Slideshow of the mayors' annual meeting in Washington on Wednesday. The group honored Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley, who has served longer than any other mayor in U.S. history. (Photos by Rebecca Cohen / Medill News Service)

WASHINGTON — Between discussing civic issues from drug abuse to water conservation Wednesday morning, the United States Conference of Mayors paused to honor the victims of the deadly on shootings in Tucson on Jan. 8 with a moment of silence.

Tucson Mayor Robert Walkup spoke of his friendship with the intended target of the shooting, Rep. Gabby Giffords, D-Ariz., and his pride in his community’s resilience. He decried the inflammation of political rhetoric that many pundits have suggested led to the attack.

As a step toward restoring order, Walkup and other mayors signed a civility accord, pledging their commitment to peaceful speech and respect for diverse opinions.

“Most of us are elected officials only for the moment, but we are human beings forever,” Walkup said.

The Conference of Mayors meets every January in Washington to discuss issues affecting cities with 30,000 residents or more. This year, it attracted about 230 mayors.

After signing the accord, the leaders of the conference awarded Chicago Mayor Richard M. Daley with a medal for distinguished public service. Daley announced in September that after 22 years in office, he will not seek another term. He has served longer than any other mayor.

In his acceptance speech, Daley echoed Walkup’s call for greater civility in society. He suggested mayors should “re-discuss the issue of people arming themselves” regardless of the mayors’ positions on gun control.

The mayors also focused on the importance of creating and retaining jobs. Conference President Elizabeth Kautz, the mayor of Burnsville, Minn., said federal lawmakers must make reducing unemployment a priority.

A recent study by the conference and the financial research firm Global Insight found almost a third of the country’s metro areas will still have unemployment rates greater than 10 percent by the end of 2011, Kautz said.

Mayors from the conference are scheduled to strategize about job creation Thursday with CEOs of companies such as the engineering conglomerate Siemens and the Carlson hotel and restaurant corporation.

About the accord

The complete text of the civility accord can be found on, but the core principles are as follows:

  • Respect the right of all Americans to hold different opinions;
  • Avoid rhetoric intended to humiliate, de-legitimatize, or question the patriotism of those whose opinions are different from ours;
  • Strive to understand differing perspectives;
  • Choose words carefully;
  • Speak truthfully without accusation, and avoid distortion;
  • Speak out against violence, prejudice, and incivility in all of their forms, whenever and wherever they occur.