Chandler takes baby step toward bias ban - SanTan Sun News SanTan Sun News

Chandler takes baby step toward bias ban

October 24th, 2021 development

By Ken Sain, Staff Writer

Chandler is the largest city in Arizona without an anti-discrimination ordinance. This month, officials took a baby step toward considering one.

City Council on Oct. 14 authorized spending around $56,000 for a consultant to perform a diversity, equity and inclusion assessment. The results are expected in the spring.

“I’m hoping the results come back that the residents say, ‘Hey, you know what, we need an ordinance,’” Councilmember OD Harris said. “And there’s enough people in Chandler who are going to support it.”

Council took the step after splitting on the need for an ordinance last spring. Some members wanted one but others thought a resolution was enough, saying they were concerned about the city having to decide what is discrimination and what is not.

Both Mesa and Scottsdale earlier this year approved discrimination ordinances that pose the possibility of fines for businesses that discriminate in public accommodations, employment, and housing on the basis of race, color, ethnicity, national origin, age, disability, religion, sex, sexual orientation, gender, gender identity, veteran’s status, marital status, or familial status.

The laws apply to businesses and places of public accommodation, employers and the workplace, city employees and facilities, city contractors and vendors. Exclusions include businesses with fewer than five employees, federal and state agencies, religious, public and charter schools and religious organizations “when furthering (the) organization’s purpose.”

Among the groups backing an ordinance were the Chandler Chamber of Commerce, State Sen. Sean Bowie, and House members Jennifer Jermaine, Mitzi Epstein and Jennifer Pawlik.

The city Human Relations Commission had recommended hiring a consultant last spring. Council decided then it wanted to hear more from the community before moving forward.

Harris said he will continue to push for the ordinance, though he said some of his colleagues are unsure where they stand. He urged staff to make sure they were hearing from not hundreds, but thousands of the city’s residents on the issue.

“I know the City of Chandler residents are going to make the best decision, they’re going to make the right decision, and we’re going to come out OK,” Harris said.

Eduarda Schroder is one of the co-founders of Chandler Pride, a LGBTQ organization.

“This is a really good step,” said Schroder, who has a transgender child.

She said she spoke with Mesa Mayor John Giles and he confirmed this is the same process his city used to adopt their anti-discrimination ordinance.

“I know they want to be transparent, which is a good thing,” she said. “I’m actually excited about this.”

Council hired Cooperative Personnel Services, a Sacramento-based human resources consulting firm, to do the assessment.

“This has been a long-time coming,” Mayor Kevin Hartke said. “What this group is going to do is basically look at the city, look across practices, not necessarily bow to anything that’s been done, and make recommendations to us.”

Harris said the need for the ordinance may not be obvious, but that doesn’t mean it does not exist.

“It’s all about doing the right thing,” Harris said. “When you look at the top eight cities in our state, they have all passed a non-discrimination ordinance [except Chandler].

“People want specific examples, but if I go back historically and I talk about civil rights, because that’s what this is, … people thought it was OK for individuals to be discriminated upon.”

He said people still face discrimination today.

“What’s right is right, and what’s wrong is wrong, everybody should be equal and this ordinance will further address those issues moving forward as we become a more diverse community,” Harris said.

Chandler Pride started a year ago and does most of its organizing on Facebook. Schroder said the group is in the process of qualifying as a nonprofit. She says so far they have received a lot of support.

Schroder agreed with Harris, saying not all discrimination is overt.

“The LGBTQ community, just like any other minority that suffers discrimination, even micro-aggressions, learns to navigate the system in a quiet way, or as quietly as possible,” she said. “And not everyone is comfortable … being open about the experiences they’re having, because that means they could be outed to friends, co-workers and family.”