As the week-long Tribune series, Mesa en transicion, revealed, the East Valley’s largest city indeed is changing. The cultural transformation taking place in Mesa may be the most dramatic in the East Valley, but by no means is it confined to Mesa.
Immigration is having an impact on many neighborhoods and every city.
As the series showed, the transition is challenging in numerous ways. The growing numbers of English language learner students have forced schools to scramble for bilingual teachers and to change instructional methods. Some neighborhoods in transition require additional attention from municipal officials.
And change itself can be unnerving for some. Some long-time residents of Mesa’s older neighborhoods voiced concern to Tribune reporters over ethnic and cultural shifts that left them feeling alienated from once-familiar surroundings. Yet other established residents told us they welcomed their new neighbors and viewed the changes as culturally and personally enriching.
There are many uncertainties associated with our high-growth area, but we can be absolutely sure of one thing: Mesa and the East Valley will continue to grow and to change. Lamenting the growth and change will do no good, and most likely will embitter those who view it as negative. Meanwhile, those who embrace its possibilities and work toward solving the challenges not only share a positive outlook but will surely help build stronger, more vibrant communities.
It’s important for us all to recognize that the problem of illegal immigration that many native Arizonans and legal immigrants alike are concerned about is not entirely responsible for the East Valley’s transition — though it certainly is part of it. Even resolving the illegal immigration problem, which we must do, will not stop or reverse the growth and change.
One essential way to ease that transition and minimize the alienation is to ensure that all our community institutions are sensitive to and reflective of the populations they serve. Unfortunately, this is not always the case.
Hispanics are often underrepresented on our school boards, City Councils and local boards and commissions, even though there are increasing numbers of willing and qualified Hispanic citizens seeking these positions. Taking steps to expand the pools of qualified candidates for all positions, and striving for proportional representation of all populations in our diverse communities would better ensure that the concerns and needs of everyone are address — and that no one is ignored.
Diversity has always been America’s fount of great cultural and economic strength, though rapid change has typically also been accompanied by uncertainty and even resistance. The task we all share in Mesa and the East Valley is to recognize and build on the advantages of growth and change while meeting its problems in constructive, humane ways.
We will transition to a better, stronger East Valley as we succeed.