Mayor Reiterates City's Protections for Transgender and Jewish People

Wednesday, March 1, 2017, 7:25 am
By: 
Alice Dreger

Above: Ron Bacon (left) being recognized by Shelli Neumann at Council for his service on the Human Relations Commission.

At City Council last night, East Lansing Mayor Mark Meadows reiterated the City’s civil rights policy and said that the City of East Lansing will not tolerate the kind of harassment discrimination that is being seen around the nation targeting transgender people and Jewish people.

Meadows referred to the City’s “Human Relations” code, noting that it states that it is “contrary to the public policy of the City of East Lansing for any person to deny any other person the enjoyment of his/her civil rights or for any person to discriminate against any other person in the exercise of his/her civil rights or to harass any person because of religion, race, color, national origin, age, height, weight, disability, sex, marital status, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, student status, or because of the use by an individual of adaptive devices or aids.”

Meadows noted that “gender identity or expression” is defined as “a person’s actual or perceived gender, including a person’s self-image, appearance, expression, or behavior, whether or not that self-image, appearance, expression, or behavior is different from that traditionally associated with the person’s biological sex as assigned at birth.”

Harassment, he noted, is defined in the code as “conduct or communication [which] demeans or dehumanizes and has the purpose or effect of substantially interfering with an individual’s employment, public accommodations or public services, education, or housing.”

Meadows said that “notwithstanding any executive order” from President Donald Trump, the City’s civil rights policy disallows an individual from behaving in such a way as “to harass or prevent someone from using whatever public facility is available.” Meadows said this applied throughout the City, including in facilities belonging to the East Lansing Public Schools and Michigan State University.

Meadows also said that “there will be no toleration of anti-Semitic activity within the borders of East Lansing.” He spoke briefly about desecration of Jewish cemeteries as an example of the kinds of discrimination he is concerned about, although he noted there are no Jewish cemeteries in East Lansing.

Shortly after Meadows’ remarks, various members of City staff formally recognized members of City boards and commissions whose terms expired last year and who have served at least two full terms on a board or commission. These included Ron Bacon who was recognized by Human Resources Director Shelli Neumann for his two terms of service on the Human Relations Commission (HRC), including as Chair during his last year. The HRC “protects and promotes human dignity and respect for the rights of all individuals and groups,” according to the City website.

Neumann told Council that “the East Lansing community has been fortunate to have Ron Bacon as a civil rights advocate.” She praised Bacon, noting that he “addressed various citizen civil rights complaints….regarding issues such as fair housing and public accommodation,” doing so “with sensitivity and respect.” She added, “Ron’s sense of fairness and his strong belief in protecting the rights of all individuals and groups was an asset to the HRC.”

In brief remarks, Bacon thanked the community for giving him an opportunity to serve, and said service in various public service capacities had taught him that you often have to find ways to “do a lot with very little.”

Other long-serving community members recognized for their service included Dorothea Fields for her service on the Arts Commission, Marcia Horan and Dorinda VanKempen for their service on the Commission on the Environment, Michael Townley for his service on the Parks & Recreation Advisory Commission, Julie Jones-Fisk for her service on the Planning Commission, and Donna Costantino and Alice Martin for their service on the Seniors’ Commission.

At the meeting, East Lansing Police Chief Jeff Murphy was also recognized for thirty years of service. This recognition was officially made by former East Lansing mayor and current State Representative Sam Singh and caught Murphy completely by surprise. He did not realize until the honor was bestowed on him that his family members, including his parents, were in attendance in the room.

Singh specifically praised Murphy for working on police-community relations. ELi previously reported on Murphy’s work with the Human Relations Commission with regard to complaints made against police officers. Murphy became East Lansing's Chief of Police last year, having risen through the ranks of the Department.

Below: Chief Murphy being reocgnized by Representative Singh while City Attorney Tom Yeadon and City Manager George Lahanas applaud.