City aims to reinstate human relations committee

Claremont wants to reboot its Committee on Human Relations, months after an anti-Muslim letter shocked the community.

The Community and Human Services Commission voted unanimously Wednesday evening to recommended restarting the committee, which was dissolved in 2013 after a lack of a quorum. The recommendation will now be sent to the city council for review.

If approved by the council, the committee will be comprised of Paul Buch, Ellen Taylor, Lauren Roselle, Rose Ash and Michael Edwards.

The committee in its first incarnation was created in 1996, as a way for the city to promote education and human relations in the community. After a while, however, the committee was directionless and routinely lacked a quorum, according to Human Services Director Anne Turner.

In 2013, it was closed by then-Human Services Director Kathleen Trepa in favor of the Human Relations Community Response Team (HRCRT), an action committee focused solely on helping people who were victims of hate crimes. Much of the hate crimes reported in Claremont in the years since took place at the Colleges, however, and their own support structure rendered the action committee irrelevant.

“The training was good, but there wasn’t really any galvanizing event,” Ms. Turner said.

That changed when the Islamic Center of Claremont (ICC) received a hateful anti-Muslim letter in November 2016. ICC was one of many mosques and Islamic centers in the country that received the note, which sent shockwaves throughout the nation as well as Claremont.

After the incident, members of the committee and the Community and Human Services Commission, as well as Claremont Police Chief Shelly Vander Veen, Captain Aaron Fate and Ms. Turner, met to discuss how to help Claremont’s marginalized residents.

“They wanted to get back together and kind of see what’s happening and talk about what’s going on,” Ms. Turner said.

The decision was made to do away with the HRCRT and reboot the Committee on Human Relations, comprised of HRCRT members Mr. Buch and Ms. Roselle and community members Ms. Taylor, Ms. Ash and Mr. Edwards.

To prevent the ineffectiveness that beset the previous committee, Ms. Turner has tasked the committee to come up with a plan for the next year on what to do in times of crisis as well as normalcy.

If the committee is approved at the next council meeting, members will have until the March Community and Human Services Commission meeting to come up with a plan and present it. Monthly “benchmark goals” will also be established, Ms. Turner said, regarding issues such as the duties and practices of Claremont police officers in regards to immigration.

“It’ll be on a city-wide level, looking at executing on the values of the city of Claremont,” she said. “The city of Claremont being inclusive, the city of Claremont celebrating diversity.”

She also mentioned that the police department would be working with the committee as partners in the new venture.

“They are excited to be our partners in this, which I think is a different place than we were before,” Ms. Turner said.

The commission approved the plans to be sent to the council, and Chair Butch Henderson noted that it took an incident at ICC to drum up the need for the committee, and he will look at how the committee will continue its efforts during downtime.

“The only reason we got together this time was the temple incident, that’s it; a galvanizing incident and some residue of the recent election. We’re not going to have a galvanizing incident every few months,” he said. “What I’m going to be looking at is…what are they really going to come back with that guarantees we won’t have another fizzle-out of the human relations committee?”

—Matthew Bramlett


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