City Commission to discuss possible nondiscrimination resolution

City Commissioners will discuss a draft resolution pertaining to nondiscrimination and inclusivity during their Nov. 17 work session at 5:30 p.m.

Commissioners last discussed nondiscrimination in September when they held a three-hour special work session on a proposed nondiscrimination ordinance that they opted not to pursue.

The next morning, Commissioner Mary Moe sent an email to fellow commissioners with draft resolutions attached.

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In her email, Moe said she wanted to get to work right away. Staff told The Electric this week that COVID-19 and other scheduling issues delayed getting the item on a work session agenda.

Since it’s a work session, no formal action will be taken on any draft resolution, but typically during work sessions, staff can give staff guidance on whether they want to move forward with a resolution and bring it to a regular meeting for a vote.

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In her email, Moe wrote, “I am not sure about what is the best way to advance this, but I am attaching a draft resolution that would accomplish something really substantive in addressing the concerns we heard last
night. I think we could do something that really moves the needle in terms of public understanding, tolerance, and commitment to eliminating bias, and I am excited about that possibility.”

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In City Attorney Sara Sexe’s draft of a resolution, she writes: “Whereas, despite Constitutional and statutory guarantees and prohibitions, the history of our nation, our state, and our community has been marred by lost lives, lost potential and lost hope because of discrimination based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin or other protected classes; whereas, although the redress for victims of discrimination provided by the Montana Human Rights Commission and the United States Office of Civil Rights provide the most substantial and expedient remedies for such victims, cities still have a role to play in promoting inclusiveness, celebrating diversity, and condemning discrimination and harassment; and whereas, the City of Great Falls aspires to promote and maintain inclusivity and nondiscrimination in its policies, practices and opportunities and seeks civility, a culture of equity and fairness to all; now, therefore, be it resolved by the City Commission of the City of Great Falls, Montana:

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  • That the City of Great Falls encourages inclusively, values diversity and believes that everyone in the community deserves dignity, respect and equality;
  • That the City recognizes and upholds the intrinsic value of every citizen;
  • That the City abhors and will not tolerate discrimination, harassment, or denial of equal rights and privileges, based on race, color, religion, sex, age, national origin, and other classifications which are protected by federal and state law;
  • That the City will take all steps to support, and operate with, principles of equality, dignity, respect and tolerance, so that all City citizens enjoy the equal rights, privileges and opportunities that are guaranteed by the United States and Montana Constitutions and federal and state laws.”

Moe suggests in her draft that the city develop a policy applicable to all city departments and agencies prohibiting discrimination and harassment based on race, color, religion, sex, age or national origin.

The city has nondiscrimination policies in regards to employment and the housing programs administered by the Great Falls Housing Authority. Those are in line with existing state and federal laws.

The city employs a fair housing specialist to provide assistance to landlords, tenants and any other interested individuals. Services are provided at no cost to citizens.

The city’s personnel policy manual states, “the City of Great Falls provides an equal employment opportunity to all persons regardless of race, color, religion, sex, political belief, national origin, age, physical or mental ability, marital status or other characteristic protected by law.”

The personnel policy also incudes language that “prohibits sexual, ethnic, racial or religious harassment and other
unlawful harassment of employees, applicants for employment, or members of public. The workplace and all city functions should be free from intimidation, harassment, and other inappropriate behaviors. The city is committed to providing a work environment free from sexual discrimination and sexual harassment. The city does not condone or permit sexual harassment by or of employees. This includes sexual harassment by or toward co-workers, business contacts, or members of the public.”