Archive for the ‘IMMIGRATION’ Category

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MINNESOTA: CROSSROADS OF THE CONTINENT

August 16, 2012

Yesterday, I attended a program entitled “Native American Settlements in the Minneapolis Area” at Mill City Museum.

As we gathered before the session, I chatted with the facilitator of our “Telling Native River Stories” group and was glad to hear that he, too, felt our efforts beginning in 2008 planted a seed that helped move us all to this wonderful week of coming together and re-telling of the US-Dakota Conflict of 1862.   

As we took our seats, the photos and sites included were familiar ones…St. Anthony Falls, Cold Spring, Pilot Knob, the strawberry fields and burial grounds of Lake Calhoun, Nicollet Island, Spirit Island, Loring Park and the gathering spot of the gods on the river bluff-today known as Fort Snelling. 

But two concepts introduced by the speaker, Richard La Fortune, definitely gave me food for thought.

His over-arching theme of the Crossroads of the Continent expanded my viewpoint significantly.  Of course, I know the role of the river for both native peoples and white immigrants, but La Fortune compared the north-south and east-west routes traveled for thousands of years by native peoples to today’s I-35 and I-94 intersecting right here in the city, and it all clicked together in my brain. 

I certainly know that the very first bridge ever built across the Mississippi River was “First Bridge” the original precursor to our Hennepin Avenue Bridge; but that was built here has always been marvel to me.  Yesterday, as I heard Lake Street described as a street built over part of the trail from the Mississippi River to the Tetons combined with legends of the falls known to native peoples from the headwaters to the Gulf of Mexico, it brought it all into perspective.   Major North American migration routes have criss-crossed our state and city for thousands of years; and indeed, looking at North America in its totality from northern Canada to southern Mexico/Atlantic Ocean to Pacific Ocean, we are located right there in the middle!

But more intriguing than that, was the current activity and findings reported at the archeological site currently under study at Prairie Island near Red Wing.  This large village, existing in 900-1250 AD, consists of square “apartments” positioned around a central plaza.  Each corner of the plaza- aligned north, east, south, and west- contains cultural artifacts from each corner of North America – dating back 10,000 years!  It was interesting to hear that the presumption is that apartments near each corner of the plaza were inhabited by immigrants from that same area of North America-each clustered around artifacts of their past.  

Rather than an outpost of Cahokia as once thought, La Fortune speculated that the Red Wing site was an outgrowth of sites here in Minneapolis, with 10,000 year old artifacts supporting the theory that indeed, this was the gathering place for all native nations on the continent to come together to trade and to forge peace agreements among the nations of the native world we know so little about.

Think about it.  A 10,000 year history of native “United Nations of America”; a 400 year history of immigrant whites that formed the 200+ year-old “United States of America”…it’s hard to understand the  justification of cries to “build a wall and shoot” in reference to keeping out the Mexican immigrants, isn’t it?  Many of them may likely have ancient ties to this land stronger than ours.  More food for thought!

I walked back from the museum thinking that the nickname “North Star State” does us a disservice in today’s world.  Becoming once again the “Crossroads of North America” has more world-class appeal!

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RAMBLINGS ON A SUNDAY AFTERNOON

July 29, 2012

A QUIET RENNAISSANCE IS BORN

Yesterday afternoon I smiled all the way from N. Second Street, up West Broadway to Penn, as I chose to take in FLOWnorthside.  How have I missed this for the last six years?

Of course, I know the area; I visit the Capri Theatre; I recommend Lundstrom’s and occasionally take in a performance there; through the RiverCurrent, I know what’s happening at the Minneapolis Photo Center-but until now, I have never visited it;  sadly, I’ve been to the West Broadway Indian Center for a wake of a small child; and when it fits, I use the product from the Cookie Cart in my events not only because it’s a great cause; but because it’s so fun to see those kids pride in the great product they bake there.

All that in addition to the  fact that since I first moved downtown in the mid 90s, Plymouth Avenue from Washington to Wirth Parkway and Broadway north out of the city have been two well-frequented paths to visit friends in the burbs.

But I had never been aware enough of what I was passing through nor was I really registering  the transformation that was taking place day after day after day.

This spring, as I’ve written of in an earlier blog, I attended a Charles Landry discussion at the Capri that became the impetus to look at this area differently.  No one could have missed the message Landry was conveying when he put up the birds-eye view of the area and pointed out the interstate “fences” that kept the northside separated from Minneapolis.

Then, a week or so ago, I watched a TPR Special  “Cornerstones: A History of North Minneapolis” that told its story and positioned the Jewish influence in the area in a way I had never noticed before.  And sadly, it brought back the visions of Plymouth Avenue “riots” of 1965, 1966 which sadly, have been engrained in the brains of whites ever since.

So  yesterday I was determined to participate in the celebration of the Northside today, as I was beginning to see it as a good example of the interculturalism I often refer to as we look to the future and what we want for the MSP metropolitan area.

 I started at Lundstrom’s for a great dance performance; then on to find not only the Mpls Photo Center, but the Two Tigers Gallery as well.  Great art, and two fabulous photo installations…with more food for thought than one can possibly absorb in a single afternoon!   Just don’t look out the windows toward the river….or you will be reminded how unsightly the “business” of the river can be!

As I got in my car to head over the interstate, I sighted one of the things that motivated me to stop in the  N2nd cluster in the first place….the PEDAL STAGE!  We love our bikes; we love our bike trails; we love our pedal cabs and we love our pedal pubs in Minneapolis, but now we have a new innovation to pedal.  Sure enough, there it was, pedaled by hearty volunteers as they towed the mobile stage AND the band playing on its deck!  And by the smiles on the faces of all in the street, it was a hit.

Running out of time, I raced up to the Capri to see for a second time, the TPT footage being shown in the theatre at 3PM.  WOW!  Little did I know, the video producer was the host.  Little did I expect the impact of a second viewing.  And little did I expect the engaging impassioned discussion of whites and Asians, Hispanics and African Americans, asking questions, sharing memories, and coming together as one people, all originally immigrants to MN,  with a common love– the history and culture of the north side! (Along with a great love for Asuncion and for North High, I might add).

No one got up and exited; all of us wanting it to continue.  But alas, Taiko Drumming was scheduled for 5PM so we had to vacate. 

The beer garden  and the KMOJ Stage beckoned, but  I wanted to get on down to the Knox intersection  for the Soul Train Dance Line gathering…you may have seen the picture of same in the Sunday Strib this morning – YES!  The people gathered here were definitely into “Boogyin’ Down Broadway – and I was into witnessing them do it!

By the time I got to the KFAI Summer Festival stage, I had missed the Minnesota Lynx, a West African drum and dance, Matt the Magician, “If Eye May”, and an Asian ethnic dance so only caught a bit of hip hop and Les Jolies Petites – all on stage behind the Cookie Cart.

Yes, of course, this was my last stop of the day….it’s been so long ago, I don’t even remember when I first heard of the Cookie Cart and the good work they are doing building life skills in the neighborhood and much much more.  But I do remember several events that gave me an opportunity to use their product, and one in particular, when the kids came along with the purchase, to serve up cookies and coffee under a Target branded tent inside the warehouse at Skyway!  They were a pleasure to work with then, and they were absolutely delightful in the midst of crowds of people wanting a cookie, or a dozen or big box, as a whole lot of folks FLOWed into their storefront yesterday!

I left before I found the Open Eye’s tandem bicycle pulling “the city’s smallest theatre  to present impromptu five-minute performances”; and although I was excited to hear I could still catch the  West Broadway Historic Walking Tour on Sunday at 10:30, I did not make it back.  Bummer!  The tour used footprints layered on the sidewalk, and your own smartphone to share through augmented reality, historic photos of how various places looked in the past. 

What an absolutely GREAT AFTERNOON!

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A CHANGING LANDSCAPE

July 23, 2012

Readers of this blog are aware that over the last seven months, I have become absorbed in a new way of thinking-initially because of my introduction to Charles Landry’s “The Art of City Making”.  Landry did a residency here in Minneapolis/St. Paul in early May which I participated in as part of the Plan-It Hennepin project.

It was an eye-opener for me in many ways…and once that happens, one sees signs and applications everywhere one looks.  And sometimes I forget that everyone in my world does not see it the same way I do.  That was evident earlier this week, when a friend of some thirty years and I had a discussion on immigrants in Minnesota.  Our perspectives, coming from different directions and viewpoints clashed resoundingly.  We survived the discussion of conflicting ideas, and I resolved to keep in mind that not everyone is celebrating the changes I see.

So, as I glanced at the STRIB headline on  Sunday  “A Changing Landscape” and realized it was a story of Somali immigration and impact in outstate towns such as Willmar, Rochester, and Faribault, I reminded myself that friends and family in those three towns might indeed view this very differently than I do. It will be painful to some and encouraging to others, and for all, a bit of a cultural shock.  Not everyone in my world has the benefit of learning and beginning to understand the importance of interculturalism in our 21st century world of globilization as presented by Landry, nor the Richard Florida theory of economic reset we are now experiencing.

Nonetheless, as I took in the message, I thought it should be a welcome change – if understood.  The “reset” after the Great Depression created the move to the suburbs…as we ”recorrected” once again, and the excesses of the late 20th century pushed that migration further and further into the surrounding countryside as exurbs developed.  And with that came suburban malls and big box stores, and more and more super highways…and that left empty buildings and department stores in the core, and eventually, the central city blight so many of our cities have experienced.

The article began by recounting that Main Streets in many smaller Minnesota communities have not fared so well in the last 25-30 years, and the growth of immigrant populations and business are …a shot in the arm…an economic development program.  But for long-time residents, it’s a big change, and the old community they long for will never be again.

It is hard for those residents to see strangers they know nothing about move into their towns…and for the most part, judging from family discussions, I understand they see them as “different”, “troublesome in schools” and a little bit scary.

 It is easy to miss that immigrants of any color most likely have the same qualities our own immigrant forefathers had….otherwise they would not have risked the move.  They are entrepreneurs, they create businesses and therefore jobs; they resurrect stores and services needed in the core;  and over time their businesses include law offices, insurance agencies, and real estate offices…all services needed in a community; they pay taxes;  and yes, they bring a different look and perspective to disrupt our comfort level.  

I was encouraged to read the perspective of Royal Ross, director of a program called Faribault Main Street.   He understands that it is a hard adjustment for residents in a small town….”it is a cultural shock to us a little bit…it’s neither good nor bad.  It’s just different.”

And his example of differences is one that we all can understand.  Large groups of Somali men tend to congregate at day’s end, on Faribault sidewalks, a common way to get together and exchange information.  But they are speaking Somali and not moving out of the way for others walking by.

Ross mentions that the white locals are not used to seeing large groups congregating in public areas like that…and that we need to get used to how each other operate.

 So, of course , I understand:  because it is different, and since the group is “not like us- white and speaking English” –it becomes intimidating.  We forget that through much of our own US history, citizens, like citizens of countries all over the world, did/do that in the Town Square …which disappeared from our own cities in the last 50 years, along with the downtowns.  It is why discussions in city-making in MSP continue to focus on creating “intercultural gathering spaces”. 

 Losing that face-to-face interaction has not been good for our country. Somehow, the staged networking events in a sterile indoor gathering space, complete with speakers and name tags and mixer games and superficial conversation exchanges do not accomplish the same thing.  We should learn from those Somali gathering, not fear them!

So despite the misunderstanding, I will continue to advocate for the move to intercultural planning and understanding, and will view the separate article reporting on racing camels and ostriches at Canterbury  as a little “intercultural creep” as we experiment and try “new” things as a baby step in the right direction!

 

 

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IMMIGRANTS

July 18, 2012

Have I been captured by the aliens and do not know it?  It is the only explanation I have left to explain this negative fixation on immigration that permeates our world today.

 A few days ago, we were seated near a table of four business men for lunch.  As our meal progressed, the discussion “next door” grew louder, and it was soon apparent by the conversation, that Hispanic Immigrants formed the primary topic of discussion.

First of all, these white senior men obviously were snow-birds- back “visiting” in Minnesota for the summer from their “homes” in Arizona.  Needless to say, they were still harping on the border security and the rights of Arizona to solve this “problem” themselves since Obama won’t.  Do these men read?  Hispanic immigration has been a NET ZERO since 2009.  If there is a problem, it happened before the Obama Presidency.  It is a fact that efforts to stop illegal immigration have been STEPPED UP by Obama, over that of the previous eight years.

The short-term plan for children of immigrants was part of the heated discussion….again, when this was announced, I heard it said this was a temporary plan, which would allow the US Immigration officials to focus on those illegal aliens that were rightfully targeted for deportation.  Did I make this up? – No I just fact-checked it.  I remembered correctly.  Now, of course, I am not naïve, I know the timing was most likely geared to create a political advantage as well, but nonetheless,  the anger voiced was born from being out-smarted, not from a rational review of the plan.

As their loud conversation distracted me,  so many thoughts went through my mind:  When this country was in its infancy, Arizona, Texas and surrounds were a part of a region known as Mexico.   That means that near as I can tell, these men are the immigrants…spending one day more in Arizona than Minnesota to save taxes. .  I’ve ranted about this before, so enough said.

In fact, as I looked at these men, they are probably no more than two generations away from being  immigrants themselves – to Minnesota!  Most of this state was populated by whites in the last 150 years – and MOST of those whites were immigrants…Germans, Scandinavians, and more that generally began a movement from Europe post-US  civil war times.   Of course, from their demonstrated pomposity, one would think they all were offspring of Daughters of the American Revolution!

“The Hispanic problem is out of control and will be the ruin of this great country” remarked one of the men.  Really?  Fact is, Asians have become the largest group of immigrants.  Fact is, businessmen like the aging lunchers most likely are among those temporarily  ok with Asian immigrants…as long as they fill the skills gap needed in the work force and plan on going home when their 3 year visa expires.   And I won’t even get into the reason for the skill gap being the sad state of affairs much of our educational system is in because  men of their ilk are still thinking “educate for 20thcentury needs”. I think their rationale is that if they shout loud enough, they can bring the good old days back – those days when their expertise was valued.

 

Interspersed among the Arizona immigrant issue were enough racially-tinged slurs about Obama, I was tempted to interrupt and point out that although Obama’s African heritage is representative of a recent African immigration, they should take note that the importation of Africans as slaves began in the 1600s – making them longer residents of the US than most of those at the table.

Fortunately for all of us, I chose not to make a bigger scene than they already were doing.  There were enough comments made to convince me these guys would be supporters of the Romney executive order signed on Bunker Hill Day, June 17, 2003, that eradicated Massachusetts affirmative action policies but I held my tongue – knowing whatever I might say would not make an impact – just a scene. 

Although I confess, I had a difficult time not responding when that familiar Republican war- cry of “my money” was repeated over and over.  Someone should tell these guys that taxes assessed by representatives elected by the majority of citizens no longer qualify as “my money”.  They become the cost we each pay to live in this country and enjoy its benefits.  And we all have a choice:  if we do not want to pay; we can move out.

Since this foursome looked to be about my age, I would say most of them will be around for another 15-20 years – long enough to see not just the Hispanics, but the combined minorities of the US population “tip the scale” and the brief 200 years of white majority in our lengthly history of 13,000 years of North American civilization will come to an end. 

In the meantime, I doubt we can count on them as supporters of moving our metro area to a world-class population hub….I doubt they understand that white supremacy does not trump interculturalism in the global world of today.   

I can only hope they each live long enough to be governed by those for whom they have such disregard – when the whites of the US become the minority of the country’s population.

 

 

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The Jobs Debate We Ought To Have

July 16, 2012

FINALLY, a reprint in the STRIB of editorial from Bloomberg News that makes some sense!

This entire argument about off-shoring and out-sourcing, may have been appropriate in the 1950s, but come on, people, we LIVE in a world of globalization!  And more important, as a country, we benefit from it and will continue to benefit from it when we act like collaborative partners with those countries that are increasingly playing important and contributive roles in the global economy.  And let’s not forget where the innovation came from that allowed for the rapid growth of globalization.  If we don’t like it, and would prefer to lock to the doors to the country – no immigrants in; no jobs outsourced – we have no one to blame but ourselves!

However, like it or not, the world around us has awakened and moved forward.  We have good examples of what has happened to countries like China and Russia in the past, when afraid, or unable to keep up, chose to lock the doors and wither inside.  

 Think about this argument in the article:

For U.S. corporations , globalization isn’t just about cheaper wages.  Companies create jobs outside the country to pursue sales opportunities in new markets, get closer to suppliers in fast-growing regions and employ people who understand local tastes.  Even if labor costs were equal, companies would still hire abroad because that’s where the talent pool is.  Companies that don’t do any of this for patriotic reasons will be at a disadvantage to European and Asian competitors, probably resulting in lost market share and more U.S. layoffs.

Are there downsides to globalization?  Of course.  Can we minimize the impact if we address the right issues?  Probably.

But the two little boys fighting in the national presidential sandbox today are not going to solve the problem with their approach. 

Those that follow my blog will recognize the thinking expressed in the last two paragraphs of the editorial:

An honest discussion would require both sides to face…unpleasant facts.  Many jobs have been lost to automation, not necessarily just to off-shoring.  That [ is} why employment in the middle-wage occupations is declining rapidly.

If the presidential candidates want to be constructive, they will tell voters the hard truth:  Well-paying midlevel jobs may have to wait for new industries to be born, and the wait could be a long one.

And as long as we continue to use the industrial model and practices of early 20th century to guide our educational systems, we only create more people that can’t get jobs that do not exist.    Since high-skill/high wage jobs are plentiful and U.S. corporations insist they have openings today that can’t be filled, it appears that is a lasting need, that our educational systems need to address. 

Likewise, low-skill/low wage jobs are also available.  Perhaps it is time to RETHINK those service jobs.  Early in the 20th century we had to make a shift….industries at the time were sweatshops and small cottage industries where laborers could barely make a living.  It took a change in thinking  led by the labor unions to create those mid-level well-paying jobs that have now been eliminated- 100 years later -by technology and automation. 

Yes, a change in thinking is what is needed today. Perhaps it is time to look at the value of those providing services to us every day, and determine whether we are paying for the value we receive.  Perhaps it is time to ADJUST those incomes to a point where service laborers can support a family without holding two jobs. 

Perhaps it is time to stop ignoring the practice of using the new immigrants we are trying to stop from coming into the US to groom our lawns, paint our houses,  clean our homes and do our laundry  all for $5 an hour!  

Perhaps as our country evolves into an inter-racial country with “minorities” out-pacing the whites-combined with longer lifes that could be economically productive lives, we RETHINK social security without all the emotion: raise the retirement age to 70.  With average lifespans of 75-80, it is ridiculous to think that it is our RIGHT to work only 25-30 years of a lifetime and play the other 60%!

And definitely it is time to acknowledge that an educational system that was geared to the industrial age creates  people to fill  jobs  that have now disappeared, it might be time to teach them what they need to learn to fill the job markets we will have available – not only now, but for the next 50 years!

 

 

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POSITIVE DEMOGRAPHIC TRENDS in the U.S.

July 9, 2012

Rather than being a victim of the old saying “cannot see the forest for the trees”, I believe I have been so focused on the FOREST, that I overlooked a very important TREE in our world.

The headline of Lee Schafer’s column in the STRIB this morning proclaimed  ”Demographic trends favor US, if we do things right”, and although  I started to read it with some doubt, I quickly realized I had over-looked a very important reality as I ponder the changing demographics  of our future.

I have been so focused on what the growth of minorities mean to MSP, and the need for an understanding of interculturalism and how do we accomplish that in businesses run by whites for whites when our customers of the future will not be whites.  We are redesigning our city and talking about gateways and trying to project into the future-all based on the white world as we know it.  I have been almost overwhelmed as I see over and over that those projections STILL assume a white population in the majority for the duration of the 21st century…and I know statistics show that is not to be…and how do we avoid falling off another cliff in our urban renewal efforts? 

Of course, I know that by the time we realize those effects to the fullest, I will not be here.  However,  the sadness of being a part of a philosophy of city planning that I studied at the University in the 60s and how wrong it was, and how it has us in a box that is hard to escape from is difficult to accept.  We THOUGHT we knew but instead, today we have empty downtowns filled with parking lots and surrounded by interstate infrastructural barriers…all waiting for us to re-do.  We cannot make a second revitalization mistake.

And then, the attitude of disbelief written on faces as I talk about mid-century projections that show the white population will be in the minority causes more worries.  Will we be able to do all this right this time?  

As I think of all that, there are days that the forest seems just too big to conquer.

So Schafer’s column and message was a welcome reminder to me that I have been over-looking a major positive.  “Of the five largest global economies today, only the U.S will see significant growth in working-age population between now and 2050.”  Yes, the WHITE population is aging and there are fewer WHITE people that will be working-age in 2050 than those elderly ….but we will be talking about less than HALF the population of our country by then!

Shafer points out this has not been a government strategy, of course, but is happening by accident .  “To the contrary, many new workers will be children of people here today whom we tried to keep out.” 

Indeed.  Somehow, a good part of our country has forgotten it is built on immigration, or prefers to think, I suppose, that there is a secret document someplace that supports only WHITE immigration.  But white immigrants are not in a majority.  We are talking Hispanics, Asians, and Africans.

All of a sudden, the discussion of Social Security being unsustainable may not be a valid concern or argument. The age distribution changes create a potential for economic growth as well as a source of funding for Social Security.  We might just be caught up once again in a 20th century worry that has changed when we were not looking.

But, as the article states, “Whether or not this potential is captured depends on the policy environment.”

So we need the attention to shift to a bigger concern in my mind, and that is indeed, the policy challenges around educational achievement and access to higher education for these immigrants.

And along with that, we need to remember we cannot build an improved white student’s educational system, we need to build a new intercultural education system .  Do we have any idea how we might do that? 

Maybe we ought to invite a few Hispanic, Asian and African education experts to the planning table because we certainly have not gotten it right with our own African American population!

 

 

 

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IMMIGRATION TRENDS

June 20, 2012

It always amazes me that once one becomes interested in a topic- for whatever reason-every place you look or go, you see evidence of it.  It’s been there all along, but to quote a friend in her book about Marcy Holmes neighborhood, – it’s been “Hiding in Plain Sight”.  That certainly is what is happening to me!

Over the last four months, my thinking transformed from multiculturalism to interculturalism – thanks mostly to the week- long residency of Charles Landry and my involvement of that through Plan-It Hennepin. Intermittently, there have been headlines that drew attention to 2011 as the first year in which more minority babies were born than white babies.  In the past week, Obama offered the first “make sense” step to address children of immigrants in the United States.   And yesterday, although I had no intention of talking about it, I was having lunch with a friend and something sparked my thought-process and I was off on Minneapolis as a world-class city and the role of interculturalism in that dream.

Today, the front page of the STRIB again brings our attention to immigration with its headline “State immigration shift mirrors national trend”.  For the first time, both US and MN new immigrants are coming from Asian countries than anywhere else in the world.   Yes, I know, most think “bad border control” with Mexico has led to an influx of illegal Hispanics and that is the biggest immigration situation we have.  Nope, six months after I first mentioned this phenomenon, PEW Research Center has confirmed that the net immigration from Mexico is ZERO. (See January Blog).  It seems confirmed that a declining birthrate creating a smaller labor pool, combined with an improved economy in Mexico and better immigration efforts at the border since 2009 have indeed moved this issue well down the list of priorities.  One would think that the facts would change the political dialog, but I am learning that hard lesson one more time- facts don’t matter in politics. I am hopeful, however, this means we can begin to take an honest look at the changes before us and how to positively respond and integrate them into our existing world.

Statistics in the STRIB for Minnesota show that 44% of our foreign-born population in Minnesota arrived since 2000.  Only 11% of those were white.  That means over 88% were Asian, Hispanic/Latino and Black or African/American.  36% of all immigrants in US were Asian; 30% of MN immigrants were likewise from Asian countries.   Two trends are seen in both statistics:  the slowdown of Mexican immigration combined with the US DEMAND for high-skilled workers in specialized fields.  [And yes, I think it is fair to read that as businesses cannot get high-skilled workers in specialized fields from the existing white population available to them – but that is another topic of discussion!]

And then, the editorial reflecting on St. Anthony and the two religious groups that have been denied access also chimed in this morning.  We already have a minority population of 30% in children under five years old in this state.  It closed the editorial with a thought-provoking statement:

The United States was founded by people who wanted the freedom to practice their faith.  That is the dream of diverse communities seeking to establish local houses of worship.  We should embrace them, not fear them.

All this, and we have not even gotten to the list of things we need to address to accommodate the broader shift to INTERCULTURALISM needed for us to emerge as a world class city.