PITTSBURG, Kan.–It was a full house at the Pittsburg Law Enforcement Center as community members pushed to make their voices heard by the city commission.
After mayor Patrick O’Bryan led the room with the Pledge of Allegiance, the floor was open to the public to approach the council with input on what’s going on in their corner of the Sunflower State. Several community members stepped up to the podium to push for the commission to implement an anti-discriminatory ordinance, which would ensure protection from unfair treatment based on an individual’s:
- sexual orientation
- national origin or ancestry
- gender identity
- military status
- genetic information
- marital status
- familial status
Many are wondering why the city needs an ordinance like this to begin with. Doesn’t the Constitution already protect individuals from discrimination? Well, yes and no. The Civil Rights Act of 1964 took monumental strides for marginalized groups — specifically women and people of color. However, the law only protects people from discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. Advocates argue that the ordinance would at least provide protection for veterans, members of the LGBTQ+ community, and people with disabilities from unfair treatment at a local level.
City leaders are anticipated to bring the issue to a council agenda in December, with City Manager Daron Hall agreeing that the ordinance would provide support for all members of the community and keep Pittsburg a safe place for people to call home. Other communities in Kansas including Overland Park and Shawnee have implemented similar ordinances, but Hall along with the commission agreed that passing the ordinance would overall take collaboration between the city and the community to get where they want to be. You can read more about the ordinance here.
Following the ordinance discussion, the commission passed ordinance G-1300 that addresses city regulations on the use of dockless vehicles within city limits — specifically, motor scooters. The city has been meeting with scooter vendors for several months now, looking to boost city tourism and alleviate downtown parking issues, but the commission argued that rules needed to be set before the scooters rolled into town. The ordinance requires these vendors to obtain a special permit in order to operate in the city. City leaders say that although they are implementing this ordinance now, the policies can be changed to better fit the needs of the city in the future.
The last hot topic of the commission meeting, although not on the agenda. zoomed in on last week’s election of new city commissioners, along with the residing commission’s annual performance evaluation of the city manager. Commissioners have discussed when the new city commission should start their terms, with options ranging from immediately, to late December, to the first city commission meeting of the calendar year.
The new commission will consist of residing commissioner Chuck Munsell along with two new faces — Cheryl Brooks and Larry Fields, but there is still a discussion to be had on when the commission will begin their terms.
As for the commission evaluating the city manager in their annual reports, commissioner Chuck Munsell expressed his frustration with how the city has scheduled the evaluation — which would have happened later that night in a closed session. According to Munsell, the performance evaluation didn’t get added to Tuesday night’s agenda until earlier that afternoon, which didn’t give him time to prepare for the evaluation meeting. However, he focused on what seemed to be a much larger issue at-hand.
“I think the election showed that the citizens are concerned with the lack of transparency,” Munsell explained in the meeting. “I just think it’s highly unethical.”
As we inch closer to the new year, it could be interesting to see what commissioners have up their sleeves for the final weeks of this term. The next city commission meeting is scheduled for Tuesday, November 26, inside the courtroom at the Pittsburg Law Enforcement Center.