Several cities across the country allegedly hired “regional coordinators” in 2010 for the anti-gun Mayors Against Illegal Guns, using grant funds from MAIG in addition to providing some public money for fringe benefits beyond the grant amounts, plus office space under a matching funds arrangement, according to a Florida-based gun rights activist.
Sean Caranna, who writes an on-line column headlined All Nine Yards, told TGM that he stumbled across the grant program information while doing research for another project.
As detailed in a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with MAIG, grant cities received varioius amounts, with the typical total of $75,000, which includes $60,000 to go toward salary and benefits and $15,000 covered some travel and office expenses. One city, Reading, PA, received $93,604, according to 2010 tax documents obtained by TGM for an organization called United Against Illegal Guns Support Fund (UAIGSF).
Caranna found several cities with such coordinators including Seattle, WA, Minneapolis, MN, Lewiston, ME, Orlando, FL and Milwaukee, WI.
In the job description obtained by TGM, these coordinators were to actively recruit local faith leaders, domestic violence groups and “other partner citizen groups to support the mayors’ agenda.”
“Recruiting 25 faith leaders who agree to regularly write letters or testify in support of coalition-backed legislation, and communicate with their congregations about the coalition’s agenda,” is also part of the effort.
In addition, the MAIG regional coordinator would also reach out “to sportsmen’s organizations sympathetic to the coalition’s mission of keeping illegal guns out of the hands of criminals and terrorists.” This outreach effort would involve “recruiting a core team of 5-10 sportsmen who could testify at legislative hearings in support of legislation backed by the coalition.”
Under this program, recipient cities would be eligible for a follow-up second-year award in the amount of $75,000.
Funding would be through the UAIGSF. TGM learned this organization’s president is John Feinblatt, longtime criminal justice coordinator for the City of New York. According to the New York City government website, Feinblatt “serves as the Mayor’s chief advisor on criminal justice policy and liaison to the state court system, and the city’s five elected District Attorneys and the state criminal justice system.” He has been mentioned prominently in gun control-related activities involving the Bloomberg administration.
In at least one of the cities, Seattle, the grant funding ran out at the end of fiscal year 2011. According to a source in the city’s budget office, the Office of Intergovernmental Relations discontinued staff work on the statewide gun violence initiative. Grant funding is not available for 2012.
However, the source said that the city “continues to support local violence reduction programs through other departments.”
In Orlando, FL, the coordinator’s job, according to the memorandum of understanding with MAIG and UAIGSF, included assisting the mayor and city government in “developing and implementing policies to combat illegal guns.” Among those efforts were:
- Working on local initiatives to combat illegal guns;
- Coordinating with local police to gather data and educate the public about gun violence;
- With the assistance of area experts, developing illegal gun and gun safety messages and events to be utilized by city-funded youth service agencies, and public housing sites;
- Building the status of the City of Orlando and Mayor Dyer, as leader of the Florida Mayors Against Illegal Guns coalition, and as a statewide and national leader in advocacy efforts against illegal guns.
But there was more. The Orlando coordinator was also to act as “a primary point of contact on gun issues for Florida’s” congressional delegation. The coordinator also worked with academic institutions, hospitals and medical organizations, individual doctors and city officials “to explore ways to develop illegal gun and gun safety research, reports and data.”
The one thing made clear in the MOU is that “the person hired to be the coordinator should work exclusively on this project.” The document also makes it clear that “No portion of the UAIGSF grant may be used to support lobbying activities.”
Another stipulation was that the coordinator would report to the police chief or a designee, but “On firearm matters, the coordinator will report directly to the mayor.”
Reports of this MAIG coordinator project raced across the internet after Caranna’s initial blast.
“Nobody knows that these people are out there, installed in these local governments,” he told TGM.
In his on-line blog, Caranna described the coordinator project as “a great way to reduce overhead and be effective at running a national organization dedicated to infringing on the gun rights of everyday people all at the same time.”
Not only does this get cities involved in paying at least part of the coordinator’s salary, he asserted, ‘it also embeds your people as leaders in city government so that you don’t have to lobby there.”