March 5, 2008, 12:00 p.m.
Human Relations Commission
City Commission Room, Fargo City Hall
1. Welcome and Introductions
2. Approval of Agenda
3. Approval of February 6th Minutes
5. Presentation: Amy Nelson, Fair Housing of the Dakotas (Update on
Housing Discrimination in Fargo)
6. FHRC Activities Plan
a. Goal 1: Public inquiries and discrimination complaints
b. Goal 2: Know Your Rights Initiative
c. Goal 3: Acceptance and respect for diversity efforts
d. Goal 4: Budgeting/Sponsorships
7. Funding Requests- “American Herro” movie, Woodlands and High
Plains PowWow, ND Human Rights Coalition Annual Conference,
Metro Area Mayor’s Committee
8. Public Comment (12:15)
9. Other Business not Listed on the Agenda
Regular Meeting Minutes for March 5, 2008, 12:00 p.m.
City Commission Room, Fargo City Hall
Present: Fowzia Adde, Hatem Nour, Janeen Kobrinski, Joy Rice, Prairie Rose, Yoke Sim Gunaratne
Absent: Mitch Marr, Joshua Boschee
Chair Prairie Rose called the meeting to order.
Item 1. Welcome and Introductions
(12:00 p.m.) Introductions were made.
Item 2. Approval of Agenda
(12:02 p.m.) Janeen Kobrinsky made a motion to approve the agenda as presented. Second by Hatem Nour. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 3. Approval of February 6, 2008 Minutes
(12:05 p.m.) Yoke Sim Gunaratne asked that the minutes be amended. She stated paragraph two, page 2 should state “Ms. Gunaratne asked about the amount of the scholarships that were given out”. She also clarified the public speaker’s last name is spelled “Huynh” not “Won”. She then asked that paragraph six on page 3 be changed to read “Ms. Gunaratne questioned whether all police officers are aware of and are trained to know when an interpreter is needed from MIRC (Metro Interpretive Resource Center). Finally, she asked that paragraph nine, page 3 be replaced with “Ms. Gunaratne encouraged that a letter be written to UND Law School to resume support and accessibility for legal services. She also suggested going online to get a list of translators from the American Local Translation service.”
Ms. Gunaratne made a motion to approve the February 6, 2008 minutes with the above listed amendments. Second by Janeen Kobrinski. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 4. Announcements
(12:09 p.m.) Chair Prairie Rose tabled this item and moved to Item 7.
Item 7. Funding Requests
a. “American Herro” movie
(12:10 p.m.) Yoke Sim Gunaratne noted this request did not come through the Cultural Diversity Resource. She explained that “American Herro” is a documentary film about a refugee girl who became a graduate of ivy-league schools and worked in the Bush administration directly under Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice.
Chair Prairie Rose stated she is familiar with this project. She further explained that she is supportive of the project and stated the project is extremely significant to our community. However, she does not recommend funding the project at this time. She stated that the Commission review their funding parameters.
Hatem Nour reiterated that this project does not apply to the Commission’s objectives at this time.
Chair Prairie Rose announced that she will write a letter stating the Commission will not support this project, along with an explanation why.
Chair Prairie Rose then made a motion to not fund the “American Herro” movie. Second by Hatem Nour. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
b. Woodlands and High Plains PowWow
(12:17 p.m.) A letter was received from the Powwow Committee inviting the Commission to attend the 2008 Woodlands and High Plains Powwow to be held on Saturday, March 15, 2008 in the Memorial Auditorium at Concordia College. The Committee also expressed the opportunity for the HR Commission to support the event with a contribution.
Ms. Gunaratne stated the Commission should have a funding request form online.
Yoke Sim Gunaratne made a motion to fund $100 to the 2008 Woodlands and High Plains Powwow. Second by Hatem Nour. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
c. ND Human Rights Coalition Annual Conference
(12:21 p.m.) Chair Prairie Rose asked the Commission for approval to table this request until May.
Janeen Kobrinsky made a motion to table the Human Rights Coalition funding until May after the budget committee has a chance to meet. Second by Joy Rice. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
d. Metro Area Mayor’s Committee
(12:23 p.m.) The Metro Area Mayor’s Committee extended an invitation to the 50th Anniversary Celebration banquet being held on April 10, 2008 at the Ramada Plaza Suites from 11:45 a.m.-1:15 p.m. and asked for continued support.
Hatem Nour made a motion to fund $100 to the Metro Area Mayor’s Committee. Second by Joy Rice. All Members present voted aye and the motion was declared carried.
Item 8. Public Comment
(12:26 p.m.) Leon Francis, Fargo resident, spoke to the Commission regarding concerns he has about discrimination in Cass County. He stated it is great that Fargo-Moorhead has an organization that focuses on the positive progression of human rights and is to be commended. However, he feels there is a disconnect between the good hearted citizens and the agencies set-up to fight for injustices.
Mr. Francis stated he suffered a violation of his civil rights from Social Services and Police (Fargo and West Fargo). He said he had about five charges against him, all of which were dropped. He continued by saying that it pains him when discrimination complaints go unheard and families are demoralized. He feels that certain agencies can judge and punish with illicit responses, and that it needs to change.
Fowzia Adde mentioned that Mr. Francis speak with Nate Bailly. She stated the more the Commission knows of issues in the community, the more that can be done.
Chair Prairie Rose suggested the Commission can recommend an attorney or speak with the liaison officer. She also suggested Mr. Francis file a complaint with the Police Department and the Fargo and West Fargo School Districts.
Yoke Sim Gunaratne stated that Mr. Francis’ record should be purged if he was acquitted of all charges. She also mentioned that the Commission is working to get UND law students to help with these types of issues.
(12:40 p.m.) Melanie Foote, Fargo resident, spoke to the Commission because she feels her civil rights have been violated and feels she has been treated discriminatorily by Cass County Social Services. She stated she was evicted from her residence because her family is mixed race. She further explained that social workers then took her children because she was homeless, even though Fort Yates had housing for them. She said her son was arrested in a library, and is on Zoloft and sleeping meds. She stated she has been threatened and hasn’t seen her child in a month. According to Melanie, Dakota Boys Ranch (DBR), the facility her son is in, won’t allow him to pray in his own religion.
Chair Prairie Rose stated that Dakota Boys Ranch is a difficult organization because it is a catholic organization and has a long process. She said she will make a phone call to follow up with DBR.
Ms. Foote stated the only person that can handle their case is Marlene Sorum with Cass County Social Services.
Yoke Sim Gunaratne asked whether some social workers have such power that they cannot be touched. She stated people should not abuse their powers and that it is ok to let them know that they are being observed. She suggested the Human Relations Commission contact a representative from Cass County Social Services to educate the Commission about social rules and processes. Ms. Gunaratne asked who the Commission should be contacting. She said she would like to be educated on this.
Janeen Kobrinsky reaffirmed that it is really important for public speakers to talk openly about their issues.
Leon Francis concurred that social workers have an exaggerated view of their power.
Item 5. Presentation: Amy Nelson, Fair Housing of the Dakotas (Update on Housing Discrimination in Fargo)
(12:56 p.m.) Amy Nelson, Executive Director of Fair Housing of the Dakotas (FHD), thanked the Commission for the invitation to present the annual report for the 2007 fiscal year. She summarized the Fair Housing of the Dakotas mission and goals and stated that FHD is a nonprofit organization that works in both North and South Dakota. She clarified that the report outlines activities and accomplishments achieved throughout the year.
Ms. Nelson stated accomplishments are the result of funding through private funding and grants. She said the program works to eliminate housing discrimination and to ensure equal housing opportunities for all. According to Ms. Nelson, the FHD activities break into two main categories: 1) enforcement - which refers to receiving allegations, investigating those allegations, and closing or settling the allegations; and 2) education and outreach – which is needed to help potential victims identify discrimination and to help prevent housing providers so that they do not discriminate.
In summary, Ms. Nelson stated that 2007 was very successful. She said there were several significant cases in litigation and some pending cases will have a powerful impact in the community. Some of the trends she sees, however, are more calls on substandard housing, longer waiting lists for housing assistance, decreased housing for disabled individuals, and a statewide increase in domestic violence. She also added that, on the downside, FHD is the only nonprofit organization doing this type of service due to funding.
Item 6. FHRC Activities Plan
This item was tabled until the next Working Meeting.
Item 9. Other Business not Listed on the Agenda
No other business was presented.
Item 10. Adjourn
The time at adjournment was 1:15 p.m.