La Crosse group aims at ending discrimination within city

Members of the Human Rights Commission were appointed by the mayor

Racial inequality has been a major talking point across the country in recent months.    

Now a group of La Crosse residents is gathering to find a solution to the problem within their city.

Members of the Human Rights Commission were appointed by the mayor and Tuesday night they met for the first time to try to find a solution.

For many years, La Crosse had the Equal Opportunities Commission, but after protests and violence following the shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, La Crosse Mayor Tim Kabat wanted to address discrimination in his city.

The Equal Opportunities Commission was revamped to become the Human Rights Commission — a diverse group dedicated to making La Crosse a better place for everyone.

The seven people on the Human Rights Commission represent the diversity within the city of La Crosse. Each person is very different from the person to their left or right. And those differences are what make this group feel it can be successful in ending discrimination in La Crosse.

“You get more perspective and everybody’s perspective is important to be heard,” said Shaundel Spivey, a member of the commission.

Spivey is a grad student at UW-La Crosse. He led a Black Lives Matter protest from campus to the La Crosse Police Department in November.

Spivey said the Human Rights Commission will be a resource for La Crosse residents who feel they have been discriminated against.

This is something he feels La Crosse hasn’t had in the past.

“We’re able to face issues of discrimination head on and be a little bit more proactive about it,” Spivey said.

Fabio Burgos was a member of the Equal Opportunities Commission for about a decade. He says that committee was focused mostly on fair housing in La Crosse, but the Human Rights Commission is able to address more areas of discrimination.

“Now the commission has the ability to address basically discrimination in all its forms in the city,” Burgos said.

Burgos said there are some discrimination issues within La Crosse that the committee will focus on.

“I think for a city its size the workforce in the city of La Crosse is probably not as diverse as it should be,” Burgos said.

But the main goal for this group is education and awareness.

“It also allows us to have tough conversations amongst ourselves, and then be more proactive in how we come up with solutions for our community,” Spivey said.

One specific area the Human Rights Commission will be looking at is the hiring process at City Hall. On Tuesday night Kabat said the department heads in the city are “pretty pale and pretty male.” The city’s human resources director said one of the reasons is because the city isn’t receiving applications from other demographics. The commission wants to identify why that is.

The group will meet again in early April at La Crosse City Hall.