City Manager Submits Nominees for Watertown Human Rights Commission

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Starting with a pool of 28 applicants, City Manager George Proakis selected a group of nine people which is “very diverse with a very interesting mix of backgrounds” to nominate for Watertown’s first Human Rights Commission.

The changes to Watertown’s Charter approved by voters in 2021 included the creation of a Human Rights Commission. More than two years later, the inaugural group of commissioners were submitted by Proakis to the City Council on Tuesday.

“This one has been a complicated and long process to get us to this point,” Praokis said.

The City Council adopted the ordinance to create the Human Rights Commission in September 2023, and in December 2023 Proakis sent out notice that he was seeking applicants for the Commission. Of the initial 28 applicants, 27 people were interviewed by the Residents Advisory Committee. All were asked the same set of questions.

“I am very happy to present to you a very extensive, well vetted, very diverse and with a very interesting mix of backgrounds; some who are professionals in human rights and some who have substantial lived experience in Watertown and elsewhere, being able to reflect and provide feedback on human rights to bring together this group,” Proakis said.

City Council President Mark Sideris thanked everyone who applied to be on the Human Rights Commission. He added that because the Commission would touch on multiple areas, rather than sending the nominees to one or more City Council committees, he would create an ad hoc committee of three City Councilors to interview the nominees and make a recommendation to the full Council.

“The sooner we can get those three volunteers the sooner we can get these scheduled,” Sideris said. 

Proakis provided the names and some background on the nine nominees:

Corey Barr (for a term expiring April 1, 2025)

A human rights professional with 15 years experience in research, education and training who has worked with non-governmental organizations, and has worked on human rights issues around the world. She has a master of arts degree in law and diplomacy. 

Elizabeth Bruise (for a term expiring April 1, 2025)

Bruise’s full time position is as a staff attorney on the Massachusetts Commission on Judicial Conduct, and has spent time as a legal director for De Novo, a center for justice that has provided a lot of assistance for low-income community members on addressing legal needs, including domestic violence and other family law issues. She has a law degree from the City University of New York.

Gabriel Camacho (for a term expiring April 1, 2025)

Camacho’s professional work is with the United Food and Commercial Workers Union. He also spent many years working with American Friends Services Community, developing strategic plans dealing with immigration and advocating for immigrant issues. He has a degree from SUNY Albany and worked with the American Arbitration Association. 

Lisa Laplante (for a term expiring April 1, 2026)

Laplante is New York University Law School graduate, and is currently a professor of law at New England School of Law where her specialty area is human rights.

Susan Musinsky (for a term expiring April 1, 2026)

Musinsky was until recently the executive director of the Social Innovation Forum, a non-profit organization working on social impact and human rights issues. She has a master’s degree in education and spent a lot of time working in that area.

Melvin Poindexter (for a term expiring April 1, 2026)

Poindexter has been active in voting and election issues and has been involved in the community for many years. 

Xin Peng (for a term expiring April 1, 2027)

Peng has been involved in the community as board chair of World in Watertown. 

Quyen Tran (for a term expiring April 1, 2027)

Tran currently works for a company that works with gender affirming medical adhesive tape, works as a public speaker on transgender issues, and has worked as the creative director for the King for a Day workshop on the art of drag performances.

Sarah Zoen (for a term expiring April 1, 2027)

Zoen is the associate director of Pillar Two, which provides technical services to clients on human rights and UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

The Ordinance

Watertown’s Human Rights Commission Ordinance sets out the duties of the commission. The ordinance states:

The Commission shall work to ensure that all persons enjoy equal opportunity to participate in local affairs, including but not limited to housing, employment, education, public accommodation, access to city services, insurance, credit, banking and health care, regardless of race, color, ancestry, national origin, sex, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, citizenship, age, religion, disability, health status, marital or familial status, military or veteran status, socioeconomic status, ex-offender status, genetic and/or “protected class” status. The Commission shall promote human rights in Watertown through outreach, dialogue, educational forums, the development of an Action Plan, serving as a resource to persons with concerns of discrimination within the City, recommending policies or resolutions for adoption by City Council, City Manager or other City departments, boards or commissions, providing annually a written report to the City Manager and City Council on the Commission’s activities and hold a public forum and other charges and responsibilities set forth in the Ordinance 0-2023-66.

One thought on “City Manager Submits Nominees for Watertown Human Rights Commission

  1. Thanks City Manager Proakis for moving this to its final phase, plus a debt of gratitude to all who have been championing this for over a decades. Bravo!

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