Charlottesville City Council Approves Human Rights Commission

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After agreeing on a revised proposal last month, the city of Charlottesville now has a human rights commission.

City Council voted Monday night to approve the highly debated commission, but first it heard from the public one last time about the revised proposal.

The vote of approval was 3 to 1. Kathy Galvin voted against it and Mayor Satyendra Huja abstained.

The ordinance says the commission will focus on addressing discrimination in public institutions, while individual cases would be referred to other organizations or be solved by mediation.

"I think we've got before us a proposal that balances out a lot of interests. The primary focus will be on: how do we reduce disparities in the community? Looking at institutional and systemic discrimination in our community," said Councilor Dave Norris.

The ordinance gives the commission limited enforcement powers in claims of discrimination in businesses that have between six and 14 employees. Claims of discrimination in larger businesses would be referred to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission.

"We need this commission - it has to have enforcement powers and it must include all people. You have an opportunity to improve our lives, to relieve our fears, so I hope you will do the right thing," said Melanie Miller, who lives in Charlottesville.

Others didn't see a need for the commission.

"I thought Charlottesville was the leading city and I don't think a leading city needs a human rights commission," said Marvin Joyner, another Charlottesville resident.

The commission would cost the city $197,000 for 2014. It was originally budgeted as $180,000 but Monday night, council added $17,000 to cover mediation costs.

Norris says he would have liked to see the ordinance more fleshed out but did not want to see it go down in flames Monday night.

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