The Napa City Council unanimously moved Tuesday to include “socially responsible language” in its investment policy.
At the urging of 116 people who signed an online petition related to the subject, the council amended its investment policy to say the city will not invest in companies that manufacture assault weapons.
Council members acknowledged the act was largely symbolic — the city currently has no investments in such companies — but important nonetheless.
“It is a minor change,” Councilwoman Juliana Inman said. “It says we are not authorizing investing in, ‘bonds, notes or other instruments issued by manufacturers of assault weapons that are illegal for sale in the state of California.’ ... It’s, I think, a very small, but in some ways significant, change.”
The council first discussed the matter in February after resident Lowell Downey created a petition urging the city and county to divest from any companies that manufacture or sell firearms or ammunition.
Downey, who was not present Tuesday, said in an interview Monday that he was pleased the city is taking some action against guns, though he would have liked to have seen broader language included in the investment policy.
Councilman Peter Mott, a hunter, said he believes the city has struck a balance with the amendment. The language is modeled after a revision to the investment policies of the California Public Employees Retirement System (CalPERS) earlier this year.
“We don’t have any investments in this now. We’re not changing our investments because of this. We’re just adding a little bit of language that seems prudent,” Mott said. “These are very minor changes that really have no impact on our investment strategies now.”
Interim Finance Director Bill Zenoni said staff researched the subject. Until now, the city’s investment policy has dealt purely with finances.
“We looked at a number of cities in Northern California,” Zenoni said. “The cities we found that were going in this way were Berkeley and Oakland, which had fairly restrictive investment guidelines,” he said.
CalPERS and the teachers’ retirement system amended their investment policies in a less comprehensive way to include language similar to what was before the Napa council, he said.
“We felt that was something that was pretty well thought out, would make a statement ... and we would be able to administer,” Zenoni said.
Councilman Scott Sedgley said investing only in “socially responsible” companies is nothing new, and something he foresees becoming more prevalent in Napa.
“I see more socially responsible issues in the future,” Sedgley said. “Whether we invest overseas in certain economies that might be denying civil rights to its people, all those issues come into play and I think it’s appropriate and timely and we’ll probably see more of these little items attached to our investment policy in the future.”