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| 2 min read | by Sean Dalton, sdalton@thesuntimesnews.com |

With the approval of the Chelsea Human Rights Commission’s 2020 plan by the city’s council, Chelsea residents can look forward to a continuation of the commission’s group discussions that are open to the public.

A community-wide Martin Luther King Day celebration including speakers, a march, and an unspecified show of community recognition in the form of a sign, luminary, and other public displays entered the planning phase this year for a 2021 launch.

Finally, the plan included the intent to celebrate 24 international students who are attending Chelsea High School this year by hosting a meet and greet for Chelsea area residents and visitors with the students to engage in discussion that is intended to foster greater cross-cultural understanding.

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HRC Chair Susan Morrel-Samuels thanked the commission for their hard work on their accomplishments in 2019, which were detailed in a 2019 annual summary report provided to the council alongside their 2020 plan.

“We don’t all hold the same viewpoints (which) I think enriches our conversations,” Morrel-Samuels said of the commission, adding that she feels that she leads a “strong group.”

In 2019 the commission held nearly a half dozen speaking events with guests including Chelsea Police Chief Ed Toth, Washtenaw County Equity Officer Alize Asberry, and Director of Programs for Outreach at the Michigan Association of Planning Wendy Rampson.

Morrel-Samuels added that she believes the commission will be able to source “partners and resources” in order to carry out much of what is proposed in the 2020 plan, acknowledging that many of the commission’s plans are contingent on the participation from other groups in Chelsea and throughout the county.

Although the city council approved the 2020 plan, there was some constructive feedback for the commission.

Mayor Melissa Johnson expressed a desire to have the international student recognition event have a broader focus than solely on the students, citing her family’s own exchange student experience as context.

“While I appreciate the idea of making more connections for (exchange students) I can see it also being overwhelming,” she said. “I’d rather see it a little broader than put the emphasis on the students alone. 

“We also have community members who are adults and not students who come from different cultures and countries and rather than having them focus exclusively on our students it might be interesting to broaden that out from our students to just an international day that might be better with our ordinance.”

Johnson also said she would have liked to see a tentative list of speakers and topics for 2020 included in the plan more in advance.

Councilmember Jane Pacheco commended the commission on their 2020 plan, as well as their resolution of support for HR5, which the council chose not to vote in favor of last month due to the submitted resolution language being perceived as an overstep of the Chelsea ordinance that constitutes and empowers the commission.

Councilmember Rick Catherman asked Morrel-Samuels if there was going to be a focus on LGBTQ issues in 2020, as he didn’t see anything specified in the 2020 plan.

Morrel-Samuels responded that LGBTQ would probably fall within the discussions on bullying and community diversity, which are tentative topics for 2020 speaking events.

Those following the commission’s work can also count on the commission participating in and reporting on a webinar put on by the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), which is a national network of local and regional governments working to achieve racial equity.

The commission also expressed intent to review all existing city policies and periodically report to the council with recommendations on “ways to improve city government programs and ordinances designed to eliminate discrimination or to remove effects of past discrimination.”

Johnson attempted to add friendly amendments to the approval resolution for the commission’s 2020 plan that would require them to come back to council with more details on the speaking events and a broadening of the international day for students, but Pacheco refused to agree to the friendly amendments being added to her motion.

Pacheco explained her decision by relating the situation with the commission’s plan to her work on the Chelsea Parks Commission, where plans are approved with vagueness and then fleshed out with details later on.

“I don’t see the need for a friendly amendment,” Pacheco said. “I think your comments were noted and taken favorably.”

Despite the disagreement over the initial level of detail, the commission’s 2020 plan was approved with unanimous support and the commission members will begin implementing the plan in the coming weeks and months.

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