Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A City With A Plan

And now, a breath of fresh air and some sunshine to lift your spirits. This story shows what can happen when a city decides to grow its economy by welcoming immigrants rather than shoving them out. The city is Dayton, Ohio, not exactly a hotbed of radicalism.

...It has adopted a plan not only to encourage immigrants to come and feel welcome here, but also to use them to help pull out of an economic tailspin.

Dayton officials, who adopted the "Welcome Dayton" plan unanimously Oct. 5, say they aren't condoning illegal immigration; those who come here illicitly will continue to be subject to U.S. laws.

While states including Alabama, Georgia and Arizona, as well as some cities, have passed laws in recent years cracking down on illegal immigrants, Dayton officials say they will leave that to federal authorities and focus instead on how to attract and assimilate those who come legally.

Other cities, including nearby Columbus and Indianapolis, have programs to help immigrants get government and community help, but Dayton's effort has a broader, and more urgent, feel.

Instead of courting large businesses with tax breaks and free land, Dayton is planning to help grow small businesses in the immigrant communities. The program is geared to increase employment (the city's unemployment rate is two points higher than the national average) and to increase the tax base. One healthy by-product of the plan is some very sensible community building over the whole of the city. Restaurants, music and clothing stores, businesses which will cater to not just the immediate ethnic community, but the entire city will receive assistance in some very tangible ways. And the entire city will benefit.

Dayton officials say their plan still needs funding and volunteers to help put it in place; they hope by the end of the year. Its key tenets include increasing information and access to government, social services and housing issues; language education and help with identification cards, and grants and marketing help for immigrant entrepreneurs to help build the East Third Street section.

"We will be more diverse, we will grow, we will have more restaurants, more small businesses," said Tom Wahlrab, the city's human relations council director, who helped lead the plan's development.

Besides thousands of Hispanics, there are communities in Dayton of Iraqi refugees, Vietnamese and other Asians, Africans from several countries, and Russians and Turks who, officials say, are already living here quietly and industriously.
[Emphasis added]

Over the last five decades the American dream has taken quite a beating, but it clearly is not dead, at least not yet. Cities like Dayton still believe in it, and believe in it enough to keep it and their cities alive.

That's some badly needed good news.

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