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May 13, 2005

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Publication Date: Friday, May 13, 2005

HRC's fate still hangs in balance HRC's fate still hangs in balance (May 13, 2005)

Council caps late-hour session by delaying vote on Human Relations Commission

By Jon Wiener

Two city advisory boards facing the chopping block got an unexpected reprieve Tuesday night. Unfortunately for them, it's only going to last two weeks.

After a study session and meeting that had already lasted a combined five hours and dealt with several complex topics, city council members decided not to take up a recommendation to either dedicate more resources to the Human Relations Commission (HRC) or disband it. Tuesday night, several HRC commissioners looked on as the council more or less completely ignored the work they had done two weeks earlier in prioritizing nonprofit requests for federal grant monies. "It was very disheartening to see," said commissioner Alicia Crank, who waited through the entire meeting. "It was kind of like (they were) keeping the kids busy." The commission saw its meeting schedule cut in half in July of 2003, right around the time the council rejected a request to let the commission take a major role in forming a Patriot Act resolution. The group now meets only six times a year, and much of that time is spent trying to come up with a viable work plan. "I don't think they know exactly from they want what us," said commissioner Miryam Castaneda. Council members have generally supported the group's role in the community, even if it's a little unclear what that is. Commissioners say they can be an important buffer between the city and the public -- "We want to try to be the warm, fuzzy part of government," said commissioner Roger Petersen -- and a place where people can feel comfortable airing sensitive issues. But a reduced meeting schedule and limited staff time have hindered the commission's ability to do everything its members would like. If a monthly meeting schedule is restored, the recommendation by the Council Procedures Committee -- consisting of Mayor Matt Neely and council members Greg Perry and Mike Kasperzak -- calls for the council to "identify three substantive projects/issues for the HRC to undertake" in the coming year. "None of us wants a Human Relations Commission in name only," said Kasperzak. "If the council isn't willing to resource it at that level, then let's not just go through the motions." Unlike their colleagues on the Performing Arts Advisory Committee, members of the HRC have, at the very least, made it clear they want to continue to exist. The arts committee has not held a meeting since 2003, and the CPC report recommended it be reformed as a group of "interested persons" that could be summoned when needed. A vote on the two groups will be held May 24.
E-mail Jon Wiener at [email protected]

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