Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Council committee picks fairness ordinances for city attorney to choose from in drafting one for Midway

By Anthony Pendleton
University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Telecommunications
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A Midway City Council committee will have City Attorney Phil Moloney compare different versions of a fairness ordinance, which prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity, to help decide what to include in the city's version.

The Finance, Ordinance and Policy Committee met Monday to discuss differences between fairness ordinances from Morehead and Danville, a "model ordinance" from the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights, and a fairness ordinance that failed at the Berea City Council on a 5-3 vote.

Toward the end of the meeting, the committee dropped Berea's version of the ordinance. "I think the Berea one is out because it's never been tested," Roller said. Asked after the meeting why the committee chose ordinances from Morehead and Danville, as opposed to Lexington, Roller said those cities are similar "culturally and in size" to Midway.

The Versailles-Midway-Woodford County Human Rights Commission proposed a countywide ordinance, by way of revising the interlocal agreement that created the commission. Committee and Council Member Sarah Hicks wanted to use that document as the basis for Midway’s ordinance.

Mayor Grayson Vandegrift said that in his discussion with Versailles Mayor Brian Traugott and County judge-Executive John Coyle, “It was in everyone's opinion there, that even the lawyers would agree, that's not the way to do it. That it should be done municipality by municipality . . . If we end up having three of them, we could amend them, like we did with the smoking ordinance, so they all kind of fit."

Committee chair Daniel Roller said the interlocal agreement should not be part of the process. "You're mixing ordinances and interlocal agreements," he told Hicks.

Roller took a moment to clarify what he thinks the ordinance is supposed to be about. "There was an article in the paper that referred to this as, I think they called it the ‘gay ordinance.’ This ordinance, the fairness ordinance, is much, much broader. I mean that’s sort of like saying civil rights only apply to black people. Civil rights applies to all these different groups. It's not giving a privilege to one, but it's treating all people the same." Roller was referring to a story in The Woodford Sun on March 12, which called it a “gay rights ordinance.”

Roller said he also wanted to make sure that people who oppose the ordinance would still feel welcome in Midway. He said that can be achieved with an “obstruction and retaliation” provision, which is included in the state’s model and the Danville ordinance. “I think that is really important,” he said. “That was one of the things that I think will assure people that we're not trying to do something to people who don't think they automatically fall under one of these groups.”

Council and Committee Member Bruce Southworth voiced concerns over the state model ordinance. "This one is cumbersome . . . and on top of that, it's setting up a human rights commission, which we already have." He asked, "Why do we have to reinvent the wheel when we can have Phil go through this and make this what we want?"

As the committee attempted to go through each ordinance, Vandegrift seemed to share Southworth's view, saying, "I don't know that it's really your responsibility to write it line-by-line . . . It would be a little unprecedented, I think, for you all to write this ordinance this way." He suggested that the committee turn over the responsibility of writing the ordinance to Moloney.

Southworth and Hicks agreed, but Roller was initially a bit reluctant, saying, “If you’re interested in streamlining, let the lawyer do it all.” He said the committee needs to tell Moloney what it wants. “We’re the legislators and we have to come up with the material.”

Hicks asked when the committee would “start the hammering-out process. We’re meandering around it now.”

After more discussion, including at stab at writing definitions of key terms, Vandegrift said, “I don’t know that it’s really your responsibility to write it line by line. . . . I would give Phil, 'This is what the ordinance should say, this is what we're talking about,' and then it comes back to you all then you all can kind of go through it and say, 'Well I don't like that, let's strike that, let's change it to that.'"

The committee agreed, and decided to give Moloney the fairness ordinances from Danville, Morehead, and Midway's 1997 Fair Housing and Discrimination Ordinance as guidelines.

Vandegrift, who spent two years on the council before becoming mayor at the start of the year, said he commended the committee’s attention to detail, because “Too many lawmakers don’t even read the laws that they’re voting on.”

1 comment:

Midwegian said...

Kudos to Grayson and the council. Kudos to Midway Messenger for sending us these highly informative updates.