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Human Rights Commission upset over proposed funding cut

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Posted: Sunday, October 7, 2012 5:00 am

GENEVA — Geneva Human Rights Commission members are upset about a $20,000 funding cut in the proposed 2013 city budget.

So upset, in fact, that they will devote virtually all of their attention to the topic at Tuesday’s monthly meeting.

Commission members have been urged to make a special effort to attend this “crucial’’ meeting to come up with a strategy to oppose the cut, and they are expected to show up in force at Wednesday night’s public hearing on the budget.

City Manager Matt Horn has proposed cutting the city’s allocation to the Commission from $55,000 this year to $35,000 next year.

“We’re surprised and disappointed in a cut of this size,’’ said Commission Executive Director Karen Baer, adding that they had sought a 3.5 percent increase in funding.

“The city has signed on to the Community Compact in the aftermath of the 2011 Cory Jackson shooting, and that commits us to do several programs to promote understanding and respect in the community,’’ Baer said. “The loss of $20,000 will literally mean many of the Community Compact’s activities will be unfunded, including the high school dialogues we are ready to begin.”

She noted the cut would bring the Commission back to its 2004 funding level.

“It looks like we are targeted. The Boys & Girls Clubs are also being cut and both of us do outreach in the community,’’ Baer said. “We’ve been frugal with the money we get, but this kind of cut will hurt our ability to do our work in fair housing and fighting discrimination in other forms.”

Baer said the Commission has been unsuccessful in convincing city officials to make the Commission a city department, as it was supposed to be when established in 1964.

“We are continually put in with the outside agency category and we’re not. We couldn’t get HUD money unless we were a city agency,’’ Baer said. “I’m not sure why they accepted the legal fiction that we’re an outside agency.”

The 13-member Commission is responsible for enforcing the city and the federal Fair Housing Acts in the city, as well as advocating for human rights on other levels.

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