July will mark the 43rd anniversary of the signing of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. One of the most powerful planks of that law is Title VI. “Title VI prohibits discrimination on the basis of race, color, or national origin in programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance.” In a nutshell, Title VI stipulates that no state, nor any agency of a state, no municipal or city government; no postsecondary or local educational agency or any private entity contracting or partnering with any of the aforementioned governmental entities, shall discriminate in programs and activities which receive federal financial assistance, based on race, ethnicity, color, or national origin.
In calling for its enactment, President John F. Kennedy identified “simple justice” as the justification for Title VI:
“Simple justice requires that public funds, to which all taxpayers of all races contribute, not be spent in any fashion which encourages, entrenches, subsidizes, or results in racial discrimination. Direct discrimination by Federal, State or local governments is prohibited by the Constitution. But indirect discrimination, through the use of Federal funds, is just as invidious; and it should not be necessary to resort to the courts to prevent each individual violation.” See H. R. Misc. Doc. No. 124, 88th Cong., 1st Sess., 3, 12 (1963).
The battles of the civil rights era are mostly thought to have resulted in major victories. However, as this 43rd anniversary approaches, a local citizen’s watchdog group has been studying Clarksville’s compliance status and the results do not speak well of us this late in game. To be kind, the city’s Title VI compliance status seems to be less than adequate, if not, totally nonexistent. Frankly, this is a seriously perilous situation. But how can it be?
Some salient facts to keep in mind as you consider this situation:
- The City of Clarksville has no Title VI Implementation Plan. City Council has never adopted Title VI has the official nondiscrimination policy of city government.
- More than nine racial discrimination lawsuits have been filed against the police department and the city.
Of all the cases that have thus far gone to trial, the city has been found guilty every time.
- The city is saddled with heavy judgment awards from each of the lost lawsuits. They are still yet to be paid and they are accruing interest, daily.
- The police department has been undeniably and irrefutably identified as a racially hostile work environment for minority officers and personnel.
- TDOT Commissioner Gerald Nicely stated in 2005 that the city and county must each develop their own Title VI Implementation Plan, as required by federal and state law, and disallowed Ms Woodle’s declaration that we could piggyback off of TDOT’s plan.
- The receipt of federal financial assistance requires Title VI compliance up and down the line of that assistance distribution flow.
- A loss or suspension of federal financial assistance becomes a real probable consequence when noncompliance is not addressed and remedied by primary recipients or their sub-recipients, including contractors and sub-contractors.
The City of Clarksville and Montgomery County are, indisputably, recipients of federal and state financial assistance. They are subject to compliance laws, rules and regulations of the federal and state agencies which distribute or pass thru federal financial assistance to them. Efforts by private citizens to urge local governmental bodies to meet compliance requirements and standards has met with strong resistance and direct denial. This noncompliance status jeopardizes the continued receipt of the myriad forms of federal financial assistance which continually flow into the city and county coffers and funds so many services and programs. Real leadership would move to put this ship, which is our local governmental triumvirate, on course, steering a true and honest path of compliance. The pie is big enough for all of us. After all, this is, “The Gateway To The New South!”