To begin with let's put all feelings aside about race, religion, sexual preference and all other things that a person can be discriminated for. With that said, moving right along with tonight's council meeting.
Ordinance 2014-05 Borough ofDowningtown Human Relations Commission was brought before council tonight and before discussion could ensue there had to be a motion made of Advertising with intent to adopt which did happen, then discussion became a focal point and compromise was not.
The ordinance would offer up to the citizens of Downingtown the backing of council where no one in our borough should be discriminated against for any reason. Most reasonable citizens can agree with that, what no one agreed on is that a commission was included in this ordinance that would have Orwellian power without any way to enforce the power, but will create costs to the borough that need not be accrued.
First of all this is who the commission is comprised of:
B. The Downingtown Human Relations Commission shall consist of no fewer than three and no more than five voting members, who shall serve overlapping terms of four years each. At all times there shall be an odd number of members. The Commission members shall be appointed by and with the approval of Borough Council. The Commission may elect up to three nonvoting, ex officio members to broaden the diversity that serves on the Commission. Members shall be residents of the Borough or business owners who operate within the Borough or own property that dwells within the Borough limits. No voting member of the Downingtown Human Relations Commission shall hold any office in any political party. Members of the Downingtown Human Relations Commission shall serve without salary but may be paid expenses incurred in the performance of their duties, as approved by Borough Council.
Which sounds good on paper right? Who would not want their municipality, township or borough to have a recourse for discrimination and mediation if necessary and resources to take any complaint that cannot be mediated to the state level if they so choose? The one thing that the PA Human Relations Act does not address is the LGBT community. Keeping personal opinions aside this is just something to remember. (you can read the PA Act here) Now in the next portion of the D'town ordinance after election of chair etc is this:
D. Borough Council hereby grants to the Downingtown Human Relations Commission all of the powers necessary to the execution of its duties (as set forth below), provided that those powers shall not exceed those exercised by the Pennsylvania Human Relations Commission under the Pennsylvania Human Relations Act.
Which means that no matter how much anyone would like to have the something addressed or have legal recourse against the issue, if the state does not have such an avenue then the commission’s findings are not enforceable. However in tonight's meeting that was the whole issue and the only issue that came up. Councilor Winkler and Councilor Feldman both were in favor of adopting the ordinance up to section 90-6. But both Mayor Maxwell and Councilor Rakoff would not bend. Their argument was that the state of PA does not have any recourse for LGBT people when they are discriminated against, which is true, but adopting an ordinance in D'town with the veneer that they do have recourse UNTIL they get to the state level in my eyes is irresponsible. If there is no place to take this other than "sending a message to the state" that we in Downingtown don't agree with state law what is the point of having a commission with the potential to cost the residents money that we don't have? It is also illegal to adopt an ordinance with consequences that do not fall within state guidelines, just because it's a good idea. What kind of message are we sending the LGBT community if we adopt an ordinance that has no more recourse than the paper that it's written on? We don't want to help, but we want you to feel good while we are failing you.
Councilor Winkler tried valiantly to get council to compromise. Over and over again he stated that we really do want to be a community that does not discriminate and why not create a committee that can mediate contentious issues and can be a resource for issues beyond the scope of what can be done, but both Mayor Maxwell and Councilor Rakoff wanted no compromise. Councilor Winkler wanted a unanimous council to come up with a way to stay within the scope of what can actually be done even as far as the state level so that we as a borough would not be disenfranchising anyone. Mayor Maxwell's statement was that he did not want an 80% effort. Mr. Mayor you weren't even putting forth that much effort. For you it was all or nothing and you knew that it would not be a nothing vote. You also knew that this will be a great talking point for your campaign. However, I really want you to bring up discrimination while in the company of or in a debate with the Republican endorsed candidate since he happens to be African American.
Councilor Feldman even brought to the table that council send a letter to legislators (you know Mr. Mayor the ones who can actually change the laws) stating that the WHOLE council supports changing the Human Rights Act in PA. Mr. Mayor you were condescending and glib in your response to Councilor Feldman and I would think that someone who was so adamant about an anti discrimination ordinance would have more respect for ALL people even ones you don't like, but then again we all know what happens to people you don't like or dares to call you on bad behavior.
I do not understand the immovable stance that was taken by Rakoff and the mayor when a compromise was offered. It's like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. You all can be found to be legally liable for any activity that goes beyond the scope of the state laws and you will be costing the borough money that they don't have. Our Public Works is stretched thin, the police cannot afford the officers that they do have, the fire companies are operating trucks and materials that are sometimes so old that I wonder how they make it work and yet we can afford a commission that has no real power but that you are willing to give the ability to hear complaints accept hearsay evidence and offer punishment on the say so of one individual against another.
I can't wait to see who is appointed to this commission because I want to know how you are going to make sure that every race, religion, sex, sexual orientation, renter, landlord etc. is represented on a commission of 5 people