Council committee approves six appointees to Commission on Civil Rights

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July 9, 2014
By: Sarah McKenzie
Sarah McKenzie

A City Council committee approved six appointments to the Minneapolis Commission on Civil Rights today.

A recruiting effort is underway to fill two remaining vacancies with North Minneapolis residents, said Toni Newborn, interim assistant director of the Civil Rights Department's Complaint Investigations Division.

The Civil Rights Department received 18 applications for the open seats on the commission, but no candidates from wards 4, 5 and 6, Newborn said.

The people approved to serve on the commission include six mayoral appointees who will serve four-year terms: Amy Bergquist (Ward 3), Thomas Gallagher (Ward 10), Mitra Nelson (Ward 1), Christine Peters (Ward 10), Michael Pfarr (Ward 8) and one City Council appointee who will serve a two-year term: Elizabeth Loeb (Ward 3).

The department has a goal of returning to the Council with candidates from North Minneapolis' wards 4 and 5 by the fall. 

Council President Barb Johnson (Ward 4) and Council Member Blong Yang (Ward 5), chair of the Council's Public Safety & Regulatory Services Committee, both raised concerns about the lack of North Side appointees.

Johnson said it's critical to have commissioners living in neighborhoods, such as ones in North Minneapolis where residents are living "practically under siege" from the threat of gun violence. "Everyone know what's good for us, but they are not living there," she said. 

City Council Member Cam Gordon (Ward 2) said he was "struck by the passion" of the candidates for the Commission on Civil Rights. He said it's time to strengthen the Council's relationship with the commission.

"Let's figure out how we can work more and better together," he said.

The full Council will consider the appointees at its July 18 meeting.

The 21-member Commission on Civil Rights is charged with implementing the city's civil rights policies through outreach, education, mediation, conciliation and enforcement, among other things.