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Human Rights Commission

Human Rights Commission Meeting Minutes

March 11, 2008


Present: Chair Janet Delmore; Commissioners Philip Crump; Thelma McKenzie; Marie Oftelie; Bob Venters


Absent: Commissioners Tam McGehee and Pam Bosch


Others Present: City Manager Bill Malinen and Recording Secretary Sheila Stowell


Call to Order: Chair Delmore called the Human Rights Commission (HRC) meeting to order at 7:00 p.m.


Chair Delmore reported on the HRC reception following the Essay Contest presentation before the City Council in February that she and Commissioner McGehee attended.


Chair Delmore welcomed Muoi Duhl to the meeting.


Agenda Amendment

Commissioner Bob Venters requested an additional discussion item entitled “Vision Proposal for local HRC.”


Approval of Minutes

Chair Delmore questioned the wording on lines 92 through 94, specifically “connotations” regarding City Manager Malinen’s statement regarding focus on a positive and cooperative relationship as diversity training issues were considered. 


After discussion, Commissioner Delmore moved and Commissioner Venters seconded continuation of the January 8, 2008 meeting minutes until the April meeting to allow Chair Delmore time to review her meeting notes.


Budget Review – Buying Books for Schools

Chair Delmore reported that she had spoken to staff regarding funding of the school books, and 2007 funds were not used, as the request came in too late.


Housing Ordinance

Commissioner Venters disagreed with the City Attorney’s February 25, 2008 legal analysis and written opinion regarding the proposed HRC Ordinance prohibiting landlords from asking the immigration status of tenants and prospective tenants.  Commissioner Venters disagreed with the City Attorney’s opinion, saying that verbal opinions he’d received from several non-profit attorneys working more exclusively with immigration issues had been more supportive of the proposed ordinance.   City Manager Malinen had asked the City Attorney to review the draft ordinance and general policy intent for possible legal issues associated with the proposal. 


Commissioner Venters asked how best to receive a response from the City Attorney, rationale for the City Attorney’s opinion and policy issue considerations under the City Council’s domain. 


Discussion included Section 8 housing provisions, disclosure of information on rental application forms, First Amendment rights and applicable state and federal laws, whether the City Attorney should be asked to attend an HRC meeting, if Commissioner Venters should meet with him during office hours at City Hall and cost implications for the City Attorney time.


Commissioner Venters said he preferred a written response rather than verbal so an exact record of HRC concerns and City Attorney responses would be available.


City Manager Malinen noted the unique situation with the HRC proposal, with the usual procedure being that the City Council meets with the HRC to give direction for the Commission’s focus. The Commission would then bring recommendations to the City Council for their consideration.  While not trying to detract from the HRC’s proactive initiative, City Manager Malinen asked if a majority of Councilmembers support the proposed ordinance, saying it may be awkward since it was not something that the City Council had looked at and referred to the HRC.


Further discussion included the HRC’s charge to create a safe environment for the community, recognizing the legal implications with the proposed ordinance, potential legal exposure with financial implications to the City with such an ordinance, thus the City Attorney’s caution.


City Manager Malinen said Councilmembers had received a copy of the opinion letter, and Commissioner Venters noted that Councilmember Pust had e-mailed him and City Manager Malinen seeking background information.


Discussion included whether it would be appropriate to go directly to the City Council for their input on the issue, with Commissioner Venters volunteered to send an e-mail to the City Council to gauge their willingness and to work with the City Attorney to clarify potential legal issues.


City Manager Malinen said he would alert the City Attorney of Commissioner Venters’ interest to meet for further discussion.


Forum on Race/Diversity Training

Discussion continued from the January meeting on diversity training and Chair Delmore and Commissioner McKenzie’s contacts with other communities and/or agencies.


City Manager Malinen’s updated Commissioners on the self-directed, on-line training for all City staff beginning in April, with modules available for diversity, harassment and customer service training.


Discussion included whether the HRC could access the training for review or personal training, and City Manager Malinen offered to check with the City’s Information Technology Director about e-mail access and options.


Commissioner Venters advised that when he had spoken with Police Chief Carol Sletner, she expressed her perception that the Police Department was being singled out for diversity training. He assured her that the HRC was attempting to meet the needs of police officers and their peers in training options.  Commissioner Venters advised that he was currently attending the Police Department’s citizen academy.


Additional discussion included specialized training for police officers and their peers on an area-wide or regional basis; possible location for such training (i.e., Northwestern College); the Grand Rapids training model and involvement of the Attorney General’s office and POST Board continuing education credits; and the desire of the HRC to build a positive relationship between the HRC and Police Department.



Commissioner McKenzie reported on her attendance at a community event held in Shoreview and coordinated by the State Human Rights League and the City of Shoreview HRC, with the Bethel University diversity coordinator and a mix of diversity and gender, and interesting and enlightening discussions. 


Chair Delmore asked Commissioner McKenzie to see if a video and/or manuals could be obtained for commissioners to review.


City Manager Malinen distributed 2006/2007 diversity comparison demographics from Roseville Area School District No. 623, recently presented to the City Council by Peg Kennedy, noting the cultural and racial diversity those changing demographics represent. 


The Commission discussed the Imagine Roseville 2025 community visioning process discussions that related to inclusionary issues and neighborhood connections and awareness; how to relate to and communicate with neighborhoods; community process to determine actual boundaries and neighborhoods (i.e., block captains; areas of interest around specific parks or amenities); and how the community can be more engaging and understand differences to create educational and awareness opportunities, and the role of the HRC in that process.


Chair Delmore opined the targets were not being met, and that the schools were doing their job, but City employees needed to do their jobs.


Commissioner Venters said that with evidence that two HRC initiatives (housing ordinance and diversity training with the Police Department) had been essentially rejected, creating his perception that while the Council expressed support of the Imagine Roseville 2025 process and goals, their actions didn’t show that they promoted a welcoming environment.


Commissioner McKenzie said the HRC was encountering the fear factor, an ongoing problem with changing demographics and diversity.  Commissioner McKenzie highlighted past HRC initiatives, such as the “Stuff the Park” program and she encouraged the HRC to get into the community through such initiatives as the “Time to Talk” settings to get conversations started.


Commissioner Delmore said it seemed that the HRC had been “shut down,” and sought City Manager Malinen’s assisting in accomplishing the HRC goals.


City Manager Malinen questioned if that was an accurate perception; noting that part of the resistance may be the indication that the diversity training is only a Police Department issue, rather than a community-wide one where all needed to be understanding of demographic or cultural differences and changes in the community.  City Manager Malinen suggested that the HRC address those issues from a broader perspective, and recognize certain legal issues that the City Council considers from a more global viewpoint.  City Manager Malinen advocated for a broader approach for the community, to actively engage in communication individually and collectively to create more understanding.


Chair Delmore said that a joint meeting with the City Council would be advantageous. 


City Manager Malinen advised that all advisory commissions were scheduled for their annual meeting with the City Council later this spring, depending on agenda time availability.


City Manager Malinen encouraged the HRC to pursue community involvement in their diversity training, through programs discussed earlier and offered staff’s support to help the HRC get notice out to the community for such meetings.


Commissioner McKenzie volunteered to provide additional information on the Grand Rapids training, and Commissioner Crump suggested that at the next HRC meeting, a date be set and planning begun in earnest. 


Further discussion included broad-spectrum mailings; how to encourage attendance, developing partnerships with the school district, MN Department of Human Rights, possible grant funds and other planning considerations.


City Manager Malinen offered to seek out additional information on grant funding available through the State League of Human Rights.


Public Comment

Ms. Muoi Duhl shared some perspectives of diversity changes that she’d experienced in her native Vietnam and impacts depending on occupation and lifestyle.


Commissioners agreed that the next agenda include discussion on planning for community forum/diversity training.


Commissioner Venters asked that City Manager Malinen direct the City Attorney to respond to his e-mail in a timely manner.


Commissioner Venters noted that in reviewing essays the MN Human Rights Act stated that individual classes were protected, and asked that a letter to Mindy Greiling and John Marty  be drafted asking that immigration status be a protected class in the Human Rights Act. Commissioner Venters volunteered to draft the letter for the next meeting.


City Manager Malinen distributed the City’s “green brochure” providing areas that the City was leading in environmental stewardship initiatives.


City Manager Malinen said the City was moving forward, hopefully in the fall of 2008, with the University of Roseville program to familiarize citizens about City services and processes.



Chair Delmore moved and Commissioner Venters seconded adjournment of the meeting at 8:10 p.m. Motion carried 5/0.