The future of the Berea HRC
The HRC formed in Nov. 2011 following an incident in which vandals spray-painted racial slurs on two vehicles owned by a biracial couple. A group of citizens also were demanding the establishment of a fairness ordinance that would protect lesbian, gay, bi-sexual and transgendered (LGBT) citizens in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation.
In a Nov. 11 Register article, Mayor Connelly said under federal and state law, members of the LGBT community are not established as a protected class, but the Kentucky human rights statute does allow localities, cities and counties, to decide independently whether they want to create this protected class.
That is one of the questions the HRC would answer through a community self-assessment, he said Monday.
A town assessment also would look at citizens’ knowledge of and compliance with civil rights protections pertaining to housing, lending, smoking, disability, race, family-size, etc.
Connelly, who also is a lawyer, said he had a client who was cited by the state HRC for a landlord violation, but the client was unaware that he was breaking any laws.
“Most of our citizens want to do what’s right,” he said. “They recognize that society does better when you stop at the red lights in the middle of the night when nobody is around to see you run it — obeying the rules helps the wagon roll better.”
Connelly said the HRC’s main job is to “educate citizens on rights and obligations under existing state and federal laws,” not enforcement.
Ideas are being formulated on how to collect data, he said, such as utilizing statistic or sociology students from Berea College or Eastern Kentucky University to administer a survey. A community-wide assessment would probably take more than a year to complete, he added.
The HRC also is working on being more visible and accessible to citizens.
They will soon unveil a new website; install drop boxes at city hall “and possibly other locations”; and will conduct forums to “have a presence in the community” so people will feel comfortable reaching out to the HRC for help, Connelly said.
“We want our town to great, and its citizens to be happy, comfortable, respected and successful,” the mayor said. “This is our opportunity to climb a level on the ladder – to build a better Berea.”
The Berea HRC meets on the first Monday of every month, 6 p.m., at City Hall in the community room.
Crystal Wylie can be reached at email@example.com or 623-1669, Ext. 6696.