By Deba Uwaduae, with Okon Agano Ekpenyong
While welcoming guests at the 2019 Refugee Integration Conference in his domain, City of Dublin, Ohio Mayor Greg Peterson threw an open invitation, “We want all the new Americans to come to Dublin”. And when asked if he had any other thing, he would like to add, at the end of an interview at the Dublin City Hall with the crew of the New Americans magazine, Mayor Peterson reiterated the same call.
“Whatever you build together is always strong and better,” said Mayor Greg Peterson who was re-elected mayor by his peers on Council on January 19, 2018. He was first elected to Dublin City Council in November 1997 and served until December 2001. Peterson was re-elected to Council in November 2013 and November 2017, and is currently serving his third four-year term.
Dublin, Ohio is named after Dublin, Ireland. We have very close relationship with the city of Ireland and the attitude of Dublin, Ireland. Irish is an attitude; it is sort of an idea.
One thing that this community has done is that we have two different established friendship city relationships with Dublin, Ireland and Mashiko, Japan.
The fascinating thing about Dublin is our economic health; the health of our corporate presence and the people that are paying taxes, and that support this community financially.
The way that it works, you pay your income tax where you work. It doesn’t matter where you live. Those local taxes go to the city of Dublin.
And the property taxes, when you live in Dublin, you pay the property tax, which goes to the School system.
There is a little bit of 8 percent overlap from income taxes from different sources. The overwhelming majority of funding for the city – for our city services like the streets, our infrastructures, the police department, fire services, trash, all of those services that the people that live in Dublin think of are paid for through income taxes of people that work here. The property taxes go to the school system. If you live and work in Dublin, you pay both of those taxes.
We became a city in 1987. From 6,000 people in 1987 to 50,000 now. The quality of life here has stayed just as high even at the incredible rate of expansion.
For most of us, our biggest investment is our homes. Our property values remain relatively steady. After the recession, we have now recovered, and our property are the value that they would have been has there never been a crash. It is not just the jobs; it is maintaining an environment where people want to be, and the quality of life is high. If you can maintain that demand for that product, you are protecting your citizens’ homes and investments.
We believe our greatest competition is ourselves. We need to do next year a little better what we did last year. We interact with all our partners in central Ohio.
We have tried, something that I am very proud of, that we have done justice. Since getting to this chair, I have reached out to every corner of our community and making sure everybody knows about diversity and every category you can think of. This is our community. It is important that we send the message, that we are not only welcoming, but we are excited and encouraged to every category of people. It is unbelievable how many people came to the last Diwali celebration that we had. It is so important to include that diversity. Whatever you build together is always strong and better.
It is being naïve or not understanding other cultures or where people come from that can lead to anxiety. Our Indian population, our Japanese population, indeed, the Asian population is absolutely evolving the same way. It is something we are proud of. It allows you to build relationships like we are so that when things are going well or there are problems it is a lot easier to address problems when they come up once you have the relationship and the leadership structure.
We are so blessed with extremely talented residents. People don’t have to change who they are to be able to live here comfortably. When things are easy it is easy but when things are tough you really must buckle down. There will be problems that come up from time to time. But if you already got the relationship established and you have the trust and you have a community that they are welcomed, that is important. In working with a couple of Indian Americans in the community, we would like to get the Diwali kind of celebration, different things that sort of focus on diversity but at the same time inclusive.
The Irish Festival started on a spot the size of a tennis court but now attracts over 100,000 people every year. We have a lot of citizens’ involvement in all that we do. People can get on our website on what boards they can get involved in. It is being a resident in Dublin, having an address. We are appointing people from all around the city.
“Part of the economic development tool is to keep the companies that we have and attract more companies. More companies want to be here, particularly the technology sector. “
The business population about triples our population during the day. We have by far more people that work here than live here. They come into our community to work in our office parks, the bridge parks, metro center and Cardinal health. Those people working here help us drive our economic health. We have 2percent income tax. Our budget each year is just a little under $100 million.
The school system is a larger employer than the city. We work close with the school system.
Part of the economic development tool is to keep the companies that we have and attract more companies. More companies want to be here, particularly the technology sector. We want to create an environment that will make them to be here. There is a huge population of tech supporting industry.
We provide them with the things that they want. We create a community where their employees live. We make sure that we are attractive to every single part of the globe. The city is so much richer when you have diversity of people and culture.
In the economic health of our community, we have an economic development team. If you are looking for a place where you can put down your root and start your company, we have all kinds of different programs. We have the Dublin Entrepreneur Center, DEC basically office space that is available to anybody that wants to come in with a kind of startup company. If you go to our website, somebody will answer you that day.
What happens is that there is a network of a whole bunch of other people that are in the same position as you. We subsidize the rent and make it easier to be able to rent an office space. We give all kinds of advice and support to those startup companies. A lot of those startup companies will develop into bigger companies in Dublin. You never know which company will be the Uber or next tech company. We support and encourage that kind of entrepreneurial attitude.
Our police department is very responsive. The police department has a diversity and inclusion unit and they reach out to different communities They are sharing the message. We are not preaching, we are listening. Our police are coming out and saying, “what can do to make you comfortable so that we can protect you/”. The most powerful thing about Dublin is that everybody is involved. It makes us stronger. Dublin is so blessed with the talents, commitment and engagement of the citizens. When we do all that together it is a very powerful message.
Our average level of education is post-graduate. Dublin is an extra-ordinarily well-educated community. We are heading towards 50,000 people. For the size of the city that we have, we get few complaints about anything. People in this community are responsible, they are educated, and they have certain level of what they believe is acceptable ways to live. It is extraordinary what we have achieved in this community; so much has to do with the diversity of this community.
What Dublin School Superintendent Dr Hoadley has done is that you can go to the website and you can change the text of the website into almost about 100 languages with one click of the button. That is so important because there are a lot of students in our school system that English is their second language. For a lot of those families, the parents are still speaking their native language and so there is a disconnect. For kids they can adapt easily. As a parent, if I can click on a website and I know that my language is cared about by the school system, that is great. That is a real small example of what this community tries to do.
Dublin is about 24 square miles. We have a community plan, a road map for what we think for Dublin to develop. Undeveloped land is growing hard to find. There is not a tremendous amount of residential development yet to be built but there are plenty of residential houses here.
In our residential market, we are trying to focus on the millennium the 25year+ who are just starting their first job. They want more of condos and apartments. Same with the empty nester. The kids are out of the house. We are trying to bring in more of that which is quite good for new Americans that are just starting out. These are some of the things we are putting at the bridge street. We tried to have inventory choices at every stage of your life.
We have the Dublin Art Council that is very rich. We just celebrated the 25th anniversary of the Field of the Corn. We have the bed tax. People pay bed tax when they sleep in the hotels in Dublin. We take that money and use it to encourage more people to come. We have more than hundred miles of bike path that go through the entire community. There are lot of public places to visit.
We are going to have kayaking through the water. There will be parks on both sides of the water. We will open it to the people and get them down the river.
The Wendy’s are big part of our community. There will be a proclamation marking their 50 years anniversary on November 11, 2019.
Down the bridge park, we are building an arena which will house about 5,000 to 6,000 people. It is designed primarily for basketball. Thoughts are we have the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame move there. In the next five years, if we keep the pace, there will be as much new developments in that area as in the last five years.
Recently, we went to PGA in Florida to pitch for the President Cup Gulf Tournament. Mayor Andrew Ginther was there. I told them Dublin is such a great place to be.
The next big ribbon cutting is the pedestrian bridge, where people can walk and bike, across the Scioto River which will link historic Dublin which is a couple of hundred years old, to the newest development and modern society. It literally connects the past to the future. That will open in December. It is suspended by cable. It is like a giant knitting needle. It cost about $28million and 169feet tall.
We have a brand-new library that we just built. It is a 21st century library.
In Dublin, you don’t pay to park in our parking garages on Bridge street. You don’t pay for city services to come to your door and you cut down on trees and want it chopped off.
The city pays for virtually everything. We have a rec center that is 25 years old. It is a full-service rec center. It has indoor pools and every workout equipment in the gym. We charge residents half the price.
We are reaching out to our aging population to provide support for them through “Forever Dublin”. It allows you to stay in your home as you age. People are living longer and want to be independent. Moving into assistant living is something people generally are not anxious to do. We have started a shuttle service which is provided by Share so that people can get around. We provided this intra city to let people get around.
On Inracity transportation, we have a project that we are currently working at to address that. It will come up with different hubs where people can get everywhere. We will get you up to bridge parks and other places. The tournament has been doing such shuttle. And the I-270 interchange contributed to opening Dublin.