Newly-reconstituted Human Rights Commission To Comb Crawfordsville Laws

Jan 18, 2017

Credit J. Stephen Conn

The newly-reformed Crawfordsville Commission on Human Rights is looking to tackle what the city says is a growing number of issues concerning diversity in the Montgomery County community.

The 12-person commission is intended to serve as an advising body to the mayor and city council on affairs concerning diversity and human rights in the community. The commission was officially created in 1979 but involvement had lapsed in recent years.

The first order of business for the reconstituted group—which held its first meeting in recent memory Tuesday—will be to comb through the city’s laws, looking to see if any current ordinances could be updated to reflect the growing diversity of the city and changing attitudes about sexual orientation, says mayor Todd Barton.

“Even the ordinance that creates this very commission was created in 1979 and updated in the early nineties,” Barton says. “A lot of things have changed. You don’t typically see sexual orientation in these kinds of ordinances, so this group needs to come back and talk about that see if that’s something they want to pass on to the city council and recommend changes there.”

Commission member Dell Wilson says she hopes to take up issues on discrimination based on disability status, particularly in housing.

“Those persons are oftentimes set aside or kicked to the curb,” she says. “And oftentimes the people—meaning the property owners of the apartment complexes—do not want certain types of people in their living establishment.”

Wilson says she has sometimes felt separated from the community since she moved to Crawfordsville more than a decade ago—she described needed to travel to Indianapolis to find stockings that matched her skin tone.

Mayor Barton had earlier expressed concerns about the lack of diversity in commission applicants. Wilson—herself one of two black women on the commission—wishes there were more diversity within the body.

“I think that we could have had more persons of color, particularly more men, because it’s a lot of women here,” she says. Wilson wonders if the commission’s call for people was well-enough advertised to reach a diverse audience .

Chairman Ethan Hollander says the final makeup of the body is indeed majority white.

“I think the members of the commission certainly are representative of the city as a whole,” says Hollander. “The city itself isn’t as diverse as we would like, but that’s just a function of demographics.”

Nine out of ten Crawfordsville residents are white.

Hollander says he hopes the commission will make the city a more welcoming place for people of color.

No money is allocated to the commission, but Hollander says he doesn’t see that as an issue, since the group’s purpose is purely advisory.