By Carla O’Day
The creation of a human rights commission will be pursued in Reno at request of the City Council. City officials plan to consult with Washoe County and Sparks about a regional effort.
A vote at today’s City Council meeting was unanimous, but Councilwoman Neoma Jardon was absent.
Several municipalities nationwide have such boards that advise elected officials on things such as racial, religious and ethnic matters. The boards promote equal opportunity, diversity, inclusion and social justice and provide forums for citizens to address prejudice and discrimination.
They also provide educational programs and inform the community on current issues and possible solutions to human rights challenges in their cities.
Mayor Hillary Schieve said many constituents have approached her about the city forming a human rights commission.
“People have felt the city hasn’t played a role in human rights issues,” Schieve said. “Now more than ever, this is incredibly important to have at the city of Reno. It would be great to do this regionally so we could work collaboratively.”
Council members David Bobzien and Paul McKenzie said they’re not sure the county and Sparks would be as enthusiastic. Bobzien said there would be a need to explain how things would work and to show the other entities such board would have value. McKenzie suggested city staff get to work rather than wait for the other municipalities.
City management analyst Tillery Williams told council members there doesn’t need to be “an issue” to create such board.
“It’s long overdue,” Councilman Oscar Delgado said. “I think it’s great to have this at the forefront so we’re not reactive.”
Local spiritual leader Sean Savoy spoke in favor of a human rights commission, which he said is needed to address poverty and social justice, along with other matters.
“There are cities of our size around the nation that are already on board with this,” Savoy said. “We have a diverse community and Reno is on the forefront of change in the new millennium.”
Williams researched other municipalities with similar populations and demographic makeups and found both Spokane, Wash. and Gilbert, Ariz. had such boards.
Gilbert, a suburb of Phoenix, had a board with five members and one alternate appointed by elected officials. Ideal board members would need consensus building skills and ability to forge relationships with the public.
Spokane has a nine-member board appointed by its City Council and requires every council district be represented. It also says an at-large positions could be filled by a youth representative.
Carla has an undergraduate degree in journalism and more than 10 years experience as a daily newspaper reporter. She grew up in Jacksonville, Fla., moved to the Reno area in 2002 and wrote for the Reno Gazette-Journal for 8 years, covering a variety of topics. Prior to that, she covered local government in Fort Pierce, Fla.