Murray Human Rights Commission aims to revise ordinance

Olivia Medovich
Staff writer

The City of Murray Human Rights Commission and community members deliberated revising the city’s human rights ordinance on Monday at the Robert O. Conference Center.

The commission uses its annual breakfast to engage community members in discussions on human rights issues in the community.

The human rights ordinance outlines the commission’s responsibilities and objectives.

The commission is working with the Kentucky Commission on Human Rights and other similar municipal ordinances to revise Murray’s statute, which has not been changed since Aug. 31, 1978.

The Human Rights commission’s purpose is to promote and secure mutual understanding and respect among all economic, social, religious, age-related, ethic and racial groups in the city, and act as conciliator in controversies involving intergroup and interracial relations.

The members of the commission are Mayor Bill Wells, Linda Cherry, retired public school teacher and city council member, Jim Frank, president-elect of retired teachers committee, Tung Dinh, owner of Quest Fitness Center and Connie Payne, Calloway County alternative school principal.

Other members include Peggy Pitman-Munke, director of the social work program, Jody Cofer, academic program specialists and vice president of academic affairs and Brian Clardy, president of Black Student Council who are also members of the Murray State’s President’s Commission on Diversity and Inclusion.

Directly after the breakfast former chair of the commission, Sidney G. Carthell handed the mayor a letter of resignation effective immediately.

Carthell did not give a reason for resigning from the commission.

Clardy said amending the city’s human right’s mandate is a welcome change.

“There has been a whole of changes in the nation and the state and the world and definitely in the city of Murray,” he said. “How best do we bring the ordinance up to where we are? How do we bring it up to the point where we are addressing issues that weren’t necessarily issues in 1978? I see a lot of great opportunities for partnerships.”

Members of the commission also agreed they would like to have a designated student representative from the University attend their meetings.

Some of the lecture attendees included Mark Welch, director of community relations and public information, Bonnie Higginson, provost, Don Robertson, vice president of student affairs and Rev. Matthew Bradley, priest at St. Johns Episcopal Church.

Wells said the open conversation with the community will help further the improvement of the statute.

“We have turned a corner when it comes to the human rights for all citizens,” Wells said. “We are a historical city that has been modernized.”

Attendees expressed their concerns with bullying in the Calloway County Public Schools and the number of homeless people in Murray.

Pitman-Munke said there are parents driving their children to school so they do not have to worry about being bullied.

“I have seen quite a lot of bullying the school bus,” she said. “Apparently, nothing is happening to the bullies.”

She said there should be a zero tolerance policy for bullying implemented in the public schools.

One child being bullied in school is one too many, Wells said.

Bradley said there is a lack of someone to coordinate the resources that are available in this community for organizations to help the homeless and little help for homeless people who do not have children.

“I think it’s on of the needs that gets over looked in our community,” he said. “Until you are dealing with folks one on one who are dealing with the issue, it can be invisible.”

Monday evening the commission met for their regular meeting to further the discussion on the issues mentioned at the breakfast.

Jennifer Wilson, director of the Red Cross in Murray, attended the commissions meeting to discuss a partnership to help people affected by disaster in the community.

The council also discussed the possibility of having Tonia Casey, director of Needline, the local food bank, attend the next meeting to get a better understanding of the homeless population in Murray and what can be done to help.

Cofer said after the Human Rights Commission revises the mandate the Mayor will then take them to be approved by city council.

“The commission has got to put together some recommendations for the city rights ordinance,” he said. “I do want us to make our recommendations this year. Its just time and you have a mayor who wants to take it up.”