Changing demographics demand new thinking

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Overall, Nassau’s voting-age population is now nearly 24 percent black and Hispanic –– up from 18 percent in the 2000 census. The Asian population is on the rise as well, having grown by more than 30,000 –– a 68 percent increase –– from 2000 to 2010, according to the census. Much of the western half of the county is no longer majority white, United Redistricting says.

There has also been a slow but steady decline in the white population in Garden City, Lynbrook and parts of Merrick and Massapequa, United Redistricting notes.

Nassau’s population remained relatively stable from 2000 to 2010. Without immigrants, however, the county actually would have lost population, according to the coalition.

And, we might add, without immigrants, there surely would have been a far greater drop in property- and sales-tax receipts than we’ve seen, which would have created even bigger budget deficits for our local governments.

All of this implies that we should welcome immigrants, rather than scorn them, as is too often the case. And we should celebrate the growing diversity around us. The U.S. is a strong nation, in part, because we are a blended society that welcomes people from around the globe. In many ways, the Town of Hempstead has become a microcosm of our larger society, and is certainly no longer the lily-white suburb it was when segregation was enforced in certain communities by restrictive covenants in the 1950s and ’60s.

Full integration, though, is a long way off. In the Town of Hempstead, minorities make up 40 percent of the population, but hold only 14 percent of Town Board seats. Both Republicans and Democrats should consider selecting political candidates who reflect the changing face of the county.

At the same time, the Town of Hempstead should consider any and all smart-growth initiatives to encourage developers to construct affordable housing –– meaning small apartment houses in our downtown business districts, near public transportation –– to provide low-cost homes for young people and the construction and service-sector workers who are playing an increasingly important role in the local economy.

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