Davenport Civil Rights Commission armed with lawyer, trying to remain in tact

DAVENPORT, Iowa -- Members of the Davenport Civil Rights Commission are trying to stay in tact, nearly one week after hearing a plan to dismantle the group.

At a city council meeting  Wednesday, August 8, a proposal was presented to replace the commission with a new agency.  That agency would include oversight from the city.  But commissioners argue that's not how their group should work.

"They want to have control over it," said Susan Greenwalt, who has been on the commission since 2015, "and they can't do that.  It has to be separate. The only way the civil rights commission can work is if it's independent of the city."

At their first meeting since hearing the proposal, the commissioners talked about the future of their group.  The eight-member group repeatedly echoed the question of "why?"

"Everybody in the community asked, "why this why now?"" said commissioner Ben Hahn, who was appointed to the commission in 2018.

The proposal was put on hold, giving everyone about four weeks to discuss the options.

"Right now we've got a gun pointed at our head," said Hahn. He expressed how difficult it was to maintain business as usual with a looming vote that could change everything.

Some commissioners questioned the motives of the two aldermen who brought forth the proposal.  But Mayor Frank Klipsch said there's no ulterior motive.

"We've been looking at all of our boards and commissions and I think it was just part of that process," said Mayor Klipsch. "I don't think there was any specific motive to this, it's a matter of how can we always make all of our boards and commissions more effective."

The commission said they were planning to hold an educational session for the public, aimed at informing everyone of what they do and who they serve.  A tentative date for that meeting was set for Thursday, August 30.  Commissioners hoped to hold their meeting at the Davenport Library.