We have received a copy of a letter sent by Chamber President Amanda Witt to Mayor Kim Adkins regarding the proposed Human Rights and Relations Commission:
Dear Mayor Adkins and Members of Martinsville City Council:
As Council is aware, the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce, Inc. is a private, non-stock, not-for-profit corporation, controlled by its approximately 630 members and managed by an elected board of directors. The Chamber plays a vital role in promoting business and economic growth and development in our community.
The recent publicity about City Council’s consideration of the creation of a Martinsville Human Rights and Relations Commission has resulted in many requests by members and board directors that the Chamber take a position on the matter of the Human Rights and Relations Commission. Based upon the level of concern voiced by Chamber members and directors, the Chamber’s executive board put the question to the full board with four choices. The choices were to (a) oppose the creation of the Commission in any form; (b) support the creation of the Commission “as is”; (c) support the creation of the Commission if the Resolution Committee is removed; or (d) take no position at all. Ninety-four percent of board members responded, which is a very high rate of response given the short notice. Of those responding, 100% opposed the creation of the Human Rights and Relations Commission. Only one person voted that if the Resolution Committee was abolished the Commission would be supported.
Based upon the clear and overwhelming vote of the full board of directors, I am directed by the executive committee of the Chamber to advise City Council that the Martinsville-Henry County Chamber of Commerce strongly opposes the creation of the proposed Human Rights and Relations Commission with or without a resolution process.
I have also been directed by the executive committee to share with Council the feedback the Chamber has received from members and board directors. The feedback is generally summarized as follows:
1. While the Chamber supports initiatives which promote and foster good relations among all segments of our society, the proposed Human Relations Commission being considered by City Council is unnecessary and redundant since the Virginia Human Rights Act has already created a state-wide Human Rights Council which has authority to hear and investigate complaints anywhere in the Commonwealth. Since tax payers are already paying for a state-wide Human Relations Council, which is available to all citizens, the Chamber opposes the added expense to tax payers of an unnecessary local human rights commission.
2. The Chamber is opposed to an expansion of the City bureaucracy and diversion of city resources away from the delivery of vital services. Just as the proliferation of needless and oppressive regulations and bureaucracy in this country has created an unfavorable economic environment resulting in huge loss of jobs, so will the creation by City Council of yet another layer of bureaucracy, red tape and regulations negatively impact the climate for economic growth in the City.
3. There has been no showing that there is a need for a local commission which need is already not being filled by the State Human Rights and Relations Council, the EEOC, the Americans with Disabilities Act in all of the state and federal machinery prohibiting discrimination.
Based on the foregoing the Martinsville and Henry County Chamber of Commerce opposes the creation of the Martinsville Human Rights and Relations Commission with or without resolution prOVisions. Let it be clearly noted, however, that the Chamber and its members fully support and abide by the laws of the Commonwealth of Virginia and the United States which plainly and clearly prohibit discrimination on the grounds of race, creed, color, age, sex, political affiliation, disabilities, religion or any other prohibited grounds.
Very Truly Yours,
Amanda C. Witt
Mayor Adkins has sent this response:
Statement on the M-HC Chamber of Commerce’s Position on the Proposed Formation of Human Rights and Relations Commission
As the former President of the Chamber of Commerce, I wholeheartedly respect the Chamber’s position and recognize that the Chamber’s board of directors would not have taken this position unless they were confident that the majority of their membership thought this Commission would have a negative impact on maintaining a positive business climate in Martinsville. While I respect this position, I do not necessarily agree with it. Areas of the Commonwealth and in other areas of the country are experiencing economic growth with commissions of this type in place, so the position that it would “negatively impact the climate for economic growth in the City,” may not be necessarily true. Other factors outside of the control of the city have contributed to perpetually high unemployment and growing levels of poverty. I remain committed to the support of our EDC and infrastructure investments for job creation and retention. I further support an inclusive community working together to move our community toward economic recovery.
I favor growth, entrepreneurship, enterprise and wealth creation, but also favor greater social justice and government playing a role in bringing about this. For example, City Council has adopted among one of our strategic priorities a goal to be a more inclusive community. Because of this, I supported the proposed direction of forming a Human Relations Commission after many of months of meeting with a City-Council-appointed advisory committee, who explored what may be considered for our city.
The Chamber’s position reaffirms that those in opposition of this Commission are concerned primarily with the resolution committee, which is a small portion of the Commission’s role. The Chamber’s position statement of supporting “initiatives which promote and foster good relations among all segments of our society,” is the primary purpose of the formation of the Commission. This component is being lost.
At the next City Council meeting, I hope that the community will come to a solution that supports the intent of the formation of a human relations entity, which is primarily as the Chamber stated to “promote and foster good relations among all segments of our city.”