Blue Springs is becoming more progressive and culturally diverse, say both Mayor Carson Ross and Chief of Police Wayne McCoy.
And in order to accommodate the changes, a new Human Relations Commission has been established.
“We’re the 10th largest city in the state,” said Ross, “and we’re the only city of this size without a Human Relations Commission.”
The main objective of the new commission is to promote awareness, education and support for all walks of life that reside in Blue Springs, say the two city officials. An example of what the commission can offer is to mediate possible issues between residents of a different gender, race, ethnicity, sexual orientation or socioeconomic background rather than solely relying on law enforcement to handle conflicts.
McCoy said Blue Springs has had these types of issues in the past.
“The idea is to gain an understanding of our diverse community by pooling together resources and skills from people with different backgrounds,” said McCoy. “A number of our (police) calls result from a misunderstanding. Plus people usually feel uncomfortable when police get involved (in regards to neighbor issues), too.”
“It’s about being proactive rather than reactive, confronting the cause rather than a symptom (of conflicts)” said Ross about the commission. “This is an opportunity to bring a blended perspective and common ground between all types of Blue Springs citizens. It (HRC) encompasses every type of prejudice, including people with autism and other disabilities.”
The Human Relations Commission consists of seven volunteer commissioners, said Ross. They include two area high school students representing Blue Springs’ youth demographic, an African-American woman, a Caucasian woman with biracial children, a Korean minister, an African-American man with civic experience and a Hispanic man with a background in dealing with disability issues. Chief McCoy serves as a staff member while Mayor Ross is the city liaison for the commission.
Emmanuel Ngomsi of All World Languages and Cultures Inc., a business that specializes in diversity training and foreign language service, is serving as a consultant for the group. Ross said Ngomsi was instrumental in the revamping of Lee’s Summit Human Relations Commission and serves as its chairman as well.
The idea for the commission didn’t spring up overnight, said Ross, but it has actually been in development for the past five years. Ross said when he became mayor in 2008, he had two goals to accomplish: 1) Reinstitute the Public Safety Citizens Advisory Board and 2) Establish a Human Relations Commission. After being elected, he said he conferred with McCoy on how to bring the two citizen groups to fruition.
Eventually the Public Safety Citizens Advisory Board became reinstituted, but the Human Relations Commission had to be delayed because of the city’s budget.
“We’ve met with the U.S. Department of Justice,” said McCoy. “They said there was a need for the commission of a city this size.”
McCoy said that although a diversity training program was being implemented in his department, former city personnel, such as Greg Washington, the city’s first African-American employee, and retired Circuit Judge Vernon Scoville, who recently announced his retirement, told him that Blue Springs could still benefit from this sort of commission and pushed for the idea of one.
Finally, on March 3, the Blue Springs City Council uanimously voted in adding the commission to the city’s Code of Ordinances.
“It is so timely that it came to existence,” said Ross about the commission.
Despite the changing demographics in Blue Springs, however, Ross maintains his city is still the same.
“The premise is still the same. We still have quality schools and affordable homes. These are two qualities that Blue Springs are known for.”
He added that these qualities, along with addressing public safety and the establishment of the Human Relations Commission, will continue to increase and enhance the quality of life in Blue Springs. But the city could also benefit from having a new community center, along with more restaurants being featured in the Adams Dairy Landing shopping district in eastern Blue Springs.
“The commission is about working together, to enhance relations and to help the community as a whole,” said McCoy. “Blue Springs is strong in terms of volunteers.”
The first Human Relations Commission public meeting is slated sometime in May, they said. The exact will be announced on the city’s website, www.bluespringsgov.com or contact City Hall at 816-228-0110. Future meetings will be held at the Municipal Annex Building at 1304 W. Main St. in Blue Springs.