By Steven Morabito
A Human Rights Commission’s purpose is to promote basic human rights and to also review and investigate complaints of discrimination and violation against basic human rights. These Human Rights are inherent to all people, no matter their nationality, residence, sex, origin, color, religion, sexual orientation, language or any other status. Also, to promote inclusive events and diversity education.
A Human Rights Commission should be a team that anyone can count on when they have a question or issue with their rights. What may work in other cities, such as Boston (10 times our population) and Cambridge (double our population), may not work quite as well for our city.
The City Council should be a team that works for the people of Revere. Last Monday night, Councillors Richard Serino, Gerry Visconti and Patrick Keefe made it clear of their intention and definition of a Human Rights Commission when they blindsided me as their colleague, and the people of Revere, sending an illusion that it was a feel-good resolution on their part.
I worked hard and passionately on reinstating an HRC. Serino, Visconti and Keefe created a resolution and quickly pushed it through the City Council and onto the Mayor’s desk, with none of the heavy lifting and compassion needed to make the reinstatement of the HRC seem important to the people of Revere. It was a “cut and paste” then “pass the buck” resolution right behind my back as well. This lack of inclusion is the same problem so many feel throughout the community.
First: The HRC is a volunteer commission. Councillors Serino, Visconti and Keefe’s resolution recommends it be a paid commission with a stipend, adding more to our city budget. Just a few weeks prior, my fellow councillors cut less than “1000th of a percent” of the proposed budget. This didn’t even put a dent in the budget, but it definitely put a dent in the morale of city workers.
Second: This resolution sets preference that the HRC Director be an attorney at-law. The HRC Director will have the same voting power and responsibilities as any other member selected to be a member of the HRC, except the director assumes a clerk’s role and sets meeting dates and chairs the meetings. Why the same preference is not suggested for all HRC candidates for that Committee?
Third: Also, the city of Revere already has a Solicitor whom provides legal guidance to committees. Another point: The City Council is the most powerful board in the city. As City Councillors, we research, amend and create local laws.
I ask my colleagues: Would a lawyer best serve their constituents in comparison to city councillors, especially where they also study and practice law regularly?
Fourth: The chairperson of city boards and commissions have always been selected by the Mayor, then sent to the City Council Appointments Subcommittee for approval and recommendation, followed by a City Council vote as a whole. This resolution calls for an additional step in the process.
The process calls for an interview subcommittee to recommend two candidates, of which, the mayor is to select one candidate to go before the council subcommittee for approval.
This is not the same process and is NOT the same standard in selecting any other chairperson or director for any other city, board and department. The same expectation should be set across the board, not just for the HRC Director.
A good resolution should be a resolve to a matter, not a further complicating factor that adds so many more moving parts. Try running a City Council meeting or a Subcommittee without a chair or president – it does not move forward and function without one! This is why this resolution is seen as slowing down and stalling the establishment of an HRC.
There is so much to say about the timing and the insensitivity of this resolution that I invite my colleagues to an open forum with ample time to further discuss the HRC, their resolution along with their rationale.
Human rights are personal to everyone and this is why so many citizens feel the reinstatement of the Human Rights Commission was wronged by the resolution.
One does not open a lock with a fork. You open it with a key. The key here is transparency and working together for the benefit of our community.
Steven Morabito is a Revere Councillor-at-Large.