Welcome to Downingtown. Check your rights at the door, please.

Ordinance 2014-05 Human Relations Commission also known as Ordinance 2014-05. Just like bad wine and limburger cheese, this ordinance pairs perfectly with the older Ordinance 2011-13 (Borough exempts itself, and anyone building on borough property, from complying with the zoning laws).

Ordinance 2014-05 adds Chapter 90 “Borough of Downingtown Human Relations Commission.” Sounds all nice and warm & fuzzy, doesn’t it? Sure. Nice and fuzzy just like Stalin in a teddy bear costume.

Actually, the PA Human Relations Commission was established in 1955, and it is a pretty solid Act. It was amended in June 1997 by Act 34 of 1997 (43 P.S. 951-963). Look at the dates. In 1955 discrimination was rampant and measures were needed to ensure that minorities and others were not discriminated against for housing and employment opportunities. Sixty years later, we have the Equal Employment Oppty Commission (EEOC), the Fair Housing Act, and volumes of case law that clearly define discrimination and defend people from being discriminated against. So, WHY would we add another layer of bureaucracy provided by lay people and at the taxpayers’ expense?? And WHY would we allow our elected officials to “deputize” volunteers to decide our fate? Those are good questions to ask on Wednesday.

With the adoption of Ord 2014-05 Council would appoint five citizens to hear discrimination complaints (who needs courts or the Constitution?). There are two options. (1) The Commission could just hear discrimination complaints and try to get the parties to play nice by using “persuasion, conference, or conciliation”, or (2) The Commission could adopt “expanded procedures”. Those expanded procedures are mighty scary to anyone who embraces the Constitution. Hey, isn’t Borough Council supposed to embrace the Constitution? Don’t they take an oath to support the Constitution of the United States and the Constitution of Pennsylvania and to execute the duties of their office with fidelity*? Why, yes they do! Whoa whoa whoa, wait a minute. The Council prez Chip Gazzerro said in a public meeting that he doesn’t really know the Constitution (right after he tried to prevent Councilor Feldman from speaking as a citizen). How can he (or the rest of Council) support the Constitution if he (they) doesn’t even know it?? Disgraceful. It’s like putting chimpanzees in charge of a construction site; there’s a lot of activity, but most of it ends up in disaster for someone else to clean up.

This “expanded” Commission will have the authority to subpoena other citizens (“gimme your private records and shaddup about that there 5th Amendment.”), listen to testimony from attorneys, accept evidence (ah, but the rules of evidence are relaxed. Hearsay anyone?), and then act as judge and jury to decide if the “accused” is “guilty” of discriminatory practices. Why, they even get to impose hefty fines (we’re talking five figures).

Ah, and let’s not forget about the cost to taxpayers. This expanded Commission can hire people, and there will be attorney fees.

Scared, yet? I am.

* FIDELITY
1. strict observance of promises, duties, etc.: a servant’s fidelity.
2. loyalty: fidelity to one’s country.
3. conjugal faithfulness.
4. adherence to fact or detail.
5. accuracy; exactness: The speech was transcribed with great fidelity.

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