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UVA Professor Says Charlottesville Can Do More to Combat Discrimination

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Walt Heinecke, a UVA professor Walt Heinecke, a UVA professor
CHARLOTTESVILLE, Va. (WVIR) -

In anticipation of City Council’s meeting next Monday, April 16, there’s currently a push to educate the community on Charlottesville's Human Rights Commission.

This comes after much debate on whether or not the office needs to rehire a civil rights attorney at the Office of Human Rights following her resignation two years ago.

Now, some are asking the city do more to investigate discrimination while others want the public to be as informed as possible before council makes a decision on next steps.

One of the main responsibilities of the Human Rights Commission, which is under the Office of Human Rights, is to assist people who think they are victims of unlawful discrimination in the city.

Walt Heinecke, a professor at the University of Virginia, thinks Charlottesville can do more to fight discrimination.

“We are at a crossroads right now,” says Heinecke.

On Monday, April 9, Heinecke presented at the monthly NAACP meeting. He's renewing his call to rehire a civil rights attorney to the commission. He also thinks the office should have a federal employment practice agency, and that it should report directly to the mayor and council.

“I think the council needs to engage directly with this and take responsibility and have accountability for this kind of work, which they're not doing right now,” says Heinecke.

If council doesn't choose to rehire an attorney, Heinecke says the city could do away with the Human Rights Commission and give the money to an organization like the Legal Aid Justice Center to investigate any discrimination complaints.

Charlene Greene, who’s the director of the Office of Human Rights, wants people to be educated before they make arguments on what the city should do.

“I think our community has a lot of questions,” says Greene.

At council’s meeting next week, the Office of Human Rights will present statistics about complaints made in Charlottesville versus places like Prince William County, Fairfax, and Arlington.

Greene says it's hard to compare the numbers with years past because the definition for filing a complaint has changed since the Office of Human Rights was created in 2013.

“With not being able to directly compare the 2014 statistics with statistics that happened later, it’s trying to compare apples to oranges,” says Greene.

The Office of Human Rights will present its findings to City Council next Monday, April 16. The meeting begins at 6:30 p.m. and is open to the public.

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