No one directly named Sandy Hook Elementary or the terrible tragedy that befell the small community of Newtown, CT, but it was clear what members of Kent City Council were talking about Wednesday.
The shootings Friday that left 26 dead, including 20 school-age children, prompted Kent City Councilman Garret Ferrara to suggest the city examine how best to respond to an emergency situation and coordinate all parties involved.
"In light of what’s happened over the past week, it’s going to boil down to a function of money and preparedness," Ferrara said. "The biggest issue is being prepared and letting our citizens know that everybody is prepared. It’s going to come down to money in the sense that it doesn’t make any sense for individual organizations … to do this on their own."
Ferrara asked for agenda time during a future Kent health and safety committee meeting to talk about emergency preparedness. He suggested inviting members of the Kent City Schools Board of Education, officials from Franklin Township, representatives from the Portage County Commissioners, Kent State University, local judges and police and fire department heads.
At-large Councilman Roger Sidoti, former principal of Theodore Roosevelt High School, said one of the most difficult aspects of such an emergency response is maintaining clear communication between all responding parties.
"When this unfolded on Friday I was glued to the television set," Sidoti said. "I was first of all heart sick and heartbroken over this situation."
Sidoti said improving that level of communication could set a standard for other communities to follow.
"If there’s a way we can do this … that it doesn’t get bogged down into issues of ownership of certain things ... it would raise the level of confidence in our community," he said.
Council voted unanimously to review the issue.
"It is important for us to have a sense of how we can all work together and what our individual roles are should any kind of an emergency situation that involves the community arise," Councilwoman Heidi Shaffer said.
Taking the issue a step further, Kent Mayor Jerry Fiala said the nationwide group Mayors Against Illegal Guns this week is asking President Barack Obama and White House staffers to put forward an agenda that makes it more idfficult "for dangerous people to possess guns and easier for police and firefighters to crack down on them," according to a Dec. 19 letter from the group.
The letter, which includes the signatures of more than 750 mayors across the U.S., including New York and Boston mayors Michael Bloomberg and Thomas Menino, makes seven bulleted recommendations to the White House for action on gun regulation.
Among the recommendations, Mayors Against Illegal Guns suggest every gun buyer should be required to pass a criminal background check. The group also recommends banning high-capacity rifles and ammunition magazines — originally part of the federal assault weapons ban that expired in 2004.
"Those ideas require action by Congress," the letter states. "But there are steps (the Obama administration) could and should take immediately to curb gun violence."
The group also encourages easing federal restrictions on federal gun data to shed light on gun traffickers. (Read the entire letter, which is attached to this article).
Fiala said public officials need to consider the heart of the issue — making sure children come home safe everyday.
"We are doing something," Fiala said. "No matter what you do, we’re not doing enough."