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Akron City Council Considers an Anti-Discrimination Law and Civil Rights Commission

photo of Akron City Council
Akron City Council Chambers

Akron could soon have an anti-discrimination law and civil rights commission.   

Ellen Lander-Nischt
Credit Tim Rudell / WKSU
Ellen Lander-Nischt, Assistant Law Director and Mayor's spokesperson

Mayor Dan Horrican and City Councilman Rick Swirsky introduced an ordinance, which would ban discrimination and establish the commission.

Assistant Law Director Ellen Lander-Nischt says the legislation augments federal and state anti-discrimination protections. It specifies coverage for gender -identity, national origin and other non-traditional discrimination cases.  And it makes it easier to seek a hearing of grievances.

“The goal in enacting this was to provide a local for forum for basically for hearing those complaints.  We expect it will be faster than going to the Ohio Civil Rights Commissioner or the EEO.”

Lander-Nischt says the Akron civil rights commission will be truly “of the city.”

“It’ll have five regular members and up to two alternates. They’ll be appointed by the mayor and approved by City Council.  They have to be Akron residents.  That is something the mayor felt strongly about. They represent the city, and, they’ll be coming from diverse backgrounds to, obviously, represent the diversity of the city.”

The proposed ordinance was brought before a special City Council committee before Monday’s regular council meeting. Member-at-large Linda Omobien asked why it was coming from just the mayor and one councilman.

“I only raise this question, Mayor, because I think there are a number of individuals who sit around this horseshoe who would have loved to have been a part of this discussion.”

Horrigan's chief of staff, James Hardy, replied.

“Interested parties and stakeholders, including every member of council should have, and I believe did, receive an open invitation not only to attend the committee meetings that have going on for a year, but also to a one-on-one consultation.”

The Akron ordinance would cover discrimination in housing, employment, public accommodations —including places of business, entertainment venues and parks — and city contracts.  City Council is expected to vote on it next week.