Town Talk: New Ulm Human Rights Commission Lawn Signs

Have you ever wondered about those colorful lawn signs all around town that say we are glad you’re our neighbor? This was the initiative of the New Ulm Human Rights Commission. That’s right, New Ulm has a Human Rights Commission.

In 1970, the New Ulm City Council created the New Ulm Human Rights Commission (NUHRC). The Mission of NUHRC is to guarantee equality for each individual in employment opportunities, housing, public accommodations, public services, education, credit services and in business. Nine residents from New Ulm are appointed by the Mayor and approved by City Council.

The NUHRC serves many purposes including community outreach, referring individuals and groups who have concerns regarding their human or civil rights, promoting education and informing the public, civic engagement, and assisting in combating and/or preventing discriminatory practices.

Human rights violations can take many forms such as discrimination based on race, religion, and sex. However, there are other, often more subtle violations such as discrimination based on age, disability, socio-economic status, marital status and sexual orientation, voter suppression, sex-trafficking and more.

The NUHRC’s aim is to educate our community on these types of issues via community outreach. Each year, NUHRC conducts contests for both essays and posters for various school-age groups. Contestants write essays or create posters based on human rights themes. This year’s theme was How to End Racism? The NUHRC also presents an annual Human Rights Award to individuals in our community who personify our mission. The most recent recipient of this award went to Alma Marin, a former NUHR Commissioner and tireless advocate for human rights.

The NUHRC is also looking forward to filling two Student Commissioner seats; a 2-year term with a current high school sophomore and a 1-year term with a current junior, or the equivalent age of home-schooled students. The terms would begin in September, 2019. Applicants must be current residents of the City of New Ulm. Student-Commissioners would attend our monthly meetings and engage in community-based initiatives consistent with the Commission’s mission. We are excited about the opportunity to explore the perspectives of our community’s young people. We are also working closely with the New Ulm Police Department to bring the VITALS program to our community. VITALS is a program that assists law enforcement handle calls involving individuals with mental illness by providing officers with vital information about the individual which could save their life. Stay tuned for more information on this.

Sadly, we have been recently reminded that racial discrimination exists right here when a member of our community was the victim of a vicious hate-letter. It was a stark reminder of the work we have yet to do. We can all do our part. Learning to identify discrimination and human rights abuses is the first step in its prevention. If you see discrimination, say something. Inaction only encourages future, more severe discrimination and hate.

The Commission is available to provide human rights related information and assistance. Requests for aid and services may be brought to the NUHRC by attending our meetings. To have an item added to a meeting Agenda, contact the city’s staff liaison: Lisa Grathwohl at lisag@newulmmn.gov or 507-359-8235. Further, if you would like your own lawn sign or if you know of anyone who fits the criteria of Student Commissioner, contact Lisa Grathwohl. The Commission meets the 4th Monday of each month on the first floor of City Hall at 5:15. You can also watch the monthly meetings on NUCAT.

New Ulm Human Rights Commission

Tim Frenning, Dan Kalk , Wendi Ringhofer, Larry Czer, Jackie Krehbiel, Deanna Fenske, Diane Hatman, Chad Gentz, Sue Hunstad

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Editor’s Note: The City of New Ulm presents a weekly column highlighting activities in different departments in the city government. Once a month the city will answer questions from readers. Questions on New Ulm city issues can be sent to comments@ci.new-ulm.mn.us.

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