Baha'i News -- Dover Human Relations Commission seated

Dover Human Relations Commission seated

Appointees ready to review city's inclusiveness

By J.L. MILLER
Dover Bureau reporter
04/09/2002

Dover City Council embarked on a new commitment to racial harmony Monday night, establishing a 15-member Human Relations Commission designed to bring the city's diverse population closer together.

"I know our future will be a challenge," Mayor James L. Hutchison Sr. told the newly appointed commissioners. "We can and will make a difference."

City Council decided to create the commission after racial tension flared in Dover in March 2001 when a black man died in police custody.

Those tensions seemed nearly forgotten Monday, as the commission members smiled and posed for pictures after the unanimous vote.

Hutchison later gave the members a pep talk, telling them that he and Council President William P. McGlumphy will call the group together soon so the commission can begin work. No meeting date was set.

Bishop Marion Lott, president of the Concerned Clergy and Citizens Coalition, said city officials "did an excellent job of selecting [the members]. It's very inclusive."

Lott's wife, Renora Lott, is one of the 15 appointees.

The coalition mobilized during the tense days and weeks after Reginald L. Hannah died during a police traffic stop. An autopsy later showed Hannah had a lethal level of cocaine in his blood.

Although the commission membership includes people from a variety of backgrounds, Lott said officials were unable to find someone from the Hispanic community to serve. Hispanics comprise 4.1 percent of Dover's population.

Councilman Eugene B. Ruane called it "a rainbow commission" that will serve everyone in the city.

The commission will have the power to review city programs for inclusiveness and make recommendations to City Council. It also can investigate "inter-group conflicts and disputes," but it does not have the enforcement power of the state Human Relations Commission.

The commission will meet monthly, but no schedule has been set.

Reach J.L. Miller at 678-4271 or jlmiller@delawareonline.com.

RECOMMENDATIONS
Here are the recommendations by U.S. Department of Justice conciliation specialist Diane Mitchum to Mayor James L. Hutchison Sr. on how Dover could improve race relations. City officials would not release the recommendations, which The News Journal obtained from the Justice Department under the federal Freedom of Information Act.

• Create a multicultural advisory board to advise city government on human relations issues.

• Create an ombudsman position in City Hall to handle community problems and help the mayor and council implement programs affecting minority communities.

• Conduct a series of town hall meetings to allow residents to voice their concerns.

• Establish a commission on race relations.

• Hold a "tightly controlled public forum," a recommendation that was made amid the racial tensions sparked by the death of a black man while in police custody.

Although the City Council has established the community relations commission, it has not addressed the ombudsman recommendation. It does hold quarterly town meetings and solicits public comments at the start of each regular meeting.

COMMITTEE MEMBERS

The 15 members of the newly formed Dover Human Relations Commission bring a variety of interests and backgrounds to the panel.

The members are:

Robin F. Case, school administrator

Walter R. Davis III, entrepreneur and consumer advocate

John J. Kotzun, credit union employee

Michael J. Malkiewicz, lawyer

Maisha D. Britt, active in church and community affairs

Mittie J. Kelley, equal employment opportunity manager for civilians at Dover Air Force Base

Ellen O. Wasfi, longtime activist in League of Local Governments of Greater Dover

Phyllis Levitt, retired teacher, arts advocate, board member of Delaware's chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union

Renora H. Lott, active in church and community affairs; wife of Bishop Marion Lott, president of the Concerned Clergy and Citizens Coalition

Nilakantan Nagarajan, University of Maryland professor and treasurer of the Delaware State Conference of Branches of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People

Warren H. Rhodes, psychology professor at Morgan State University

Gregory J. Bunkley, program administrator for Connections CSP Inc., which provides outpatient substance abuse treatment

Phyllis Edamatsu, director of strategic planning and institutional research at Delaware State University

Peter A. Oldziey, financial adviser, active in Bahai community.

Susan Salkin, community development coordinator for state Division of the Arts


©Copyright 2002, The News Journal

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