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September 27, 2005

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NoPolitician

I'd like to point out something that may not be evident to someone living outside of a poor urban area.

You point out that development "brings along with it increased costs, particularly in education". I know this is the current conventional wisdom, but I don't think it's been proven.

However, when you talk about cities that haven't held the line on spending, I'd like to ask you this: Which group of students are more expensive to educate: students from wealthy families or those from poor families?

I suspect poor family students are harder, and therefore more expensive to educate.

If most communities won't accept development with property values ranging in the $400-600k range -- property that will probably be occupied by on average less than 2.2 affluent children [wealthy people tend to have fewer kids], then how is a city supposed to afford to educate the poor children who live in 32-unit tenement buildings that are valued at about $300k [keeping in mind that poorer people have MORE kids]?

Most communities are feeling the bite while dealing with relatively affluent residents that require few municipal services. But what of the mostly poor cities that have double the problems with a tenth of the tax base?

Proposition 2.5 has created some positive circumstances, but one of it's most astounding failures has been to transform every town in this state into financial cherry pickers, making value judgments over the "profitability" of its residents.

If a town can't increase revenues, then they must control expenses, and that means keeping out any signs of poor yet more expensive residents, shunting them into the cities, and closing their gates.

We are seeing the trend continue; one of the hottest new development opportunities is over-55 housing. Its effect is to attract the older, more "profitable" residents still left in urban centers and move them where they consume few services, but spend money and pay taxes. Is it any wonder that most 40B housing built today is age-restricted?

I believe the only way to justice is to eliminate this economic stratification, to remove barriers that have been set up to keep the rich separate from the poor -- barriers accelerated by the constraints imposed by Proposition 2.5.

David Eisenthal

I think that poor urban areas, such as Springfield, are different in a number of ways from most other cities and towns in this state. First, the tax bases of places like Springfield are not and should not be expected to carry the same fiscal burden as wealthier and less complex communities. State aid to such places is higher than it is to other communities. (Whether it is high enough is a matter for some debate.) Second, places like Springfield are or should be economic engines for their surrounding areas. Development in such places needs to be viewed differently than it is in suburban and rural communities.

I'm not sure how one would go about eliminating the economic stratification that NoPolitician describes - other than through small and gradual steps to improve urban education and other infrastructure. Some of these steps - Education Reform Act - have been going on for years with less results than we might hope for.

NoPolitician

Most people in this state don't even seem to believe that economic stratification SHOULD be eliminated.

From my vantage point, everyone who does not live in a poor urban area is doing everything they can to keep the doors closed on poverty, to keep it away from themselves. They even feel it is their right to do so, that perhaps they "earned" this through their own hard work.

Funny though, they don't seem to mind gassing up at a convenience store that pays $6.75/hour. Isn't there a term for economically depending on people who you would never let live near or associate with you?

Until people begin to realize that no one has a "right" to exclude others from their communities, we're not going to make any progress in this state. We're still going to focus our attention on splitting up the existing pie, instead of on making more pie.

It's far too easy to point at others and say "Springfield is failing due to their own fault". Kind of like a Yale grad pointing at New Orleans and saying "those people just need to try harder".

I think Massachusetts is a lot less Democratic than people give it credit for.

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