Letter of Transmittal

Iowa Advisory Committee to
 the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights

Members of the Commission
Mary Frances Berry, Chairperson
Cruz Reynoso, Vice Chairperson
Jennifer C. Braceras
Christopher Edley, Jr.
Peter Kirsanow
Elsie M. Meeks
Abigail Thernstrom

Les Jin, Staff Director

The Iowa Advisory Committee submits this summary report, Race Relations in Waterloo, as part of its responsibility to advise the Commission on civil rights enforcement efforts in Iowa. The information for this report was received by the Advisory Committee at a community forum held on December 20–21, 1999, in Waterloo. The purpose of the meeting was to review selected civil rights issues in Waterloo and to obtain information about filing civil rights complaints with various government agencies.

Around 20 people appeared before the Advisory Committee, including three persons at the open sessions. Those invited to participate included city, county, and federal government officials, school district personnel, clergy, private citizens, and community organization representatives. These presenters provided a balance of perspectives related to civil rights issues. Federal representatives provided information on how to file a discrimination complaint.

As a result of the Environmental Protection Agency’s presentation on environmental justice, the city of Waterloo submitted and was approved for a $200,000 Brownfield grant. The presenter from the Office of Civil Rights, U.S. Department of Education, stayed in Waterloo an extra day and monitored the school district’s corrective action plan. Waterloo residents were able to listen to their police chief talk about his department’s operations and his relationship with the minority population. The school district superintendent noted new directions and improvements in the schools, while community activists described a serious dropout problem for minority students. One activist observed that many student dropouts enter the criminal justice system and eventually serve prison time.

Race relations were described as poor by some. However, the Waterloo Commission on Human Rights has established educational outreach programs, and the agency processes formal complaints in a timely manner. Since the Advisory Committee’s forum, HUD has approved the Waterloo Commission on Human Rights’ agreement for equivalency status, and that commission will now receive HUD funds ($315,000 for three years) to process fair housing complaints.

In a small way, the Iowa Advisory Committee has already made an impact on the Waterloo community. The forum gave residents the opportunity to explore their concerns about race relations and to interact directly with representatives from several federal civil rights enforcement agencies. The Committee hopes that this report will facilitate continued dialogue on race relations in Waterloo.


Lenola Allen-Sommerville, Chairperson
Iowa Advisory Committee