Council considers stand against gun manufacturers

2013-06-17T16:56:00Z 2013-06-17T18:31:18Z Council considers stand against gun manufacturersCHANTAL M. LOVELL Napa Valley Register
June 17, 2013 4:56 pm  • 

The Napa City Council could make a symbolic statement about firearms at its Tuesday meeting.

On an agenda that includes approving a budget, considering the disposition of the Borreo building and determining the fate of a contested affordable housing project, the City Council will consider whether to change its investment policy to take a stand against gun manufacturers.

During the afternoon portion of the meeting, city staff is scheduled to recommend the council amend its investment policy to state Napa will not invest in companies that manufacturer firearms that are illegal for sale under California’s assault weapons ban.

“Our current policy is pretty generic,” Assistant City Manager Nancy Weiss said of the city’s investment standards that have never before touched on ethical issues. “It’s not uncommon right now for cities to be doing what we are doing,” she said of the proposed change.

The proposed policy comes several months after a petition, started by Napa resident Lowell Downey, surfaced online calling on the city and county to adopt policies stating they would not invest in companies that manufacture and/or sell guns and ammunition. As of Monday afternoon, it had received 116 signatures.

“It’s not exactly what we were asking for — we were hoping for a divestment from any weapon manufacturing — but at this stage, I’m grateful the city has opened the doors for responsible investing,” Downey said Monday. “I’m just grateful that they have made this statement. “

After the council discussed the matter in February and directed its staff to look into the idea, Interim Finance Director Bill Zenoni did some research and found other cities and agencies have recently taken similar stances, Weiss said. Both Berkeley and Oakland recently acted to prohibit investment in companies that manufacture firearms.

The language of Napa’s policy, if enacted, would be modeled after policy set earlier this year by the California Public Employees’ Retirement System’s board of directors, according to the city staff report.

“The CalPERS investment restriction appears to be well thought out, would not be difficult to implement and administer, and makes a clear statement regarding the manufacturing of illegal assault weapons,” the report says.

If the council were to follow the recommendation of staff, the move would be a symbolic one. According to city officials, Napa does not currently invest in any manufacturers of firearms banned under California law.

The closest investment the city has is a $300,000 corporate note with Walmart, which sells firearms and ammunition. When Downey approached the council in February, he had urged the city to remove its money from Walmart for this reason.

Mayor Jill Techel, who in February said she’d rather not spend much time on the issue, said she believes the city found a way to make its statement without consuming too much time.

“I feel like (staff’s recommendation is) probably an addition we can make that won’t be terribly cumbersome,” Techel said. “Some of the suggestions (in February) might have been cumbersome on the people who were making our investments.”

The item is scheduled on the council’s consent calendar, meaning it could be approved with no discussion. Councilman Peter Mott said he plans to bring the matter up for public review because there was so much discussion about the idea in February.

At the time, Mott said he did not want the city to send the wrong message to law-abiding gun owners. On Monday, he said staff’s proposal, which is more refined and specific than the one raised by Downey and supporters, is one he can get behind.

“It’s about a reasonableness, that’s what I’m looking for,” Mott said. “I’m a gun owner and a hunter so I don’t think that necessarily divesting from companies that manufacture all guns falls into what I think is particularly important in our investment policy.”

Mott said he doesn’t want the city to go as far as Berkeley, which has a large numbers of areas in which it refuses to invest the community’s money because of the council’s political beliefs. He is against illegal assault rifles, he said.

“I think the language in the CalPERS policy is good,” Mott said. “I think our investment policies and strategies are good ones.”

The current investment policy, which is updated every two years when the city adopts a budget, only touches on financial investing standards. The policy focuses on making investments that are safe, adequately liquid and provide the best yield.

Downey said if the council moves forward on staff’s recommendation, he sees room in the future for other opinions to make their way into the policy.

“I hope that now that this is out, it will continue to grow and be part of our consciousness of where we invest in the future,” Downey said.

The council meeting begins at 3:30 p.m. in Council Chambers at City Hall, 955 School St.

Copyright 2015 Napa Valley Register. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(14) Comments

  1. napa1957
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    napa1957 - June 17, 2013 5:12 pm
    Agree with the Mayor and Mr. Mott...please do not spend one more minute than necessary on this. It's a nice move...but we have so many other areas where your time and expertise can make real differences in our quality of life, I think most of us would appreciate you concentrating on them.
  2. publiusa
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    publiusa - June 17, 2013 9:10 pm
    The city is going to amend its investment policy? Nancy Weiss gave it all away in a fit of fear to the fire captains in the spring of 2012 when the fireman's union scared her by the invoking of the binding arbitration. Read the article! Honestly, i can't understand how a group of otherwise intelligent city council persons can stomach the garbage that is proposed by the city staff. Who is in charge here? The city residents simply wonder why the council doesn't just fire the entire staff and hire anew.
  3. sfcmarkc
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    sfcmarkc - June 17, 2013 10:43 pm
    It would be much more symbolic if they decided to refuse to do business with companies that make products that are illegal for its citizens to own. Similar to what Barrett did in its decision to stop doing business with California agencies because their products are illegal to own by it's citizens.
    I wonder what the police would carry then?
  4. napablogger
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    napablogger - June 18, 2013 12:20 am
    I don't agree with this. There is nothing wrong with making guns. If there are gun manufacturers making illegal guns, then they ought to be prosecuted. But that doesn't seem to be the case here, it seems that the point is just to make some kind of statement that guns are bad so we are going to blame the people who make them.

    This is a blame trip on someone who is not responsible for the harm guns cause.

    Where is this effort going to lead? What is the point? If cities don't invest in gun manufacturer's, what effect are you trying to achieve? When we boycotted South Africa investments, we were trying to acheive the end to apartheid. A clear goal.

    Here? They will just get investment money from someone else. Probably do anyway.

    If you want to get rid of guns work to make them illegal.
  5. 480Volt
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    480Volt - June 18, 2013 1:53 am
    So stupid.

    Gun manufacturers abide by some of the strictest regulations around. They only sell to federally licensed distributors who in turn only sell to federally licensed dealers who in turn only sell to qualified folks who can pass a Federal background check.

    Demonizing gun manufacturers is asinine. These are the same companies that arm our police and military - is that bad too? I'm all for getting righteous about saving lives but demonizing such a heavily regulated chain of possession for a legal product is asinine.
  6. shantz
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    shantz - June 18, 2013 4:29 am
    Public entities have a responsibility to act in the best interest of the common good. This is exactly what socially and environmentally responsible investment does. More and more governments are moving thier investment policies in this direction. Its time for Napa to do this.

    In Napa, Harrington investment is an investment firm that does socially and environmentally responsible investment. Learning about how they operate can give us great insights into what our public institutions can do.
  7. rocketman
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    rocketman - June 18, 2013 6:22 am
    OK, this appears to be the pivotal issue:
    "During the afternoon portion of the meeting, city staff is scheduled to recommend the council amend its investment policy to state Napa will not invest in companies that manufacturer firearms that are illegal for sale under California’s assault weapons ban."

    Please explain to me how the Council will "understand" which companies produce weapons that are illegal for sale in the State of California and which don't. Does the Council understand that there are gun manufactureres that make weapons that are legal to own in California for the specific purpose of conforming to California law and also produce weapons that are illegal to own by California statutes?

    Is the Council in a position to penalize gun manufacturers who abide by the California statutes for the specific purpose of abiding by the current State laws enacted; even though the same companies make weapons compatible with other state's laws?

    Answer: I doubt it......

  8. publiusa
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    publiusa - June 18, 2013 7:39 am
    To Shantz - if Americans disinvest in American gun companies they will go out of business laying off American workers and the guns will then be made by foreign companies employing foreign workers... This is exactly what interference by lib-dem-progressives does to ruin our economy in the "feel good" disguise of the misguided dream of "social and environmental responsibility".
  9. allsvns
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    allsvns - June 18, 2013 8:27 am
    I guess I'll do 90% of my shopping at walmart from now on...
  10. rocketman
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    rocketman - June 18, 2013 8:33 am
    The problem is publiusa, if the gun companies go out of business and foreign companies are the only companies producing guns, then the control of guns into the United States can be controlled by treaty agreements with the U.N. upsurping control from the citizens of the United States.
  11. napken
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    napken - June 18, 2013 9:01 am
    What a enormous waste of time, truly ridiculous and smacking of a "look at me and how self important I am" grandiose fantasyland attitude. At the core of the issue is that gun and ammo makers are having beyond record setting profits since BO ascended into office. I can just picture the council sitting around holding hands chanting "we are the world" trying to look relevant. What's next? Holding your collective breaths till global warming/ sorry climate change stops?? LOL/// Truly ridiculous.....and a little sad....
  12. verygoodyear
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    verygoodyear - June 18, 2013 1:02 pm
    So can anyone with a petition of 116 signature get the Council to do anything they want?

    Let's 77,000 Napa citizens, 116 signatures so that is .0015 of the population.......Makes sense to me, majority rules!
  13. 480Volt
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    480Volt - June 21, 2013 3:05 am
    The best performing companies in this struggling economy are those that manufacture firearms. If they want to divulge of firearms companies for idiotic and uppity reasons then let them do exactly that and enjoy the crap returns they end up with.
  14. 480Volt
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    480Volt - June 23, 2013 12:31 am
    Maybe they should dump their money into politically correct windmills that only survive on subsidies or maybe cars that run on fairy dust.

    Investing money is done for the sole reason of at the very least holding it's value and if done properly to increase the value . The only market in the U.S. that has steadily made money every year for the last few years are firearms manufacturers. The best way to screw investors right now is to dump investments in the shooting industry. I bet all their investors would be perfectly fine losing money over idiotic ideology.
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