Friday, June 03, 2005

Why is he employed?

St. Paul Human Rights Director Tyrone Terrill is again in the news, http://www.twincities.com/mld/twincities/news/local/11801581.htm, based on his open letter calling gang crimes "terrorist acts." Mr. Terrill is obviously well-intentioned, and whether this letter will advance the desirable cause of reducing crime is an open question.

The bigger question, however, is: why is this man still employed in this position? Way back in 1999, when the Pioneer Press broke the Clem Haskins/Jan Ganglehoff scandal story, Terrill was one of several activists who were greatly offended by a Pioneer Press editorial cartoon which compared black student-athletes to slaves on a plantation. (That the editorial was criticizing the way the athletes were being treated was seemingly lost on Terrill). Terrill, in his post as city human rights director, speculated that the cartoon was a human rights violation, and had a novel solution: he proposed that all editorial cartoons must first receive city approval to ensure that no one could be offended.

That a person charged with enforcing civil rights laws could conceivably propose a prior restraint of First Amendment rights of this magnitude simply beggars belief. I mean, the example is the kind a constitutional law professor would start out with before he went down the slippery slope to more difficult questions. Again, this guy is charged with overseeing civil rights violations - and he proposed about as profound a violation of civil rights as you can imagine.

The Pioneer Press article today indicates that Terrill serves at the pleasure of the mayor. That his prior restraint plan didn't sufficiently displeasure Norm Coleman back in 1999, or Randy Kelly ever since he took office, might indicate just why it's hard to take St. Paul's politics seriously.

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