Royal Oak passes human rights resolution, forms human rights commission

By: Sarah Wojcik | Royal Oak Review | Published June 23, 2020

Shutterstock image

Advertisement

ROYAL OAK — On June 8, the Royal Oak City Commission unanimously approved a human rights resolution brought forth by Commissioner Kyle DuBuc. It also unanimously voted for staff to provide recommendations for establishing a human rights commission.

The resolution is “in solidarity with those demanding justice for George Floyd and meaningful change to address structural inequality and systemic racism.” Many residents left public comment voice messages in support of the resolution.

“We at this table and in our community did not create this system, but many of us have benefited from it, while others have suffered, and we have a choice now. We can let it persist, or we can take action and do the work to bring us closer to being the city and the nation that we aspire to be,” DuBuc said. “Like the millions of other voices across the country … I’m outraged and anguished by the onslaught of the unjust results from systemic racism oppressing our community and nation.”

He said the resolution is not only in response to the murders of black individuals, but also about addressing the conditions that “force us to keep reliving these tragedies over and over and over again.”

“(This) is a demand that we finally reconcile with our deep-seated racism that has its roots in the birth of the country and has been passed from generation to generation to generation and reinforced and exacerbated by public policy and socioeconomic systems deliberately crafted to maintain a status quo of segregation and white supremacy,” DuBuc said.

The resolution resolves that the city of Royal Oak “stands in solidarity with the millions of individuals and conscientious organizations across the nation demanding justice for George Floyd and meaningful action to address structural inequality and racism”; “supports and encourages those lifting their voices in peaceful protest”; and “pledges itself to growing stronger as a community by being proactive in seeking to heal the racial scars we have inherited and taking action toward real systemic change.”

To view the full resolution, visit romi.gov and search for “Resolution Demanding Justice for George Floyd.”

Royal Oak Mayor Michael Fournier thanked DuBuc for authoring the resolution and applauded his efforts.

“Now is not the time for ambiguous or superfluous statements, but rather meaningful words coming from this body to do our part to let our people know and everybody around us know what we stand for and what we value and what we intend and plan to do related to systemic racism and the consequences that have endured in our nation for way too long,” Fournier said.

DuBuc also requested that the City Commission discuss establishing a human rights commission, with the support of Commissioner Melanie Macey and Commissioner Sharlan Douglas.

“The idea of a human rights commission has been kind of a long time coming,” DuBuc said. “I know there’s several examples from other cities of successful commissions that don’t just serve as a sounding board for concerns and complaints, but really a place to bring new ideas to break down systemic barriers and identify institutional bias and resolve it, so we can continue pursuing (to be) a better and more inclusive city.”

City Manager Paul Brake, who recently served as the city manager of Morgantown, West Virginia, which had its own human rights commission, said the advisory group worked closely with his office.

He said the commission not only developed a nondiscrimination ordinance, but it implemented investigation procedures to remedy injustices.

“The group functioned very well in Morgantown,” Brake said. “Generally, this group was focused on employment, housing and public-service sort of issues.”

Douglas said she would like to hold a town hall to solicit community input before forming a committee to ensure the city meets its challenges and serves the needs of all of its residents.

“I’m also sensitive to some things a couple of people mentioned. One is that people of color find themselves overburdened being the participants in town halls like this, and we need to strike a balance between seeking their input and yet not putting the burden of this on their shoulders,” she said. “I think a town hall, a kind of public convening, would help us start to flesh out those ideas and identify leaders and identify the people that need to be involved in a solution.”

DuBuc agreed that a town hall would be appropriate, but he still felt the city should ask staff to identify some of the best models in the country and bring forward recommendations for the City Commission to consider for implementation in the near future.

“In terms of a town hall, I don’t think that needs to be preliminary to starting the work to put the framework together,” Mayor Pro Tem Patricia Paruch said. “I hope you all reach out to major institutions like (Oakland Community College), as well as Beaumont Hospital and perhaps some of the other larger institutions in town, the downtown business group and so on, just to get their thoughts on what policies or programs have worked for them.”

She volunteered to research and assist in providing recommendations to the city.

“We look forward to seeing what staff comes back with,” Fournier said. “This is something I think we can start with a piece of clay and mold it over time. It’s better to be roughly right than exactly late, and we’ll learn along the way, too.”

Advertisement