Committee members say they want to hear from members of the Human Relations Commission before making any decisions.
Following 40 minutes of debate, including a heated exchange between one of its members and a member of the public, the city's Legislative, Finance and Administration Committee tabled further discussion on Dover's Human Relations Commission until its next meeting on July 22. Committee Chairman Sean Lynn asked HRC Chairman Roy Sudler to bring as many members of the commission to that meeting in order to hear their comments. Although there were approximately 20 members of the community in the City Council gallery, Sudler and Faye White were the only commission members present. Established in 2001, commission actions in the past have caused Dover City Council members to call for a review of the group's mission and objectives, to include how often it should meet and how many commissioners should be on the panel. Although the commission is authorized 15 members, currently there are only seven. One of the proposals floated was to decrease membership to nine persons, two from each city district and one at-large member. During public comments, Bishop Gregory Gordon told committee members the HRC is “a link between you and the citizens of Dover.” The panel allows citizens to air their problems and many commissioners in turn take an active interest in those problems, Gordon said. But many people in the community still feel they are being treated as second-class citizens, Gordon said. He noted merchants along the lower end of Loockerman Street do not feel they are being discriminated against during recent efforts to upgrade the area. Instead of decreasing the size of the commission, Gordon said it should be increased, perhaps doubled in size, and then given enough money to make sure people know about the panel's mission. The commission, Gordon said, “… needs to be visible; they need to be seen.” Committee member Michael Rushe noted it seemed people were afraid City Council wanted to abolish the commission. That is not the case, he said. “The goal is not to get rid of the HRC,” Rushe said. “The goal is to make it better.” The discussion got heated, however, when city resident Jahi Issa said Dover's black citizens still are apprehensive of racially motivated violence. White citizens do not have to worry about that type of violence, but it is common in the black community, Issa said. Committee member Bill Hare summarily rejected Issa's statement. “You made the comment that white folks don't have to fear,” he said. “What you're telling me is that when I had my grandchildren in my house and someone broke in and stole half my family room and my car, that's OK because I'm white,” Hare said, raising his voice. “It's not just blacks in this community who have to fear,” Hare said. “It's not just your neighborhood. It's all over. “I didn't take this to the Human Relations Commission. I took it to the police.” Issa said he stood by his statement. “Our fears are totally different,” he said. “This is not the time or place to give you a history lesson.”