Roseville council combines commissions

 

Residents resolute on ‘human rights’

The community was certainly engaged in the Roseville City Council’s April 24 decision to combine the city’s Human Rights and Community Engagement commissions.

Some 20 people spoke before the council, the majority of them discussing the vital importance of maintaining a focus on human rights for the combined commission, as well as keeping “human rights” as a part of the new body’s name.

Though the council initially offered up its “second choice” of a name, “Equity and Engagement Commission,” it unanimously voted to name the new combination the Human Rights, Inclusion and Engagement Commission.

Mayor Dan Roe and council member Lisa Laliberte introduced the ordinance to combine the commissions. The two were council liaisons to a subcommittee focused on merging the bodies, and both described a positive process of working with members from both commissions.

Roseville’s Human Rights Commission is nearly 50 years old, while the Community Engagement Commission was spun out of the HRC, beginning its work in 2014. 

Through its three years, the CEC was fraught with dysfunction and, as of the April 24 meeting, was down to three members out of a possible seven. The council also acknowledged it had failed to give the commission clear guidance on what it was expected to do.

Laliberte said combining the commissions aimed to lift up the mission of both, with hopes of being able to accomplish more as a single body.

“I didn’t feel at any point that there was division or concern from any of the members about the decision to combine, the decision to do new work,” Laliberte said.

Current and former members of both commissions, however, for different reasons, begged to differ.

 

Name and identity

Nearly half of the former Human Rights Commission showed up to underscore the need to keep human rights in the name of the new commission, including HRC chair Wayne Groff, who ran for Roseville City Council in 2016 and one of the commission’s youth members, Elizabeth Hansel.

HRC member Dr. Etienne Djevi, who’s originally from Benin in West Africa, made a succinct point.

“I didn’t apply to be a commissioner for equity and engagement,” he said, pointing out the council would be sending a message “to the city, to people who look like me,” if it did not include human rights in the new commission’s name.

Claire Verbeten, who said she remembers participating in the annual HRC essay contest as a seventh grader at Roseville Area Middle School, said the significance of the commission should not be overlooked.

“The Human Rights Commission, to me, is all about ensuring people in Roseville of different races, ethnicities, national origins, sexual orientations, genders, abilities, etc. ... all feel a part of this community and feel safe,” she said.

All three members of what was the Community Engagement Commission spoke, with members Chelsea Holub and Michelle Manke urging the council to put off its decision.

Manke was most forceful, accusing the council of never giving the CEC an opportunity to succeed while saying the council was combining the commissions in order to make the CEC go away.

“This is not the night to make any decisions,” Manke concluded.

 

Needed now more 

than ever

Following residents’ comments, council members Jason Etten and Tammy McGehee recommended word changes to the ordinance creating the combined commission in order to up its human rights bona fides.

Etten explained adding the phrase “human rights” at various points in the ordinance was to “make more robust the focus on human rights in the scope, purpose and function of the commission.”

Etten also proposed what would ultimately become the new commission’s name: Human Rights, Inclusion and Engagement Commission.

“I heard very clearly from the community,” he said. 

The council unanimously approved changes to the ordinance’s wording, the name of the commission and the ordinance itself.

Former state representative Mindy Greiling spoke on behalf of the Roseville Area League of Women Voters at the meeting, underscoring the legacy of the city’s HRC, and its work in more recent years, such as the commission moving the city council to come out against the constitutional amendment banning same sex marriage in the state that voters rejected in 2012.

Speaking after the meeting, she said she was “moderately satisfied” with the council’s actions. “I’m pleased that they saw their way clear to put human rights in the name of the commission.”

“We have more need today for the Human Rights Commission than ever before with all the charges of discrimination against people who are Muslim, immigrants; issues with police” and affordable housing, Greiling said.

“All these things make a strong human rights commission vital — we need it in Roseville.”

 

Mike Munzenrider can be reached at mmunzenrider@lillienews.com or 651-748-7813. Follow him on Twitter @mmunzenrider.

 

Rate this article: 
No votes yet
Comment Here