Paynesville Press - June 4, 2003

Community Perspective

Working for human rights is important

By Sig Pfeifer

The city of Paynesville established a human rights commission in 1995 to assist the city council in fulfilling its public policy of securing equal opportunities in education, employment, housing, public accommodations, and public services.

The Paynesville Human Rights Commission is affiliated with the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions, consisting of over 60 cities, and maintains a liaison with the Minnesota Department of Human Rights in the Twin Cities.

Our local human rights commission is composed of five voters from the Paynesville area, appointed by the mayor, plus one member from the ministerial association and one from the school district. There are also two students serving as ex-officio members plus other members as deemed appropriate. All members serve without compensation.

The purpose of the Paynesville Human Rights Commission is to help provide information for assistance and service to Paynesville area residents in an effort to prevent discrimination. Brochures explaining the human rights commission have been placed in various locations throughout the community and can also be obtained at the Paynesville City Hall.

The past focus of the human rights commission has been to educate the public about its existence and purpose. This has been accomplished in various ways, from supporting programs in our schools (such as Students Against Violence, programs against bullying, an annual essay contest in the middle school, and an annual coloring contest in the elementary school), the Ruth Aulick Award, and the annual Festival of Ethnic Traditions.

The human rights commission will continue these public awareness programs within the community and also focus its time and resources on addressing the human rights issues as stated in its laws.

To achieve its goals, the immediate focus will be to coordinate efforts with human rights commissions of neighboring cities and develop a dialog and proactive plan concerning human rights complaints brought to its attention. To begin this process, the Paynesville Human Rights Commission is planning a luncheon meeting with various members of our community and the human rights director from St. Cloud. The luncheon is tentatively scheduled for October, and invitations will be sent as soon as plans are finalized.

Members of the human rights commission will also be encouraged to attend future workshops scheduled throughout Minnesota this year, such as the 32nd annual conference of the League of Minnesota Human Rights Commissions.

As mentioned before, one small but very important part of the commission's plans is a public awareness program, and the Festival of Ethnic Traditions is part of that program. Initiated by the human rights commission and supported by many Paynesville businesses and service groups, the festival has been a great success. Planning and preparation for this year's third annual festival is almost complete.

This year's Festival of Ethnic Traditions will be held on Sunday, Aug. 3, from 12 noon to 5 p.m. Because of parking and safety concerns, the new location is the area between the Paynesville Area High School parking lot and the U.S. Army Reserve building. This will provide ample parking space and easy access.

This year's ethnic presentations will include African cultural arts and Native American culture among many others. There will also be a shuttle bus to transport visitors to the Paynesville Historical Museum. More detailed information about the festival will be provided by the Paynesville Press and other media in July.

If anyone has questions, concerns, or comments about the Paynesville Human Rights Commission, please contact Paynesville City Hall at 320-243-3714 and city staff will contact the commission members for further action.

Sig Pfeifer is a member of the Paynesville Human Rights Commission.

Do you have an opinion about the future route of Highway 23 through or around Paynesville? Call Michael Jacobson at 320-243-3772 or e-mail him at to inquire about expressing your opinion.

Contact the author at | Return to Viewpoint