City Council to expand Ann Arbor's non-discrimination ordinance

Charles Kowalec/Daily
William V. Hampton, president of the Ann Arbor NAACP, speaks at the Ann Arbor City Council meeting Monday. Buy this photo

By Genevieve Hummer, For the Daily
Published October 20, 2014

The Ann Arbor City Council unanimously approved amendments to both the city’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance and the Living Wage Ordinance at their meeting Monday.

Non-Discrimination Ordinance

The Council’s unanimous decision to expand the city’s Non-Discrimination Ordinance drew cheers from those in attendance.

The amendment, sponsored by the city’s Human Rights Commission and Councilmembers Jack Eaton (D–Ward 4), Sumi Kailasapathy (D–Ward 1), Christopher Taylor (D–Ward 3), Margie Teall (D–Ward 5) and Chuck Warpehoski (D–Ward 5), seeks to improve non-discrimination protections in housing and employment by changing the wording of the existing ordinance to include provisions regarding gender expression and identity, veteran status, victims of domestic violence, political alignment, arrest record and familial status.

Kailasapathy, the Council’s liaison on the city’s Human Rights Commission, said it’s important for Ann Arbor to be a leader in ensuring human rights for its citizens, but he said he believes it hasn’t fulfilled that goal.

“The state of Michigan is lagging behind in many aspects of non-discrimination and the equality of marriage,” Kailasapathy said in an interview with The Michigan Daily. “I feel at least at a city level if we can set the gold standard then we are doing good.”

During public hearings on the amendment, representatives from the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, the University’s Sexual Assault Prevention and Awareness Center, the transgender community and the SafeHouse Center, a support organization for survivors of domestic violence and sexual assault, urged councilmembers to approve the ordinance.

State Rep. Adam Zemke (D–Ann Arbor) also voiced his support for the amendment in an e-mail statement, which Taylor read to the Council.

“The non-discrimination ordinance before you tonight is not just the right thing to do, it is by extension necessary,” the e-mail read.

While the new ordinance was widely praised, Councilmember Mike Anglin (D–Ward 5) pointed out that this is just one step in the larger fight for universal equality.

Living Wage Ordinance

The Council also discussed the resolution to exempt human services nonprofits from the Living Wage Requirement in City Contracts and Grants, a measure sponsored by Sabra Briere (D–Ward 1) and Eaton.

The Living Wage Ordinance mandates that companies that have contracts with the city must pay employees $12.17 per hour if they provide health care benefits, and $13.57 per hour if they do not. Currently, nonprofit organizations are required to abide by the city’s Living Wage Ordinance.

Councilmember Sally Hart Petersen (D–Ward 2) said nonprofits were required to follow the ordinance because the city provides support to many nonprofits. However, she said this expectation is flawed.

“Being nonprofits, they cannot always afford to pay market rates,” she said in an interview with the Daily.

As a result, many nonprofits have requested that the City Council revise this requirement.

While the city’s Housing and Human Services Advisory Board suggested that all nonprofits with annual city contracts of $10,000 or more abide by the Living Wage Ordinance, Petersen proposed raising this threshold to $25,000.

In their report, the HHSAB concluded that raising the threshold to $25,000 would not be effective.

“Such an amendment would have no positive effect, but would only exempt agencies that have not asked for an exemption and may not need it,” the report.

However, in his review of the HHSAB recommendations, City Administrator Steve Powers refuted these claims.

“Matching the threshold for Living Wage compliance to contracts $25,000 and over would align the Living Wage with the City Charter’s standard for City Council approval of contracts and procurement policy. The City’s procurement process would be simplified and be more efficient,” he said.

Ultimately, the Council unanimously passed the ordinance revision with exemptions beginning at the $25,000 threshold.