Mayor speaks out on Carmel’s diverse past

With the Carmel City Council working on legislation to outlaw discrimination within the city – and with the pending construction of the city’s first mosque – Carmel Mayor Jim Brainard talked to Current in Carmel about the city’s growing diversity.

What do you think the new mosque means for Carmel’s religious diversity?

Carmel started as a Quaker settlement about 170 years ago, and it’s increasingly become more diverse. We have a lot of protestant churches, a good number of catholic residents, more recently two synagogues, a Greek orthodox church, and now we are going to have a mosque. It’s just a reflection of the country as a whole, and the world is becoming smaller. Carmel is simply a reflection of that. It’s good that we have diversity in Carmel. Great ideas that advance a civilization take place where people of different cultures can interact. The key is that our different ethnic groups integrate within civic life and don’t remain separate within the city. You know America is really the first country in the world that opened up and said, ‘Let’s come here and build brand new wonderful country.’

Asian-Americans make up the largest minority in Carmel. What can we do to encourage integration within civic life?

We have great leadership within our immigrant community. Albert Chen, founder of Telamon, comes to mind. Raju Chinthala serves on my human rights commission. A lot of people in our medical community. It adds tremendous value to our area. I think it’s important that public officials reach out to immigrant groups. I try to help people understand how our system works. I remember talking to people who were amazed that anyone can go to a city council meeting and speak about anything. That wouldn’t happen in their countries. I enjoy attending events like Diwali. It’s part of our job as elected officials to engage and interact with the community.

There has been a perception among some about Carmel – whether it is accurate or not – that it is mostly white. Specifically, there was an article published in an Indianapolis newspaper that claimed black people were pulled over more frequently than white motorists.

Those were citations, which is different than pullovers. Actually, an African-American driving in Carmel, according to today’s numbers, has less of a statistical chance of getting pulled over compared to a white driver. We look at this statistics because of previous litigation more than 20 years ago on that issue.

So has that changed?

Oh, Carmel has changed dramatically, 14 percent of our households don’t speak English at all. That was not the case 20 years ago. It’s a much more diverse city than it was 20 years ago, and it’s a better place too.

In another report, ESPN broadcaster Sage Steele, who attended Carmel High School, claimed that she was one of the few black students and because of that, she was bullied, and some people said racial slurs.

That wouldn’t be the case today.

Is it because more people are moving to the area? More economic diversity?

It’s just a reflection of the world as a whole. We’ve made it known that we are open for business for everyone. Our community has thrived because of our increased diversity.

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