El Dorado County Human Rights Commission to take on intolerance | TahoeDailyTribune.com

El Dorado County Human Rights Commission to take on intolerance

Mackenzie Myers
Mountain Democrat

On Tuesday, four county residents were appointed to a new commission aimed at promoting tolerance in a time of tension.

The El Dorado County Human Rights Commission was formed officially in April, after the county Board of Supervisors approved an ordinance establishing the group at their March 20 meeting. It consists of seven members: Supervisors Shiva Frentzen and Sue Novasel and five "resident members" from each district, appointed by their respective county supervisor.

According to Jim Mitrisin, clerk of the Board of Supervisors, there were around eight applicants for the positions. Resident members for districts one, two, three and five were appointed Tuesday.

Appointed members include public policy analyst Allen Stansbury of El Dorado Hills, business analyst Matthew Cardozo of Cameron Park, retired Santa Clara County employee Lara Gularte of Diamond Springs and South Lake Tahoe Family Resource Center Director Bill Martinez.

District 4 Supervisor Michael Ranalli said he had not yet appointed a resident member because he is setting up interviews with his district's two applicants.

Resident members' terms will align with those of their appointing supervisor, according to the ordinance. The group is expected to hold regular meetings at least quarterly and will be subject to standards set forth by the Brown Act.

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According to the ordinance, the commission's purpose is to promote tolerance and mutual respect among residents of various races, religions, national origins and other social groups. The commission will create programming to "increase goodwill" and will look into incidents of social tension between residents.

Novasel said the group formed partially because she'd heard of other counties forming similar commissions, but also because of what she feels is a downward turn in American political discourse — an environment where asking people to speak respectfully is sometimes seen as inhibition of free speech.

"The relationships between people have become very disturbing to me," Novasel said. "People are raising their voices and using hatred and intolerance as a reason to debate. In my mind, I think a debate should be people having a discussion in a rational manner."

She said she chose her district's resident member because of his insight into the issues that can affect minorities, including affordable housing, livable wages and illegal immigration.

"He has a great knowledge of what the concerns are," Novasel said.

Another appointed member, Stansbury, hopes to bring objectivity and fresh ideas to the commission, though he said he doesn't have preconceived notions of issues the commission will be tackling.

Much of Stansbury's career has involved working with populations experiencing poverty in former Soviet Union countries, where he said "corruption was rampant."

"Many of these countries are dictatorships and I've seen firsthand what they do to citizens, particularly their civil and human rights," Stansbury said. "Most of those people just don't have any."

Aside from his professional experience — which also includes 12 years on the Cotati City Council in Sonoma County — Stansbury harbors personal concerns regarding human rights. Two of his children married into families of different nationalities, one Mexican and the other Japanese, so Stansbury follows immigration.

"My daughter-in-law's family was interned in Japanese camps in WWII," Stansbury said. "I'm familiar with these things and I follow them closely."