In a recent blog post, Tim Dutton invited us to begin thinking together as a community about econonomic equality here in Sarasota County. Although we don't yet have great local data available, here's one way to begin taking a look: In a recent Herald-Tribune article titled, "Census: Sarasota neighborhoods are among state's richest," reporter Zac Anderson notes that Sarasota County has "more rich enclaves than all but one other Florida county with a population below 1 million," with census tracts covering Bird Key, Lido Key and Longboat Key among the "100 richest in Florida." The median household income in these places is over $100,000. He also notes that our county includes "one of the 100 poorest census tracts in Florida," located within Newtown, where the median household income is less than $20,000. That's it -- the economic equality issue - in living color here in Sarasota County.
The Herald-Tribune created an interactive map that makes it possible to take a look at patterns in household economic wealth across the county. Click on the hyperlink to check it out for yourself. This map reveals that there are some other census tracts here where the median household income is pretty low (under $35,000) and others where it is pretty high (over $80,000). What strikes me especially is that in several places (North Sarasota and parts of North Port), areas with high and low household income rub up against one another.
I live in such an area. The reality makes itself known to me every day, as I walk my dog along a path that is a mere 4 blocks long. It is undeniable.
How do we make sense of this? What meaning do we ascribe to it, with regard to what these realities reveal about who we are as a whole community of people? What does it say about who and how we are choosing to be with one another?
Wilkinson's book about this topic is titled, "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger." It does seem to me that these patterns are a reflection of our community spirit.
One question that keeps me up at night is this:
What will it take for our community spirit to soar?