The FHHRP Board of Directors asked each of the candidates running for Manhattan City Commission candidates the following questions regarding the inclusiveness and welcoming nature of our city. There are 5 candidates running for three seats. The candidates are Usha Reddi, Jerred McKee, Wynn Butler, Kaleb James, and Brian Thomasson. Below are the candidates answers to our survey. Election is November 7, 2017, please exercise your right to vote.

The City of Manhattan currently ranks #1 among cities in Kansas for inclusivity according to the 2016 HRC Municipal Equality Index (www.hrc.org/mei). If elected, how will you continue to foster and improve our community's tradition of equal rights for all its members? 

Usha Reddi- We are an inclusive community. It was with great dialogue and input from the community that we were able to include sexual orientation and gender identity as a protected class in the City of Manhattan. Having policy and implementing is one step in the right direction, but the other component is to lead by example. I have taken advantage of opportunities to speak at the Little Apple Pride Parade as Grand Marshal and to do the Proclamation to promote inclusiveness in our community.

Jerred McKee- As an LGBTQ individual myself I think that someone from our community must have a seat at the table. The LGBT non-discrimination ordinance was a big mile stone for our community, but it must be protected. As a member of the Manhattan City Commission I will ensure that no action is taken to revert this progress we have made. 

Kaleb James- By making sure that all voices are heard and no one’s rights are marginalized.  It is important to make sure that the government has an avenue to assess the totality of community inclusivity.  Survey’s and indexes as the above help to put in perspective aspects of city life that officials may not encounter on a regular basis and allow for better representation of the total population.

Wynn Butler- Elected officials at the city level are focused primarily on budget considerations and the enactment/enforcement of City Ordinances.  In addition the elected body must ensure that City Policy and Ordinances align with State and Federal Requirements.  This requires a holistic view to ensure that the concept of equal rights is applied equally to all groups and that favoritism to any special interest group is avoided.      

Brian Thomason- No response

What, if anything, do you think can be improved to create a more welcoming, supportive, and inclusive environment in Manhattan?

Usha Reddi- There’s always room for improvement. It will be important to work with organizations such as FHHRC to educate the public, businesses and even city staff on how to make sure we are addressing needs to be more inclusive.  We can work to have more diversity on our advisory boards. We can build partnerships with Kansas State University, Ft. Riley and USD383 to addressing appropriate accommodations, bullying issues, mental health, and discrimination at all levels. The military has many policies already in place.  It would be worth taking some time to discuss these further to see what will best fit our community.

Good policies and best practices to advance inclusiveness is not only good for individuals in our community, but also for businesses that want to locate to Manhattan. One of the indices of a successful economy is the LGBT market. It is estimated to be worth $70 billion in the U.S., showing support and being treated with respect works best for everyone involved.

Jerred McKee- It is important that we continue to do what we can to make sure no one is treated like a second-class citizen in Manhattan.  That means addressing these issues on all levels of government in our community in a consolidated way. While I will not have a vote on the County Commission or the USD 383 I can make sure if those bodies our voting on items that effect LGBTQ citizens in Manhattan I will use my voice and experience as gay man to ensure a positive outcome.

Kaleb James- Continuing to foster an environment where conversations can be had and differing opinions, and new ideas can be heard.  Progress doesn’t necessitate the end of a conversation.

Wynn Butler- The concept of equal rights and a welcoming supportive community environment is a twofold process.  The first is the actual City Policies/Ordinances and how they align with State and Federal requirements.  The official policy of government and what is in the hearts of the people may not be in alignment.  Government officials can only set an example in terms of inclusive environment and thus have some impact on the hearts of folks.  The issue of official policy is a true balancing act between facts and actual data and the perception of various individuals.    It also is important to support only policies that do not favor one group over the rights of another group.    The recent Human Rights Ordinance passed by the City Commission on a unanimous vote achieved that tricky balancing act.

Brian Thomason- No response   


Additional Notes from Wynn Butler:

I wanted to add some further explanation and comment to the survey provided.  I reviewed the data on the website - : www.fhhrp.comIf I were to fill out this survey based on the material provided the ratings would be lower.  Basically the special interest group view of the equality topics rates us best City in Kansas, but we are just in the low 60’s.  That equated to a grade of D when I was teaching classes; which requires major improvement and not good enough to graduate.  I rated us as passing, but that is clearly because my perception of the issue and those of the special interest group are not aligned on the basis of the data presented.  I found the material on the website informative and of personal interest; especially the logic behind city ratings on medical issues for transgender folks.  That particular issue is one that would have an interesting impact on city medial insurance plans and budget.  In addition it might present an alignment issue between the policies of Health Management Organizations, and the Federal Health Care Law in whatever form it may take in the next few months.  I found the scoring for bonus points to be against the entire concept of equality.  Essentially the website gives the city extra points for having special interest group members on policy boards.  That is clearly against any concept of equal rights – if you reward or appoint folks to positions based on sexual orientation, age, gender etc. then it is by definition a biased and discriminatory appointment.   That rating should be removed as it destroys some of the credibility of the website. 

 

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