A Human Rights Commission ordinance authored by Ward 3 Councilman Ellsworth Tolliver and originally presented to the Town Council on Oct. 5 has been drastically revised, and the language to be codified by a vote of the council is mostly penned by Ward 2 Councilman Tom Herz.

The revisions come after weeks of wrangling between Herz and Tolliver over language in the ordinance that required four of the seven commission members be “People of Color” and the extent of the level of authority and responsibilities of the commission.

At the Nov. 16 meeting Tolliver presented the ordinance with Herz’s changes and struck a conciliatory tone that looked past friction between the two that began this summer when Herz withdrew his support for the Black Lives Matter murals and escalated when Herz claimed it might be illegal to require a greater percentage of Commission members be “People of Color.”

Herz’s edits remove codified language that required four of the seven commission members to be “People of Color” — language Tolliver insisted on in the early draft stages to ensure there would be members on the commission who understood personally the impact of discrimination in the black and brown community.

Other language Herz and Tolliver agreed to would prohibit the Commission from offering mediation between two parties in a dispute. The original draft allowed the Commission to offer mediation if the parties in a dispute agreed to it.

In the original draft, Commission members would vet new members and submit names to the Council for approval. But under the latest revision those wanting an appointment to the Commission would be required to send a letter of interest directly to Town Hall for the Council to consider.

“Where we are now is completely different from where it started,” Tolliver acknowledged at the Nov. 16 meeting. “It’s more inclusive but it still manages to go towards the issues of disenfranchisement, racism and being able to have a place where people can come and air their grievances in a safe place…” 

Tolliver then moved to scrap his original draft ordinance and replace it entirely with the version that he and Herz agreed to.

Herz commended Tolliver for agreeing to the revisions.

“I appreciate that Councilman Tolliver was able to review my changes and incorporate a lot of them,” He said. “There was I think almost literal agreement on all parts…I have to say I’m really pleased with how things turned out.”

Herz’s detractors lament that his revisions are an attempt to say that everyone’s circumstances are the same and ignores the history of discrimination and brutality against People of Color that is not experienced by other groups to the same magnitude in America.

See the final draft that was submitted at the Nov. 16 council meeting. Take note that any language above the line, “BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED that the Human Rights Commission be established as follows” is not included in final passage of the ordinance. Only text below “BE IT FINALLY RESOLVED” is what becomes codified in law after a majority vote of the council.


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