Monday, February 06, 2012

10-month Study for Human Rights Commission

Dave Norris becomes flustered when Kristin Szakos points out his confusion.

Charlottesville, Va. – City Council voted 4 to 1 Monday to create a 10-month commission task force to study how to implement a full-fledged Human Rights, Diversity & Race Relations Commission.

There would be 11 members appointed by Council, who would present an interim report at 5 months. Mayor Satyendra Huja said City Manager Maurice Jones’ idea for a study would clarify questions and confusion of Council and the community.

Councilor Dave Norris was the lone dissenting vote. He didn’t want to wait. He wanted the full commission with investigative and enforcement powers right now. Norris seemed confused and unprepared for the meeting other than a prepared statement that listed everything for inclusion. Councilors Kristin Szakos and Kathy Galvin pointed out to Norris that the ordinance before them was the real deal. Huja asked why he voted no but Norris had no answer.

Kathy Galvin was the voice of reason. While so far commissions from Arlington, Fairfax and Virginia Beach have been looked at, Galvin pointed out that Arlington has 400,000 and Fairfax 1,000,000 population. Charlottesville has only 43,000+. The commission is not likely to have any real impact anyway.

Councilor Dede Smith kept asking, What does it mean? What does this study commission mean? What does it all mean?

Answer from Blair’ Blog: Rule by committee instead of rule of law. The commission means, at best, a new way to violate due process, to deny your day in court with a non-judicial ruling with all the trappings of legality and justice – except without a jury of your peers and other due process rights. Whatever happened to the Bill of Rights?

Answer from Abigail Turner in public comment: One of our Legal Aid clients received a considerable settlement for a sexual harassment claim.

Note on process: When Dede Smith asked to remove the Minutes from the Consent Agenda since she hadn’t yet read them, there was a motion, a second, and a vote. Previously any single councilor could remove an item to be considered at the end of the meeting. The consent agenda is where a list of legislative acts is passed in a single vote.

Watch the whole thing! Video of Feb. 6, 2012 City Council.

16-item, 448-page Agenda Feb. 6, 2012 with background materials.