By. Neil Williamson, President
An associate of mine asked the question posed in the headline regarding Charlottesville’s latest exploration into the potential expansion of local government.
In the academic/philosophical world the question is between the current checks and balances of government versus a new politically appointed human rights commission.
In the real world however, this associate warned, if you oppose the human rights commission you risk the public appearance that you oppose human rights.
Nothing could be further from the truth. Please let me explain.
Monday night (12/5) Charlottesville City Council will consider moving forward a Human Rights Commission concept brought forward by the “Dialog on Race”. This concept, which would require significant new empowerment by the state legislature and significant funding, is according to City Attorney Craig Brown’s memo:
The Proposal suggests that the Commission “would have the power to hold hearings, conduct investigations, issue reports, impose fines and remedies” (Proposal p. 3). The Commission’s enforcement duties would include “investigating complaints and bringing them to resolution through conciliation, hearings, findings and ordering remedies, such as back pay, job reinstatement, rental of an apartment or damages.” (Proposal p. 13) The Proposal also states that the City’s ordinance could include “a system of fines of up to $5,000.00 to be imposed for employers or landlords found to be out of compliance with
the local ordinance”. (Proposal p. 13)
The Free Enterprise Forum firmly believes in human rights. We firmly believe when employees and or tenants are treated in a fair and equitable manner both parties benefit. In addition, we steadfastly believe that any and all regulations should be considered and vetted by all those impacted by the proposed regulations. We are very concerned that, to our knowledge, despite months of “dialog” on these issues no one has proactively reached out to property owners and employers.
To suggest that employers and landlords feel “left out of the loop” is an understatement. While Mr. Brown’s memo outlining the next steps for the proposal was readily available on the City website, the actual proposal that drove the memo was not.
The Free Enterprise Forum has obtained the proposal (thanks to the City) and while we appreciate the Dialog on Race for reaching out to “several” community groups, we are surprised we are not aware of any direct interaction on this proposal with the Downtown Business Alliance, the Blue Ridge Apartment Council, or even the Charlottesville Regional Chamber of Commerce.
After reviewing all of the material readily available on this issue, the Free Enterprise Forum fears that moving forward with the politically appointed Human Rights Commission, based on its current construct and goals, will do more harm than good for City economic opportunities across all demographic cohorts.
While we remain very concerned with human rights, we are equally concerned that unnecessary red tape will push more businesses out of not only Charlottesville but the entire region.
If the region loses economic opportunities for the fear of over regulation, the region, and the residents of the region, lose.
We propose taking a step back and engaging ALL stakeholders in this discussion.
Neil Williamson, President
Neil Williamson is the President of The Free Enterprise Forum, a public policy organization covering the City of Charlottesville as well as Albemarle, Greene, Fluvanna, Louisa and Nelson County. For more information visit the website www.freeenterpriseforum.org