By Ethan Hollander
Two years ago, Mayor Todd Barton convened the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission, a group of citizens tasked with promoting a spirit of goodwill and equality among the city’s inhabitants. As we reach this milestone, I’m writing this open letter to update the community on our activities and to issue an appeal for your support and input.
It’s been a busy two years indeed.
The Commission’s first task was to review the city ordinances, which govern issues not already covered by state or federal law. The goal was to identify places where they needed to be updated or failed to match contemporary conceptions of human rights. After thorough review, we noted that the city’s list of protected classes made no mention of sexual orientation or gender identity. We recommended amending the city ordinances to address the omission, and the Common Council quickly and unanimously adopted our recommendation.
This important step put Crawfordsville ahead of many communities like it in terms of its commitment to protecting human rights. In addition to simply being the right thing to do, we hope that this step will promote a positive image of our community and, in turn, make Crawfordsville an even more attractive location for economic development and investment.
The Commission has also committed itself to being an arbiter of disputes, responding to cases where citizens believe that their human rights have been violated. In the past two years, such complaints have come to our attention. Two have been resolved; and one investigation is still ongoing. The Commission is now working on formalizing our policies and procedures for such investigations. This process has included research on the way other human rights commissions resolve such disputes, and consultation with legal analysts. As this process is still underway, we invite anyone with a human rights concern to contact us at humanrights@crawfordsville-in.gov.
Additionally, the Commission has used its monthly meetings to promote discussions among concerned citizens as well as with those who share our dedication to making Crawfordsville a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming community. These discussions have included representatives from the school corporation and law enforcement, interest groups like the League of Women Voters and Humans United for Equality, and representative from institutions like Wabash College and the Crawfordsville Chamber of Commerce. The conversations have been uniformly positive, and I’m heartened by the degree to which we share a common vision of a more inclusive, diverse, and welcoming community.

Ultimately, the most important role for the Human Rights Commission is to be there for citizens who see opportunities for our community to become more diverse and more welcoming. Mayor Barton has taken an important step in this direction just by reconvening the Human Rights Commission. And in the two years since, we’ve done our best to make this vision a reality. But the Human Rights Commission will be at its best when it responds to the genuine concerns of those who live here, and this is where you come in. I invite any member of our community to attend our monthly meetings or to let us know of opportunities, challenges, issues, or areas where our attention is most needed.
Committed as we are to ensuring equality and goodwill among the citizens of Crawfordsville, communities like ours still face a core challenge: In order to attract the very populations that would make our community more diverse, we have to celebrate the diversity we already have and assure those around us of our dedication to enhancing it. A community is defined most, not by the people who govern it, but by those who live there and call it home. We, the people of Crawfordsville, have to be the community that we hope to become.
For more information about the Crawfordsville Human Rights Commission, visit our section of the City’s homepage or email us at humanrights@crawfordsville- in.gov . We meet on the third Tuesday of every month, at 6:30 pm in the Common Council chambers of the City Building (300 E. Pike Street). All are invited to attend.