore, Maryland
AAMA Member, Clemency Initiative Chair
Mayor Sly James
Kansas City, Missouri
Mayor William Johnson
Holly Hill, South Carolina
Mayor Steve Benjamin
Columbia, South Carolina
AAMA Immediate Past President
Mayor Karen Freeman-Wilson
Mayor Petrella Robinson
Town of North Brentwood, Maryland
Mayor Bill Bell
Durham, North Carolina
Mayor Tony Yarber
Mayor Kevin Johnson
Mayor Toni Harp
New Haven, Connecticut
Mayor Leon Rockingham
City of North Chicago, Illinois
Mayor Patrick Green
Mayor Ras Baraka
Newark, New Jersey
Fmr. Mayor Johnny Ford
Mayor McKinley Price
Newport News, Virginia
Mayor Wayne Hall
Hempstead, New York
Mayor Lovely Warren
Rochester, New York
Mayor Mario Avery
Mayor Lee P. Walker
Landover Hills, Maryland
Mayor Jacqueline Goodall
Forest Heights, Maryland
Mayor Bradley Sellers
City of Warrensville Heights, Ohio
Sean Andre Wilson (Fed. Reg. #52945-080 F.P.C. Lewisburg, PA). Filed petition for Clemency on May 17, 2016 with the Office of the Pardon Attorney.
Alice Johnson, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st Offender
William Underwood, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st drug offender (Attorney Nkechi Taifa)
Mark Myrie, 10 years, 1st Offender (Attorney Nkechi Taifa)
non-citizen – upon commutation wants to be deported back to Jamaica
Michelle West, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st Offender
Robert Shipp, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st drug offender (Attorney Mark Osler)
Cheryl Howard, Mandatory Life Without Parole
Possession with Intent to Distribute Crack Cocaine and Conspiracy
Michael Holmes, Mandatory Life Without Parole
LaShonda Hall , 45 years, 1st Offender
John Knock, Mandatory Life Without Parole, 1st offender for marijuana
Eric Wilson, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)
Conspiracy to distribute drugs
Troy Lawrence, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)
Steve Liscano, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney MiAngel Cody)
Corey Jacobs, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney Brittany Byrd)
Trenton Copeland, Mandatory Life Without Parole (Attorney Brittany Byrd)