LIMA — In light of last week’s Capitol building breach, the Lima African American Chamber of Commerce renewed its call for a city-led Human Relations Commission to combat local discrimination in a five-page statement released Thursday afternoon to Lima City Council.
“We asked for Lima to re-establish (the HRC) because history has shown that for people of different backgrounds and interests to get along, it is useful for local governments to set up places and programs that have the responsibility to help people develop a better understanding of each other and to solve differences that might arise,” the statement read.
Citing the breach of the Capitol building by Trump supporters and related alleged media manipulation by Block Communications — the parent company of Your Hometown Stations — the Chamber pointed to both instances as unacceptable behavior that could be put in check by making a more focused effort on embracing diversity and inclusive behaviors.
“Trump embarked on a relentless campaign, even before Nov. 3 election, to sow doubt about the integrity of the election, and his claims grew more outlandish and conspiratorial over time, even as courts, election officials and fact-checks disproved them,” the statement reads. “We can do something about this behavior now.”
Chamber President Tim Callahan said the historic national events have shown the need for such governmental bodies as the human relations commission, and the fact that there’s been little public headway toward that goal only strengthens the need to address the issue.
Specifically, the LAACC pointed to a number of groups throughout the community who have refused to engage in the topic in the months following the death of George Floyd. On that list are the Allen County commissioners, who refused pursuing the human relations commission on legal terms, as well as the Greater Lima Region Inc., the Allen Economic Development Group and the Lima Allen County Chamber of Commerce for a lack of board diversity.
Allen County Commissioner Beth Seibert, who was recently elected president of the county board, re-confirmed the commissioner’s initial legal position on the HRC, but she also expressed a willingness to talk through what the county’s role could be with such a body.
“I believe that the commissioners belong in the conversations about this commission as it might exist in Allen County and what the role and responsibilities the county commissioners have in it,” Seibert said. “My obligation is to stay a part of the conversation.”
Jed Metzger, president/CEO of the Lima Allen Chamber of Commerce, responded to the LAACC’s categorization of his organization in a written statement by pointing at inaccuracies made in the release. According to Metzger, his organization’s board never received a request for information on its makeup.
“If the African American Chamber of Commerce had requested information, they would have determined the Lima/Allen County Chamber of Commerce has continually had minority and diverse representation on the Chamber Board of Directors both currently and in the past,” the statement reads.
Neither heads of the GLR or AEDG could be reached Friday.
“It’s just time to look at the human relations side of this thing. Everything is back down and slow. We don’t have a big hustle and bustle to worry about right now. It’s time,” Callahan said. “This display this past Wednesday brought it all forward to a head.”
The full statements by both chambers can be read at limaohio.com.
Reach Josh Ellerbrock at 567-242-0398.