Note, the following opinions are my own and do not necessarily represent the views of other municipal commissioners or staff.
I share Melissa McWhinney’s concerns about the impact of the Mayor’s new commission staffing reorganization on the quality of the city’s human services. Melissa is a Somerville resident, advocacy director at CAAS, and former exec director of the Human Rights Commission, and was recently quoted in a July 5th article in the Somerville News “Residents question human services cutbacks” .
Last year, the Human Rights Commission, the Women’s Commission, the Multicultural Commission, and the GLBT Liason, were reorganized under the Health Department (don’t ask me why they belong there) instead of being directly under the Mayor’s office . The new city budget maintains them as distinct entities while keeping the total level of funding unchanged across them (the new budget does not cut funding, as the SN article inaccurately suggests). However, the staffing has been consolidated from separate executive directors for each entity to instead having one executive director of commissions with an assistant director underneath. [Update: I understand the new staffing structure will also cover the Commission for People with Disabilities]
According to the city’s 1993 Human Rights Ordinance (PDF) the Human Rights Commission is empowered to investigate alleged human and civil rights violations including acts of certain types of discrimination. The HRC and other commissions should not have to compete with each other for staff services as they now do under the new arrangement.
If the city administration is serious about the protection of human and civil rights in Somerville, it should restore funding for individual full-time executive directors for the commissions and a full-time investigator for the HRC. One way the city could find money to do this is by eliminating the Multicultural Affairs Commission which duplicates the cultural work of the Human Rights Commission.