Haya El Nasser, USA Today, August 4, 2006
Sixty-eight cities in 28 states have decided that a plain old welcome sign is no longer enough in a nation growing increasingly diverse.
In a symbolic plea for greater tolerance, communities from West Virginia to California are posting signs that say: “Welcome. We are building an inclusive community.”
Some are placing the signs at city limits. Others are putting them in front of schools and city halls.
“We are not claiming to be an inclusive community,” says James Hunt, a city councilman in Clarksburg, W.Va., which has erected the sign. “What we’re saying is that we recognize the value of that, and we’re working toward it.”
That’s the message behind the National League of Cities’ new initiative. Hunt, president of the association this year, launched the Partnership for Working Toward Inclusive Communities to promote equal opportunity and fairness.
The push comes at a time when many states are banning same-sex marriages and some cities are cracking down on illegal immigrants. Billboards in Hamilton, Ohio, warn: “Hire an Illegal. BREAK THE LAW!” Some communities are restricting family-oriented housing developments to limit demand on public services such as schools.
The initiative targets no specific issues, Hunt says.
“Is it race? Is it youth? Is it the disabled?” he says. “We wanted it to be a broad topic.”
“We need more emphasis on diverse communities than ever before,” says George Galster, professor of urban affairs at Wayne State University in Detroit.
“American neighborhoods are becoming much more segregated. . . If the symbolism turns into real community discussion about diversity, what it means, what people like, what people don’t like, then it could have a very positive effect.”