Three Years In, City Human Rights Commission Hasn’t Solved Its Biggest Issue

A little less than three years ago, we opined in this space that the success of Jamestown’s Human Rights Commission would hinge on the city staff it is allowed to access.

Judging from the commission’s last meeting, we were right.

Commission members approved Isaiah Rashad II as its new vice chairman. Rashad said he sees a need for the commission to develop policies and procedures for community concerns and complaints regarding any violations of human rights. Rashad also said members of the Human Rights Commission should regularly attend meetings involving the City Council, Board of Public Utilities, Jamestown Public School, Mental Health Association, Parks and Recreation Department, Veterans Affairs, Department of Development, Human Resource Center and the I.D.E.A. Coalition.

“I have been thinking an awful lot about what our role is, what we do, how we operate and how the community perceives us as an arm of the City Council,” he said. “What I’ve learned in all my research is that we don’t have any policy procedures of what happens once we get a complaint and how it gets to an endpoint or where that endpoint is.”

Rashad is right, but we reiterate our point from October 2020. Each of the people appointed by Sundquist has a life outside of the Human Rights Commission, so to expect them to treat the commission as its own full-time job is ultimately unrealistic. The success of the Human Rights Commission will depend on how much time existing city staff can devote to helping the commission’s work progress. Volunteers — no matter how energetic or well-meaning — only have so much time and energy for investigations and public work.

Prior incarnations of the city’s Human Rights Commission foundered when grant funding for a staff position were eliminated and the remaining work fell on volunteers. Three years after reconstituting the commission we still haven’t solved that problem.


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