Monday, April 12, 2010

Follow up to the Cleveland Immigration post

I just wanted to type up a few thoughts from my Cleveland Immigration post the other day.

I'd like to thank Robert L. Smith, Cleveland Plain Dealer reporter, and co-author of the book Immigrant, Inc.: Why Immigrant Entrepreneurs Are Driving the New Economy. The article I was referencing is an excerpt from the book, which I intend to be checking out as soon as time permits.

The link to the excerpt is here:

I'm deeply flattered that Mr. Smith took the time to track down the link for the excerpt and post a comment. As I've mentioned before I don't do any tracking of blog visits, I've registered the blog at after a comment by the Plain Dealer's John Kroll, director of Training and Digital Development for the Plain Dealer, but that's all of the promotion I've done for the site, so it's always a bit surprising to see new readers pop up in the comments section, which is currently the only way I know anyone is out there reading.

I'm glad Mr. Smith did take the time though, as I'm able to correct some things from before, namely that the article was an excerpt from his book, and my paraphrasing of Mayor Jackson was off a bit.

Mayor Jackson's comment in regards to immigration was the following:

*Excerpted from the article*

Mayor Frank Jackson dismissed suggestions that the city try to attract
immigrants to revive inner city neighborhoods that were mostly black and poor.
Jackson, a multi-racial mayor who identified most strongly with his African
American roots, told civic groups he did not trust immigrants to help his
If someone else wanted to try to draw immigrants to Cleveland, "I
will not be against it," Jackson told The Plain Dealer in early 2009. "However,
as we move ahead, I'm always interested in the self-help mode, in taking care of
our own."

My paraphrase accused Mayor Jackson of referencing immigrants as 'those' people, which is entirely incorrect and my apologies for the mistake.

Mayor Jackson stated that "he didn't trust immigrants to help his people." I suppose that's a fair enough statement, but I'm not really sure what Mayor Jackson means. Is he talking about the people of Cleveland overall, or is he referencing an ethnicity of the city's base?

If he's referencing the people of Cleveland overall, I believe this statement shows him to be severely short sighted and would have me question whether he truly understands the position of power that he occupies. Apparently Mayor Jackson believes "self help" will suddenly impregnate and magically bring 1000's of people to adult maturation in an incredibly short period of time. Then there would be more people to occupy abandoned homes, bring tax revenue, ideas, and initiative to an area that is in the throes of mass population exodus and economic blight.

Perhaps Mayor Jackson wasn't referring to the population overall, but was referring to immigrants not helping the African-American base in Cleveland? After all, it's not out of line to have concerns about mixing racial groups into a homogenized area. Again the term short sighted and incompetent come to mind in this case. As the article referenced some of those issues that took place in Philadelphia. Of course at that point, Philadelphia had an increased tax base to help remedy some of those issues, whether it was through programs or additional enforcement.

Unfortunately in either case, I think the Mayor of Cleveland is making a grievous error in not looking out for the long term interests of the city. Maybe this is the result of being City Council president and continuing to view issues through that filter, but when you become Mayor it's essential that expand that filter and begin to understand the city's impact to the region and the problems facing it. It's not the job of the immigrants to help your people, it's yours. Neglecting the future of the city in order to 'heal' within is malpractice.

A true leader understands that there are obstacles on the path to success. They are able to navigate difficult obstacles and take the long term view in order to lead. When they run into strife, they confront it and manage the situation, they don't run from it based on their bias and small minded mentality. It's obvious from this situation that Mayor Jackson is not capable of leading in this capacity and that's an unfortunate situation for the city of Cleveland.

My hope is that when we elect our czar of Cuyahoga County, they are able to recognize some of these issues and take the appropriate action to lead the region into the future. I'm not optimistic about this possibility, but it's the only hope I have a the moment. Mayor Jackson had a chance as the Mayor of our largest city in the region to enact change and to drive progress, he's failed miserably at that to date. Perhaps there will be a time when the area needs 'self help" and maybe Mayor Jackson is the one to lead that charge, but that time is not now. Cleveland has a bullet hole bleeding population and businesses and 'self help' is a band-aid to the wound.

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