Dowagiac mayor speaks at Cass County Pridefest

Published 3:01 pm Monday, June 10, 2024

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DOWAGIAC — The Outcenter of Southwest Michigan hosted the inuagural Cass County Pridefest Saturday at the Dowagiac Library Pavilion.

The event saw hundreds of people of all ages, genders and backgrounds in attendance. During the event, Mayor Don Lyons gave a speech thanking the community for attending while also talking about the city’s mission to move forward, embrace change and support its community members:

“Welcome to Dowagiac. We are delighted to have you here and we’re delighted to host Dowagiac’s first Pridefest – the first of many, I might add.

“What I wanted to talk about today was a transformation that’s taking place all across the country and it involves cities. I’ve been mayor for over 26 years – a quarter of a century – and during that time, this amazing transformation has been taking place: a transformation that is seeing cities run in a fairly different fashion and with a different set of criteria. 

“If you stop and look at the history of cities, they were always built around manufacturing companies and you can see how that defines a city. Pittsburgh was defined by steel, Detroit was defined by cars and that goes on and on. There was always at the heart of a community, a manufacturing ethos. That was not only the economic stability of the community, but it was also the social drivers of the community, the intellectual drivers of the communities were literally old white men that ran all of these companies.

“That went on for over 100 years from roughly 1850 to the 1950s. But with the invention of transistors and the ubiquitous presence of computers, that old order has collapsed. Think about what has happened in Detroit. General Motors filed for bankruptcy – at one time, the greatest company in the world. Ford had to mortgage literally their name, Chrysler, you don’t even know who they are anymore.

“With the collapse of those industrial companies, the cities also collapsed and you see that all over. Detroit’s population in 1930 was 1.5 million, today it is 750,000. Detroit is exactly half the size that it was in 1930. But it could be argued that in its place, Ann Arbor has become one of the most critically important cities to the state of Michigan. 

“When you see Ann Arbor, you see a completely different way to run a city. You see a city that is focused on the efforts of creative people. There is a futurist by the name of Richard Florida, who has written extensively on this subject and if you are interested in that, I would highly recommend his writings. He coined a term, the ‘creative class.’ So as these corporations failed and the cities that were built around them failed, this creative class has come to the forefront. Think about cities like Austin, Texas, San Jose, California, Seattle, Washington. They are all being defined by this creative class of people and what identifies this creative class is their variety – they come in all different shapes, sizes, colors, beliefs and sexual preferences.

“For a city to anticipate that it is going to be relevant, it’s going to grow, it’s going to be a good solid city, it has to be one that welcomes this creative class. It can’t be one that’s trying to hold on to the past. That’s a fool’s errand. Anybody that does that is destined to fail. The arc of history is always going to be towards a more just society. 

“With that thought in mind, there was always the issue of how Dowagiac should approach this new reality. I was determined that it was going to be a welcoming community. It was going to be one that this creative class of people would want to come to, would want to invest in, would want to be part of. In order to define what that means in the day-to-day running of the city, this came into stark focus for me in the presidential election of 2016. This was clearly a choice that was being made between trying to hold on to the past – The old white men’s way of doing things – And embracing the future: embracing the future of creativity, of inclusivity and variety in all of its many forms. 

“After that election on November 8th, the next morning, the ninth of November 2016, I sat down, and I wrote what I felt should be the driving forces of a city. I shared that with the Dowagiac City Council members; they wholeheartedly endorsed it. As a result of that, we took down our old, ‘Welcome to Dowagiac’ website and put up a brand new way of welcoming people to the city. I’d like to read that to you now. 

This is what Dowagiac stands for:

  • A community that builds roads and bridges, not walls.
  • A community that welcomes everyone, regardless of what God they pray to or whether or not they pray at all. 
  • A community that welcomes everyone, regardless of who they may choose for their life partner.
  • A community that welcomes everyone regardless of the color of their skin. 
  • A community that welcomes everyone, regardless of their gender identification.
  • A community where the police are your friends and protectors, not your enemy. 
  • A community that is financially sound, where you know the leaves will be collected in the fall, the snow plowed in the winter and the potholes fixed in the spring. 
  • A community of clean fresh water, whose wastewater is properly treated and the environment is protected and cherished.
  • A community that recognizes the importance of and supports education. 
  • A community with excellent access to health care. 
  • A community that partners with other public and private Enterprises to provide better services and more of them for less money. 
  • A community with good parks, open spaces and recreational opportunities. 
  • A community that values and celebrates its history and the arts.
  • A community that recognizes the importance of the free enterprise system and strives to help new and existing businesses thrive and add jobs, not just impede them with petty rules and red tape. 
  • A community that doesn’t fear the future but embraces it, knowing that the changes that future will bring will also bring opportunities to make the Dowagiac a better community.
  • A community where everyone is treated with dignity and respect. 

Thank you for being here in Dowagiac. This is off to a great start and I’m so proud to be a part of it.”