The City Commission and Fiscal Court have started a discussion about bringing back a human rights commission after its dismissal in the 1970s.
During a joint City Commission and Fiscal Court meeting Monday afternoon, representatives from the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights said about 24 counties have established human rights commissions to act as advisory groups on local human rights issues.
The local commissions help residents address issues including disability accommodations and age discrimination, and provide assistance to the state commission, state program coordinator Glenda Green said.
In most instances, the Franklin County board would refer issues to the state commission, which employs 26 people – 10 less than seven years ago, added John Johnson, executive director of the state commission.
It was formed 52 years ago but hasn’t eradicated every human rights issue from Kentucky, Johnson said.
Age discrimination, women’s rights, health care, diversity in communities and schools and disability accommodations will be focal points of the commission.
“Sometimes it is good to hear from the citizens about the issues going on locally,” Johnson said.
The state commission has encouraged local governments to charge a commission with making reports on issues and sponsoring discussions in the community to help address human rights issues, Johnson added.
The state commission provides technical assistance in creating the local commission, and has sent sample ordinances to both local governments, Johnson said.
The city had a similar commission when Bob Bennett was mayor, Magistrate Don Sturgeon said.
Sturgeon served on the board that met on an as needed basis for two-year terms.
Johnson explained the commission would have as much power as the two governments allowed it to have, but it would be most effective to appoint a wide representation of the community.
“I don’t think local commissions ought to be involved in the blame game, but it is good to look at local conditions and look at a long-range plan to address concerns,” Johnson said.
The other counties that have adopted a commission have appointed a mostly volunteer group with a small budget between $500-$1,000, Johnson said.
The commissioners and magistrates agreed to continue the discussion after they researched the previous board and what guidelines they would create for it.