Goshen Republican mayoral candidate Mary Cripe will refocus city’s Community Relations Commission
GOSHEN, IND. - With a growing Latino community, many in Goshen want to know what the next mayor will do to improve racial and cultural relations.
According to the US Census Bureau, between 1980 and 2000 the percentage of Goshen that self-identify themselves as black tripled. In this same time period, the Asian population is five times higher, and the Hispanic/Latino population is seven times higher. The percentage of minority students in Goshen Community Schools has grown from 9.2 percent in the 1993-94 school year to 44 percent in 2006-07 and is currently at 50.1 percent.
The growing Hispanic/Latino population is merely one aspect of the many ongoing changes in Goshen. However, it deserves time and attention if Goshen is to continue to be a successful, peaceful and cohesive community.
In 1995, the Human Relations Commission (HRC) was created out of a joint venture between the City of Goshen, Goshen Ministerial Association and the Goshen Chamber of Commerce with the goal of addressing complaints of discrimination. In 2004, the common council adopted “An Ordinance Creating the Goshen Community Relations Commission and Prescribing the Powers and Duties of the Commission,” often referred to as the CRC.
“I believe the Latino community has added a great depth to our culture in Goshen. I have served the Latino community - and everyone in our city - for the past 14 years,” Republican mayoral hopeful, Mary Cripe said. “I have plans to reduce the language and cultural barriers that exist in Goshen by ensuring all our forms are bilingual, by having a translator on staff and by ensuring our existing CRC is making in-roads to the various Latino groups in Goshen.”
Democrat mayoral candidate, Jeremy Stutsman, said if he’s elected, he plans to have a Latino advisory committee to enable communication in schools and neighborhoods.
“I don’t believe creating yet another committee is the answer,” Cripe said. “I ask myself, why when the CRC is already in place and being given more than $20,000 annually and has been tasked with positive community relations, should we stretch the city even more thin by implementing yet another group that would have overlapping purposes with our existing CRC?”
Cripe acknowledges that while current CRC Chairman, Nathan Mateer Rempel, has worked extremely hard, she believes the current model needs restructured.
She pointed to recommendations identified in a 2007 report released by the CRC that still have not been successfully implemented. For example, the need for an effective and accessible process of handling disputes. The CRC has a lot of legal power to effect change, but the current system has been unable to implement this mandate.
Director of Communities in Schools Joe Guerrero has said, Goshen’s goal should be to share what we have in common, as opposed to drawing attention to our differences.
Cripe points to seeking minority representation for leadership positions in the city and celebrating the many places of successful integration in our community, such as soccer fields, restaurants, workplaces and retail stores, as suggested by the report.
It won’t be an easy road, Cripe said.
LaCasa CEO, Larry Gautsche has shared, “We have a hard time getting enough minority representation on our board, and it’s not like we don’t try. There are just too few people who have the time, energy and skills to fill all the needed leadership roles. But we hope this will change with time.”
Cripe is optimistic that Latino leaders will continue to rise, referencing the recent report from Goshen College stating Hispanic enrollment is up 10 percent in this year’s freshman class.
“Public awareness and education will continue to be on the forefront of my mind as your mayor,” Cripe said. “I am optimistic that cultural relations can and will continue to improve. The precedent will be set with me.”