Councilman wants to shrink Human Rights Commission

Move would eliminate position for controversial member Parvez Ahmed

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - One Jacksonville city councilman wants to reduce the size of the Jacksonville Human Rights Commission.

In doing so, it would eliminate a controversial member who is up for reappointment.

Parvez Ahmed (pictured, below) joined the board three years ago. He is Muslim, and those religious beliefs sparked protests during council meetings, before his appointment.

He's due to be reappointed, but if the commission shrinks, Ahmed would be left out.

Councilman Matt Schellenberg says the commission is just too big and would be better served with 11 members not 20. He says the council needs to act now and not do any reappointments until it gets the number to 11.

Schellenberg said he is aware of the controversy surrounding Ahmed and the uproar his appointment caused nearly three years ago, like one exchange between Ahmed and councilman Don Redman.

"I would like you say a prayer to your God. Could you do that for us here," Redman asked Ahmed at one council meeting.

After long debate and emotional discussion, Ahmed was approved. Mayor Alvin Brown is now recommending he serve another three years.

Emails and debate over that have already started again. Schellenberg said he has seen some of those, but that's not why he's making this proposal. He said there are just too many people on the commission.

"I think when you get more than 11, I don't think they function as well. And that is why we limit it," he said. "I saw that there were quite a few people coming up in the next couple of months on the Human Rights Commission, and I think it is time to pair it down and get a good core group of people in there to do the right thing."

The legislation says this needs to be passed as an emergency because there are three reappointments and one vacancy that needs to be filled. Schellenberg says he wants to make sure the right people are on the board.

"We need to pair down the people on the committee that are not doing the work we need to do, and get people on there to do the function of what the Human Rights Commission is doing," Schellenberg said. "And I think smaller is better."

Ahmed was unavailable for comment.

Some other council members say this legislation, while it doesn't mention Ahmed by name, targets him directly.

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