Applications are now being accepted for the new Civil Rights Board. The Board was created with the passage of updates to Chapter 18 of the City Code of Ordinances. Interested community members can apply to serve on the board here (click "Join this Board").
The Board consists of seven voting members, and two ex-officio members who will participate in the activities of the board but have no vote. Of the two non-voting members, one will be City Commissioner and one will be a City officer or employee.
The ordinance states, "Members appointed to the Board shall be residents of the City reflecting and representing the diversity of the Kalamazoo community and be able to demonstrate experience in civil rights, public accommodation, employment, disability or housing law. Members to the Board may be appointed who are not City residents, not to exceed two members, when there is a valid reason for such appointment, such as the member works in the City, or has special expertise to carry out the duties and responsibilities of the Board."
The initial appointments to the Board will consist of three members appointed for a three-year term, two members appointed for a two-year term and two members appointed for a one-year term. Members of the Board may serve up to two consecutive terms. Vacancies may be filled by the same appointment procedure for the remainder of an unexpired term.
The duties of the board include:
A. Foster mutual understanding and respect among the people in the City and discourage and prevent unlawful discriminatory practices toward the protected classes described in this Chapter.
B. Review claims of discrimination brought by residents of the City of Kalamazoo following investigation of the claim by the City Manager or the designee of the City Manager.
C. Review and analyze conditions, practices, attitudes, policies, and other factors within Kalamazoo that contribute to discriminatory impact and further inequities, as well has evaluate the impact of anti-discrimination efforts.
D. Make recommendations to the City Commission and City Manager on ways to improve City programs and ordinances to eliminate discrimination or remove effects of past discrimination.
E. Engage in public awareness-building activities to ensure residents are informed of increased local protections and the role of the Board, including issuing an annual report of the activity of the Board.
F. Engage with federal, state, and local agencies to assist in addressing issues of discrimination in the City.
G. The Board shall provide an annual report to the City Commission regarding complaints received and actions taken.
H. Establish bylaws and procedural rules for its meetings subject to approval by the City Commission.
About Chapter 18
On September 8, 2020, the Kalamazoo City Commission unanimously approved updates to the City Code of Ordinances related to discrimination and housing. The vote updates the existing civil rights ordinance in Chapter 18 and creates the new Chapter 18A to address fair housing. The vote was the result of a community effort that was championed by Vice Mayor Patrese Griffin with the support of community organizations and housing advocates, including Interfaith Strategy for Action and Advocacy in the Community (ISAAC) and Truth Racial Healing & Transformation (TRHT).
This update is the first significant ordinance change to address housing issues in Kalamazoo since gender identity and sexual orientation were added as local protections in 2009. The changes expand housing protections to include educational affiliation, source of income, status as a victim of domestic violence, personal identification method, and prior arrests or conviction record. The proposal also protects renters against predatory application fees and strengthens enforcement for gender identity and sexual orientation. To enforce new and existing provisions in Chapter 18, the ordinance creates a Civil Rights Board to review allegations and violations of the ordinance.
You can view the ordinances below: