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Nondiscrimination ordinance on Decatur City Commission’s Nov. 18 agenda


Nondiscrimination ordinance on Decatur City Commission’s Nov. 18 agenda

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Commissioners, pictured left to right, are: Brian Smith, Mayor Pro Tem Tony Powers, Kelly Walsh, Mayor Patti Garrett, and Scott Drake. Image obtained via the city of Decatur.


Update: The City Commission at its Nov. 18 meeting approved all of the agenda items mentioned in this article. Here is our earlier story …

A nondiscrimination ordinance that would allow residents to file discrimination complaints with the city of Decatur is on the agenda for the Nov. 18 City Commission meeting.

The City Commission meeting begins with a 6:30 p.m. work session followed by the regular meeting at 7:30 p.m. It will be held at 509 North McDonough Street. All meetings are open to the public.

City Commissioners discussed the proposed ordinance at their Nov. 4 meeting. Decatur’s ordinance will be similar to ordinances approved by the cities of Doraville, Clarkston, Chamblee and Dunwoody.

To see a draft copy of the nondiscrimination ordinance, click here.

“The proposed non-discrimination ordinance prohibits local businesses from discriminating based on sexual orientation or gender identity, as well as race, religion, color, sex, disability, national origin, ancestry, age or military status,” a memo from City Manager Andrea Arnold and Assistant City Manager Linda Harris says. “Discrimination is prohibited in the areas of employment, housing and public accommodation.  No federal or Georgia state law expressly prohibits discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity.”

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There’s no federal law and no state law protecting members of the LGBTQ community from discrimination.

Decatur’s ordinance is intended to address areas not currently covered by state and federal laws. It would outlaw discrimination in employment, housing and public accommodations.

People who feel they’ve experienced discrimination would file a complaint to the City Manager. The city would issue a court summons while also offering the parties a chance to mediate their dispute. If there’s no way to mediate it, there would be a preliminary hearing, a trial and a ruling by a judge on whether there’s been a violation. If the accused party is found guilty, they would face a $500 fine on a first offense and a $1,000 fine for any subsequent offense.

There would be a communication and education effort once the law is passed. One important aspect of the ordinance is that it would not supersede state or federal law.

“If there’s a state and federal law that already exist that would address this type of discrimination, it means our law is preempted and would not be able to be heard in our jurisdiction,” City Manager Andrea Arnold said during the Nov. 4 work session.

There would also be exemptions carved out for religious organizations.

The following exceptions apply:

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– A religious corporation, association, or society that employs an individual of a particular religion to perform work connected with the performance of religious activities by the corporation, association, or society.

– An employer who observes the conditions of a bona fide affirmative action plan or a bona fide seniority system which is not a pretext to evade the purposes of this ordinance.

– A business is not required to hire unqualified or incompetent personnel.

– This ordinance does not prohibit an employer from requiring an employee, during the employee’s hours at work, to adhere to reasonable and equitable dress or grooming standards not prohibited by other provisions of Federal, State or local law, provided that all employees are permitted to dress in a manner consistent with their gender identity.

– A business is not required to make changes to any existing facility that would require a building permit, except as otherwise required by law.

– This ordinance does not prohibit a religious organization from limiting its noncommercial accommodations, advantages, facilities, membership, and privileges to persons of the same religion.

– This ordinance shall not be construed in such a way as to violate any person’s rights under the United States Constitution or the Georgia Constitution.

Source: Draft of the city of Decatur’s nondiscrimination ordinance. 

In other business at the Nov. 18 City Commission meeting, commissioners will consider a right of way agreement with developer Thrive to to accept right of way for an extension of New Street.

The New Street extension will be 50 feet wide and 250 feet long. It will be built as part of a residential re-development of a former AT&T parking lot. It will create a connection between the current dead-end of New Street and Talley Street.

Commissioners will also consider a revised street resurfacing list for 2019 and a list for 2020. These lists cover projects funded by the Georgia Department of Transportation’s Local Maintenance Improvement Grant program.

Here is the revised list for 2019:

W. Benson St/E. Benson St Oakview Road Dead End 0.46 miles
Wilton Drive Oakland Street Clairemont Ave 0.27 miles
Greenwood Avenue E. College Avenue Dead End 0.35 miles

So far only one street, .98 miles of South Columbia Drive from East College Avenue to the city limits is on the 2020 list.

“Based on the [Local Maintenance Improvement Grant] grant formula used by [the Georgia Department of Transportation], the city will receive $221,569 in 2020,” a memo from senior engineer Michelle Hirose says. “Considering current conditions, the cost estimate for milling, patching, repairing and resurfacing of South Columbia Drive is $1,024,742. The city’s share is expected to be approximately $803,172, which also greatly exceeds the required local match of 30 percent. If approved, the city’s portion will be requested in the  FY 2020-21 city budget.”

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