Human rights, city politics and broccoli (John Skipper column)

2013-08-04T23:54:00Z 2014-10-20T14:46:39Z Human rights, city politics and broccoli (John Skipper column) Mason City Globe Gazette
August 04, 2013 11:54 pm

Silly me.

A few years ago, when I decided to try to change my diet toward a more healthy one, I told my doctor my problem was that I didn’t like the foods that make me healthier.

He said, “It’s not that you don’t like other foods; you just prefer the ones you have been eating.”

He was right — and I’ve even reached the point now where I actually like broccoli.

On a governmental level, the Mason City Human Rights Commission needs to stop brooding about its change of diet and start eating the broccoli.

In March, the City Council stripped its budget from $143,000 to $15,000. That still puts it ahead of most cities comparable in size to Mason City — but it is a heck of a diet to have to go on. No one disputes that.

Some, including former director Lionel Foster whose job was eliminated because of the cuts, believe politics was the motive. Foster has also criticized the work of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission and its director, Beth Townsend.

City officials believe the state commission can handle local cases, just as it does for dozens of other cities across the state. Townsend told the Mason City Human Rights Commission earlier this year it can send all of its cases to Des Moines or send none.

“There’s no downside,” she said.

Whether the Mason City Council played politics with the budget cuts or made a wise budget decision depends on who you ask. But there’s little question as to who is playing politics now.

At its meeting Thursday, HRC Chairman Dean Genth told the commission he knew of three people planning to run for City Council seats because of the budget cuts. “And that’s good,” said Genth.

What Genth hardly mentioned in his report was work being done by the commission or any cases that have been brought to its attention. He talked about a letter he received that referred to one pending case.

 Foster, who was in the audience, once again criticized the work of the Iowa Civil Rights Commission.

The City Council action could have been the worst decision in council history — the worst in the history of mankind if you want to take it to extremes, as some would.

But the Iowa Civil Rights Commission is not poison. It’s a change of diet — maybe to something less preferred, but not necessarily bad.

Pass the broccoli, please.

Silly me.

- Reach John Skipper at 421-0537 or

Copyright 2015 Mason City Globe Gazette. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

(7) Comments

  1. rivercityfan
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    rivercityfan - August 07, 2013 10:55 am
    LOL! Jake sounds perklempt....
  2. rivercityfan
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    rivercityfan - August 07, 2013 10:52 am
    Human Rights cases don't start and end in MC or with Mr. Foster. A judge and the state makes the final decision after local review. Also HR isn't just about discrimination cases involving racial discrimination. To get and actual count of backlog one would have to consider all the frivolous cases presented for consideration. How many of those cross the desk of the HRC that waste their time? I'm still waiting to hear what the need for $150,000 budget is. Skipper, raw brocoli is best way.
  3. Todd Blodgett
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    Todd Blodgett - August 05, 2013 5:15 pm
    'Crystal,' maybe you and Beth Townsend have different definitions of "backlog". But it's my understanding that it's been completely eradicated. In any event, when Townsend took over in 2011, some cases were backlogged from way back to 2001 - which is unacceptable. The AVERAGE age of those backlogged cases was then 535 days! There are currently only a few cases filed in 2013 that haven't been resolved, and NO current case is more than 9-10 months old, the OLDEST having been filed in LATE 2012.
  4. Crystal S
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    Crystal S - August 05, 2013 3:02 pm
    Todd, the backlog at ICRC has never been zero, nor is there ever any likelihood that it will be zero as what is meant by backlog is that a case has been screened in for an investigation, but that has not been assigned an investigator. While there has been a dramatic decrease in the backlog, a large portion came from the executive director administratively closing dozens of backlog cases without investigations taking place. ICRC's monthly closure spreadsheet would provide the number of cases.
  5. Jake7777
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    Jake7777 - August 05, 2013 2:57 pm
    Yeah, everybody know the only reason the racist Mason City Council cut the funding for the HRC is because Lionel Foster is Black. That's the ONLY reason. If Foster was White, the City Council would probably have increased the HRC budget to $400,000 per year and given Foster a 100% pay raise, or so the Sharptons and the Jacksons of the world would have us believe.
  6. Todd Blodgett
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    Todd Blodgett - August 05, 2013 11:37 am
    The saddest thing about all this sniping is the HRC's clients are being shortchanged. MC's HRC has an avg backlog of 27 months on cases; Beth Townsend's office's backlog is ZERO. The best way for Mr. Genth and his cronies to prove that their theatrics aren't about power plays, and that they want to HELP Mason Cityans who need HR assistance, is to get with the program, and effectuate these procedural changes. Until then, these old diehards are like the racists who want to re-fight the Civil War.
  7. Todd Blodgett
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    Todd Blodgett - August 05, 2013 9:39 am
    Will Mr. Genth still think it's "good" when his favored Council candidates lose in LESS than 90 days? The staged theatrics of these sob sisters aren't going over well with most VOTERS. HRC clerk Amy Simpson was conveniently absent (while on the clock) when Genth asked Mr. Foster to answer some questions. It was as though 'The Price Is Right' came to MC, complete with a Bob Barker impersonator running the show, saying, "Lionel FOSTER! Come on DOWN!!" In politics, being able to COUNT is a BIG plus
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