Fairway set to take up consideration of non-discrimination ordinance in November

Juliana Garcia - October 29, 2019 8:00 am

Three months after the Fairway city council passed a non-discrimination resolution and the city council agreed to further explore a non-discrimination ordinance, the topic will be on the city council agenda in November, Mayor Melanie Hepperly said.

Neighboring municipalities, such as Westwood and Prairie Village, have already passed non-discrimination ordinances. Hepperly said the decision to pass a resolution versus an ordinance came at the recommendation of the administration committee, which is the same committee that was directed to look further into an NDO at the August city council meeting.

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Jenna Brofsky, Fairway resident who is running for city council, said the NDO has not been given adequate attention by the administration committee nor the city council. She said she is surprised that the NDO has yet to pass, considering the adoption by neighboring municipalities and the welcoming community in Fairway.

The topic was briefly discussed during the October administration committee meeting, Brofsky said, but not at the September city council or administration committee meetings — all of which she said she attended. Brofsky said the NDO is a human rights issue and the lack of a “real discussion is sad.”

“I think it’s important that folks know that Fairway, again, isn’t giving this important issue the respect that it deserves,” Brofsky said.

During the October administration meeting, which took place two hours prior to the city council meeting, Brofsky said she heard “a lot of excuses for not fully considering the issue” and “admission that the committee had been avoiding the issue.” Later on during the October city council meeting, three of the four public comments made were about the NDO. Two of those three were in favor of an NDO, including a public comment from Brofsky.

Fairway City Administrator Nathan Nogelmeier and Hepperly both said the city has been discussing a non-discrimination ordinance for nearly a year-and-a-half. Nogelmeier said back when discussions first began, the city decided to let other municipalities go through the process of adopting an NDO and iron out the details.

Through discussions with his counterparts, Nogelmeier said he knew other cities were spending tens of thousands of dollars on legal services to draft an ordinance. Fairway’s smaller size and therefore smaller budget contributed to the decision to wait on an NDO, he said. In addition, both Hepperly and Nogelmeier said the administration committee has prioritized items that have been partially completed or that the committee has already began discussing.

Hepperly said she has received as few as three or four phone calls from residents expressing their concerns about an NDO. She said she has been telling residents what the city has been doing — including her monthly meetings with fellow northeast Johnson County mayors where there are discussions about NDOs — and that the residents have been understanding of the process.

“There hasn’t been any reluctance on the part of the city not to discuss it, or not to consider what needs to be done and what the timeline is,” Hepperly said.

The NDO is likely to be discussed at the Nov. 6 administration committee meeting. The city council meeting is scheduled for Nov. 12. If Fairway moves forward and adopts a non-discrimination ordinance at the Nov. 12 meeting, it would be the 13th city in Johnson County passing a ordinance with legal protections for LGBTQ+ individuals.

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