Argument ends first day of Council budget hearings

Monday, May 11, 2009 at 11:40pm

An otherwise uneventful first day of Metro Council budget hearings ended in an argument Monday over the line of questions directed at Metro Human Relations Commission Executive Director Kelvin Jones.

During the Human Relations Commission’s budget hearing, Jones was pressed on issues such as the department’s line item expenditures for advertising, travel and outreach. Jones stumbled to answer some of the questions and was pressed further by several Council members, especially District 4 Councilman Michael Craddock.

At-large Councilman Ronnie Steine said the tough line of questioning for Jones came from members sitting in two separate camps on Council — those who find the Human Relations Commission unnecessary and those who question Jones’ leadership. Jones has been at the job for five years.

At-large Councilman Jerry Maynard criticized Council members for the level of scrutiny applied to the proposed $387,000 Human Relations Commission budget when other departments breezed through without any questions.

Craddock responded on the floor by saying the budget hearings are only just beginning and added that Maynard “might be in for an education” because the level of scrutiny applied to Metro departments in this tough fiscal year would be intense.

“It’s amazing to me the number of questions he had to answer about travel and advertising and all that when other departments get told, ‘Good job,’ and not asked a single question,” Maynard said.

The Human Relations Commission was created by Charter in 1965 to receive complaints regarding allegations of discrimination. Last year the commission received about 1,900 complaints.

During the budget hearing, District 30 Councilman Jim Hodge questioned Jones about the trip he took to Denver last month as part of a delegation of Nashville leaders on a study mission. The trip’s focus ranged from public transportation, regionalism and public education.

“There’s a small minority [of Council members] who don’t believe in the Human Relations Commission,” Steine said. “I would say the vast majority of us believe in the work that they do, but there are frankly serious questions about leadership there. And that’s what they’re getting at and actually people are mincing questions and trying to be kind in their questions.”

Jones promised he would provide Council members with answers to questions regarding the commission by the end of the week.


5 Comments on this post:

By: girliegirl on 5/12/09 at 9:26

Yep... I saw the photos of that swanky trip posted on FaceBook. It looked pretty lavish for a taxpayer-funded perk to me. And quite honestly, I could not fathom what the Human Relations Commission rep was doing on the trip. I was also informed that the other attendees paid their own way. While so many companies are backing down on their perks and free travel, why are my tax dollars funding silly stuff like this?

By: Time for Truth on 5/12/09 at 9:35

With 1900 complaints last year, the question of whether the Commission is necessary is answered IMO. But taxpayer funded junkets will, and should, come under increasing scrutiny, especially in tough times.

By: Demos on 5/12/09 at 11:29

Forget all the questions about "junkets." That's not the bigger concern. The real issue is Mr. Jones-- and quite a few folks are concerned that he's not the right guy for that job. He's known to be a poor manager and a self promoter who's already run for another office (and lost soundly). Human Rights Commission does important work-- should be led by someone with a better track record and the respect of the community. Will make a huge difference in the work of that body.

By: nvestnbna on 5/12/09 at 1:11

I think he's a good man, and you always have Monday morning quarterbacks, wiling to share their 'better way'.

By: vandyfan2784 on 5/13/09 at 6:37

Metro council is such a joke... I can't believe that they are wasting their time arguing over a $400K budget. That's less than 1/100th of 1% of metro's annual budget. Give me a break!! Mr. Jones has been very active and vocal in Nashville's community. He seems like a stand up type of guy. It's so obvious that these misfits have a personal axe to grind. I wish that the council would focus on more substantive issues.