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City Leaders At War After Mayor Kenney Declines Emergency Declaration For Philadelphia's Gun Violence Problem

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) - City leaders are in a war of words over Mayor Jim Kenney's decision to not declare an emergency in light of Philadelphia's gun violence problem. The frustration comes after Mayor Kenney said in a letter to Councilwoman Jamie Gauthier the declaration was "not a solution" to the overwhelming amount of gun violence in the city.

CBS3 obtained that letter, in which the mayor lists various reasons why a declaration wouldn't help, citing funding he already considered appropriate and previous discussions with the White House.

The response - or lack thereof - was not enough for Councilwoman Gauthier's standards. She released a statement, saying in part: "This is an insult to the residents of my district and people across our city who have been traumatized by the violence in their neighborhoods, and it's an extreme disappointment to all of us who have been advocating for a more urgent response from the Kenney Administration on this matter."

The councilwoman went on to say Mayor Kenney's effort would be different if minority communities weren't the current target.

"If this level of violence were happening in white neighborhoods, I am certain Mayor Kenney would move hell and high water to bring it to an end as quickly as possible," she said.

Mayor Kenney's spokesperson issued a statement combatting the claim: "The Mayor respects the Councilmember's opinion, but firmly rejects and is deeply offended by the notion that he's not taken the epidemic of gun violence seriously because it is impacting Black communities."

Erica Atwood, who is the city's senior director of the Office of Policy and Strategic Initiatives, spoke to CBS3 and gave insight into Mayor Kenney's mindset with his decision.

"Gun violence is the symptom and not the root cause," she told Eyewitness News, adding, "Just because you're not in the room where it's happening, doesn't mean it isn't happening."

Atwood cites systemic factors that add to the ongoing violence.

"When people are removed from their neighborhoods, they are in new territory that is seen on an encroachment on the streets and so that creates a volatile situation of violence," she says.

Mayor Kenney will address the city's gun problem tomorrow at a press conference, updating the public on the city's current efforts to battle gun violence.

The past weekend brought 30 shooting incidents in Philadelphia. The city currently has 33% more homicides than 2020. The recent violence prompted the Philadelphia District Attorney to advocate for an end to cash bail.

CBS3's Alicia Roberts contributed to this report.
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