May 1, 2013 at 9:49 am
SAUK RAPIDS, Minn. (KNSI) - Leaders from area cities gathered together to talk about past projects, future plans and human rights the annual Joint Cities Meeting.
The gathering, hosted at the Sauk Rapids Government Center, brought in keynote speaker Kevin Lindsey, who has been the Commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Human Rights since 2011.
Lindsey, an attorney and expert on human rights issues, was on hand to describe the work of the Human Rights Commission locally on the heels of St. Cloud mayor Dave Kleis' offer for area cities to join the Regional Human Rights Office for free for the next two and a half years.
Lindsey says one of the key roles of the office is to field complaints and see if those disputes - many which deal with workplace complaints related to discrimination based on age, race, gender or disability - can be handled through dialogue before heading to a courtroom.
"There are a variety of times where disputes in our society end up in front of a judge - but they don't have to," Lindsey explains. "You can bring people to the table, talk, and come to a successful resolution to a problem. When we think about the Civil Rights movement, and the work of Dr. King and other leaders, they accomplished a lot by bringing people to the table and coming to a compromise. So we're bascially taking a tool out of the toolbox of the past."
Lindsey says the St. Cloud area faces many of the same challenges the twin cities area does, and a local human rights office is crucial to helping central Minnesotans resolve their problems faster. He calls a Human Rights Office a tool for "strengthening democracy."
"When we talk about how our government works, human rights goes to the core," he says. "When we start talking about why the country was formed, we talk about life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It really gets to the core of individuals being able to express themselves. "
Block Grant funds will be used to cover the cost of admittance to the Regional Human Rights office, and two representatives from each participating city will sit on a Human Rights board.
St. Cloud is currently the only city aligned with the office after St. Joseph pulled out a few months ago.
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