DEARBORN — Mayor Jack O'Reilly and members of planning agency McKenna & Associates met with Publisher Osama Siblani of The Arab American News to discuss Siblani's concerns surrounding the city's recent "Master Plan" survey relating to city planning.
The survey included one open-ended question, "If you could, what would you change about Dearborn?" to which respondents could answer any way they chose. A total of 54 of 889 responses were categorized as saying they wanted to "Reduce Arab/Muslim influence" in the city, the fifth most popular response category, right above the sixth-highest which was "Bridge Ethnic Divisions."
Siblani asked O'Reilly if there was potentially a concentrated effort by an organization to answer the question in such a way.
O'Reilly and the McKenna reps both said they believed that the responses were isolated considering the way they were written in their online responses.
The respondents in the Arab/Muslim category were shown to Siblani, with complaints ranging from people who wanted to see "less illegals" in the city, wanted residents to speak only English, and wanted to see government stop "catering" to only "one group" more than others. They were written in free-flowing, "stream of consciousness" ways as O'Reilly described them oftentimes with little regard to punctuation or grammar and often as part of longer complaints about multiple issues within the text.
Siblani also wondered why the east side of the city, which is the largest area where Arab Americans are present, was not represented on nearly the same scale as the west.
McKenna said they mailed 13,000 postcards in English and Arabic, sent press releases to all of the city's publications, and included info in newsletters sent to every house in the city. They also posted info on buildings including the headquarters of ACCESS.
O'Reilly also noted the recent election turnouts in the city, when the east side only voted at rates as low as 4% to 9% compared with averages above 20% for the west side.
The results of the survey can be seen on the city's website at www.cityofdearborn.org. Results, which focus mainly on things like architecture, services, and other logistical issues, will be used mainly to determine land usage in the city.