Monday, November 28, 2011

Welcome Dayton Plan - How it started

We have been getting some national attention as well as some international attention lately as a result of the commission unanimously approving the "Welcome Dayton" plan which is geared towards making Dayton attractive towards foreign born citizens. If you were to Google "Dayton immigrant friendly" then you would find many of the articles about the plan and how some people praise us for the initiative and others condemn us on the grounds that we will attract illegal immigrants to our city. I have found that the best way to explain why we did this is to tell the true story about how it came about. When people hear it they say that it really makes sense and realize that our decision had nothing to do with dealing with illegal immigrants at all.

Truth. We had some issues in 2009 regarding unfair housing practices with regards to the Hispanic community that were being investigated by our Human Relations Council. However, on May 6, 2010 I was invited to the Northeast Priority Board meeting which is a district type neighborhood meeting involving several neighborhoods in the northeast section of the Corporation limits of the City of Dayton. I don't think I was expected to actually show up but I did and sat near the back of the room. I was introduced to the attendees towards the end of the meeting and asked to say a few words. When done, a man with a Russian accent asked me some questions. He tried to explain how he and about 4000 other families arrived in the U.S.A. from Russia. He described his people as Ahiska Turks.

I handed this gentleman a business card and invited him to call my office to make an appointment to meet with me. He did. I was smart enough to invite the City Manager to sit in on this meeting. The Ahiska Turkish community had two asks of us. To help them acquire a community center and to help them establish a cemetery. They invited us to integrate into their community which consisted of some 300 families in Dayton. They were buying up property in the Old North Dayton neighborhood and renovating houses. They had priorities. Number one seemed to be owning a home that no on could take from them. The City Manager and I discussed the fact that the very worst thing that could happen if we helped this group was that 4000 families of Ahiska Turks would relocate to Dayton and fix up one third of our vacant housing stock. The best thing that would happen is that they would start businesses to support their own community and then grow to support the greater Dayton community. Helping them made absolute sense since they were here anyway and doing good things.

What happened next was phenomenal. The City Manager asked our Human Relations Council to investigate what it would take to make Dayton "immigrant friendly" and attract opportunists and entrepreneurs. We discovered that immigrants are at least 2X more likely to succeed at small business than a national born resident and we had groups of people here in Dayton from all over the world who were here legally and striving towards the American dream. Thus began a series of meetings and the formation of several committees to formulate a strategy to facilitate the success of foreign born nationals in Dayton. That is it. The concept came out of a desire to facilitate the success of groups of people who are already here and now, primarily because of timing, we have been labeled by the media as being somewhat progressive because we are going against the grain of what other states in the U.S. are doing. Some other states are passing laws that are restrictive to illegal immigrants which makes those areas unattractive to legal immigrants as well because legal immigrants can be profiled and suffer the hardships of prejudice.

I continue to point out that historically, cities that embraced diversity of culture tended to thrive for hundreds of years until the leaders of the cities adopted elitist attitudes towards race and culture that destroyed the stability of those cities. Two cities that come to mind are Byzantium which became Constantinople and ultimately Istanbul and Cordoba in Spain. Constantinople was the Capitol city of the Eastern Roman Empire and out lasted Rome by 500 years. Cordoba thrived under the Moors as long as religious differences were ignored. Dayton is truly a world class city. We have world class facilities here and we certainly have world class people. Now is the time to recognize that trait and to develop it to it's full potential. Open minds open doors to opportunists. Here in Dayton opportunity knocks!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Old Tricks?

Our local newspaper has supposedly changed how they report news. I was excited when this was announced and felt that if they can maintain the new approach over a long period of time, it would be good for the entire region. I was told by some of their staff that they would no longer endorse candidates or pick sides when it came to non-partisan races. Today, they printed a story that was factual but it is very one sided, and barely "newsworthy." The story is about one of the independent candidates running for city commission. You can read it HERE

Mr. Pace announced two years ago that he would be running for city commission. He has never hidden that fact and has been aggressive in his fund raising efforts for the last two years. I would like to add an element to this story that the newspaper has failed to report. The amazing thing that was not reported was how an African American was able to set up his own production company in downtown Dayton which employed several people and generated over $400,000 a year without receiving a dime from the city or any government agency. Between 2002 and 2009 over two thirds of his advertisers and sponsors either went out of business or moved out of the city. His personal income plummeted but he managed to stay in business and only owe $2000 in state income tax. With regards to the foreclosure issue, Mr. Pace has first-hand dealings with an issue that millions of Americans have experienced, and he also understands issues dealing with unresponsive banks.

So the real questions that need to be asked are these; Why did the paper publish this story less than a week before the election when the information has always been available on the public record. Some of it for over two decades. Is this really a news story? The debates are all over and Mr. Pace has no way to rebut this story. The other question to ask is; What is the relationship between the journalist who wrote the story and one of the incumbent commission candidates up for re-election?
To me this reeks of the same old, same old that must be changed. Whether this was intentional or not it sends a bad message. It sends a message that reporting is back to business as usual at the local paper and that one political party is up to the same old lame tricks that everyone is sick and tired of. If this was intentional, shame on you DDN. If it wasn't then open your eyes and see what it is that you do to ruin yourself.