(Crystal A. Proxmire, March 20, 2017)
Pleasant Ridge, MI – With a unanimous vote of the City Commission, Pleasant Ridge is now a “Welcoming City.”
“A Welcoming City or County is one that joins the Welcoming America network and works across multiple sectors, such as government, business, and non-profit, to create inclusive policies and practices such as making it easier for entrepreneurs to start a business or having government documents available in multiple languages. Welcoming Cities are guided by the principles of inclusion and creating communities that prosper because everyone feels welcome, including immigrants and refugees,” states the Welcoming America website.
Royal Oak also joined recently. West Bloomfield became a Welcoming City in 2015, but in Jan. 2016 some residents wanted to see the designation removed. After a heated meeting on the subject, Township Board Members voted 3-2 to keep the designation.
According to www.welcomingamerica.org, Ann Arbor, Battle Creek, Clinton Township, Detroit, East Lansing, Hamtramck, Kalamazoo County, Lansing, Macomb County, Meridian, Royal Oak, Sterling Heights, and West Bloomfield are Welcoming Cities or Counties.
The vote in Pleasant Ridge came along with a proclamation, stating:
“WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge believes in the innate dignity of all people; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge acknowledges, honors, and values our immigrant and migrant roots, and
WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge celebrates diversity and recognizes that invaluable contributions to our social, religious, cultural, and economic landscape have come from immigrants from a wide variety of ethnic and religious backgrounds; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge, and southeast Michigan as a whole, has long been home to immigrants and migrants from around the world who come seeking opportunity, stability, prosperity, and a better life for their families; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge has long been recognized as a hospitable and welcoming place where the contributions of all are celebrated and valued, and
WHEREAS, as evidenced by our publicly supported human rights ordinance, the City of Pleasant Ridge is committed to being a diverse and inclusive city; and
WHEREAS, the City of Pleasant Ridge will continue to provide a neighborly and welcoming atmosphere of respect and acceptance to all, regardless of national origin, religion, or sexual orientation; and
WHEREAS, by joining the Welcoming Cities initiative, the City of Pleasant Ridge commits to institutionalizing welcoming efforts through the adoption of practices that promote inclusion within local government and the broader community.
NOW THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED by the Pleasant Ridge City Commission that the City of Pleasant Ridge is affirmed as a place where all foreign-born and native-born Americans can live together, share in each other’s customs and ideals, and appreciate and promote cultural diversity.”
When told that some have said being a welcoming city is just lip service! Metzger said “While I can easily understand that sentiment, we will not let that happen. It is obvious that our size and housing stock do not make us a magnet for refugees. However, we have a very activist community which I hope to galvanize to plan efforts – both within the community and with other communities. Welcoming will NOT get just lip service in Pleasant Ridge.”
Mayor Metzger also said “We will be gathering residents to begin activity/event planning and will be working closely with Christine Sauve’ at Welcoming Michigan.”
When asked about the decision to join, Mayor Metzger said “While the Commission has been very vocal in the past about the value of all persons – particularly in the area of LGBTQ rights – it is the recent attacks on immigrants and refugees coming from the Trump administration that necessitated action.
“I have worked with Welcoming Michigan and Global Detroit since their inception back in 2008-2009 and have been an advocate on the importance of immigration to our state and our region. The Welcoming America and Michigan programs have proven to be tremendous advocates and appeared to be the perfect fit for Pleasant Ridge. It is my hope that we can get a coalition of SE Oakland County communities to join,” Metzger said.
The potential has been discussed in Ferndale and in Madison Heights as well. Ferndale recently made changes to their administrative policies to protect against discrimination based on immigrant status, but did not join the organization. The cost for Royal Oak to join was $200, based on a sliding scale based on population. Madison Heights Mayor Brian Hartwell announced that Council would be looking into joining soon.
Demographically, there are immigrants in Pleasant Ridge. “The most recent census data (American Community Survey, 2011-15) lists our foreign born at 7 percent of our total (above the state average of 6 percent). Because of our small size, the data contain sampling error which makes it problematic to determine characteristics through administrative sources. We know that our foreign born community runs the gamut of age – from seniors to recently adopted children – and country/region of origin. It is our hope that the community gatherings that we plan to have to kick off our Welcoming activities will help us discover the breadth and depth of our foreign born residents,” Mayor Metzger said.
Learn more about Welcoming Cities at https://www.welcomingamerica.org/programs/member-municipalities.