February 12, 2009

Feds want minor changes to fair housing ordinance

We're at the Affirmative Action Commission's meeting tonight. Here's the report:

(Background on the story here and here.)

4:30 p.m.

Walked in with Fair Housing Director Morris Reece. Chairman Ron Thomas was here, and there's question on whether they'll reach quorum. The big issue this afternoon is the federal government's response to the city's proposed Fair Housing ordinance. The ordinance will allow the city to handle fair housing complaints in house, meaning they don't have to send them out to Chicago or Madison. Right now, there are 31 complaints pending before four different state and federal organizations.

4:35 p.m.

We're one person away from quorum. Alderman David Maack and Alderman Ray DeHahn are absent tonight. Both called ahead are excused.

4:38 p.m.

The gang's all here - or at least enough of it to hold a meeting.

4:40 p.m.

The minutes from last month's meeting aren't ready, so approval is put off to next month. No controversy here.

4:41 p.m.

Reece is giving his monthly report. The city ran a test for discrimination on two properties in the city. It sent a single African-American woman (trained to do this sort of thing) to apply for apartments on the northwest side and the southwest side. No discrimination detected.

A bunch of routine business is covered.

Reece handled three complaints in the last month. One involved a Mexican flag, one involved a dog in an apartment building and one involved a predatory loan in the city by a Realtor who moved out of state. The last one bothered Reece. "It's a bad situation," he said. "There are some bad circumstances. People are losing their jobs."

4:54 p.m.

Jerry Scott says he's received 350 applications for 15 job openings in the city. Good news on a bilingual position in the Health Department; Scott may have filled the position. (RacinePost wrote about this opening last month. Coincidence? Probably.)

4:56 p.m.

Deputy City Attorney Scott Letteney is on. He has an 11-page response from the federal government. Letteney oversimplifies the response: We're not there yet. Most changes are non-substantive.

"It's 11 pages, but it's not 11 pages of action," he said.

The one major change in the proposal is to simplify the city's investigative process. Letteney said it shouldn't be a problem.

Municipality doesn't have the authority to impose criminal laws. We can get civil forfeitures, or it may be possible that the city agrees to refer possible criminal acts to the US Attorney's office. "That will be the most significant change, but frankly it won't be that big of a deal," Letteney said.

Thomas asks for a copy of the letter, then says, let's copy it now. So Reece is taking it to his office to make a bunch of copies for the commission.

Letteney says he plans to send the letter back to the federal government next week. The feds will then, hopefully for the commission, give the go ahead to present the ordinance to the City Council.

5:03 p.m.

While they wait for copies, Thomas says former Affirmative-Action Commission member Doris Ingram is interested in rejoining the commission. Members also hope to appoint Raquel Freeman to the commission. Both names are headed to Mayor Tom Friedel for nomination.

5:08 p.m.

The commission is heading into closed session. That's it for the public part of this meeting.

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting. Thank you for your time.