You don’t have to wade into partisan discussions about government spending, infrastructure investment and education to address these questions. A simple answer goes a long way: Welcome everyone, and treat them fairly.
In the past few years, Tampa has embraced this answer in many ways. But we’re especially proud of the way this city has stood up on behalf of its lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) residents.
According to the second annual Municipal Equality Index — a comprehensive measure of LGBT inclusion in municipal law conducted by the Human Rights Campaign — cities across Florida are leaders in this fight. And of all the cities ranked in the MEI, Tampa tops the state.
But this isn’t about who gets a ribbon. It’s about competitiveness and leadership. As researcher Richard Florida, who wrote the book on what makes economies thrive, recently put it, “openness to gays and lesbians similarly reflects an ecosystem that is open to new people and new ideas.”
By sending a message that all are welcome to live and do business in this community, we can say something about our values and aspirations as a city. By showing that Tampa is an open door, we can usher in the, “eggheads and eccentrics who invent new things and start new enterprises,” in Florida’s words.
And when it comes to pursuing that goal, it doesn’t take much at all to go a long, long way. Since last year’s MEI showing Tampa with a run-of-the-mill 66 points out of 100, this city’s government has taken decisive steps to dramatically improve its score in the 2013 MEI.
From appointing an LGBT police liaison to expanding diversity education across city government, this city has kept pace with a historic year for equality around the country.
The hard work paid off. This year, Tampa’s score jumped to 89, making this city a leader in the Sunshine State.
Any city that aspires to national leadership has to begin by looking inward — at how it treats its own people, at the opportunities it provides and the values it lifts up and shows to the nation and the world.
By that measure, we’re proud of what Tampa has accomplished — and we aspire to do even more, to turn that 89 into a 100. To the innovators, the creatives, and to all of those nurturing the next big thing, we want to send a simple message. Tampa is open to all, and it’s open for business, too.
This article was submitted by Tampa Mayor Bob Buckhorn, Equality Florida CEO Nadine Smith and Human Rights Campaign President Chad Griffin.