OUR OPINION: HUMAN RIGHTS
Supporters of the Crow Wing County Human Rights Commission might easily have been alarmed at Wednesday’s headline that spoke to the panel’s possible demise. Yet the dissatisfaction with the board’s status quo might actually lead to a rejuvenated and improved panel.
It’s become clear, particularly since June when commission member Carol Rose resigned citing a lack of support from commissioners, that the panel was not functioning very well. At that meeting County Administrator Tim Houle told members they had to follow their bylaws and a member, the Rev. Deb Celley acknowledged there had been leadership problems on the 13-member panel.
The Crow Wing County Board set a date (Oct. 11) when it would consider abolishing the Human Rights Commission. The commission has had difficulty sustaining a quorum of six members for its meetings.
It’s clear changes have to be made.
For starters, members have to show up. The county board, for its part, should make sure vacancies (there are currently two open spots) are filled promptly. New members should come to the board with passion and with a vision as to what they would like to see done.
Maybe 13 members is an unwieldy number. Would it be more effective if it there were fewer members?
We would also like to see the group initiate programs bringing about an awareness of the area’s increasing diversity and teaching that diversity is a quality that should be welcomed and not feared. The commission could work with the Brainerd Lakes Chamber and businesses on how individuals and businesses could welcome a more diverse customer base.
The commission has no authority to punish those who violate human rights but it can provide a forum for those who feel they have been wronged and direct those individuals to government agencies that can address the problems. It also can continue to reward individuals who work on behalf of human rights, as it does each year with its presentation of the Crow Wing County Human Rights Award.
The Brainerd lakes area has become more diverse and that trend is likely to continue. There’s a role for a group of dedicated volunteers who want to make that transition a successful one.