By Carol McCracken (Post # 2,635)
The Economic Development Committee voted unanimously (3-0) yesterday to send a proposal for a clearinghouse for New Mainers to the city council for its consideration. Meeting with the Committee was the embattled Mayor Ethan Strimling who made the establishment of the office one of his campaign priorities.
The proposed office would not provide any direct services to the immigrant community, Rather, it would serve as a clearinghouse for services provided elsewhere in the city that immigrants need to be successful in their job search. “I don’t want anyone coming to city hall thinking they can get a job here,” said Councilor David Brennerman.
If approved by the City Council as is expected, a Director of the new office could be hired early next year to begin organizing it, The Director’s salary has been included in the city’s budget. The two program managers to be hired at a later date would be funded largely by grants from organizations who have already indicated interest in funding such an office. The cost of the office is estimated to be at $260,000.
The Director would focus on “macro” level issues. The two program managers would be responsible for immigrant integration efforts and for inclusion and equity efforts for immigrants in the city. The Office would report to the city manager according to a memorandum from Julie Sullivan, Senior Advisor to the City Manager, dated November 16, 2016.
Members of the immigrant community testified during the public hearing. Many called for assurances that the grants to fund the two program managers be sustainable for the long-term – aware that grants can sometimes dry up and blow away.
District 11 Councilor Spencer Thibodeau said: “We want to make sure that when people come to city hall they get headed to the right place. I”m excited to see this happen someone who grew up here in a school speaking lots of different languages.” Figurehead Ethan Strimling called for clear metrics to measure results from the very opening of the office. “We need real clarity to start with or you will go nowhere” Strimling also pushed to make the office about the employers as well. “That they are dong what they need to do,” he said.
The clearinghouse proposal could be on the City Council’s agenda on December 19th.