Wednesday, October 08, 2014

Facing facts in Dallas, Texas

By way of reminder, here's a "check list" of facts that I discovered during the past several months working as Chair of Mayor Mike Rawlings' Task Force on Poverty in Dallas.

--Between 2000 and 2012, population in Dallas increased by 5%.  During that same period, poverty grew by 41%.

--Dallas competes with Philadelphia for being the 3rd or 4th poorest city in the U. S.  We go back and forth on this "distinction."

--Dallas is the poorest city in the US among cities reporting a population of 1MM or more.

--In Dallas, 38% of our children live in poverty.

--In Dallas public schools about 90% are eligible for free and reduced lunches.  That percentage is 73% for public school children who live and go to a public school in Dallas County.

--Increasing numbers of us live in area of highly concentrated poverty and the trend is spreading.  In 2000, Dallas reported 18 census tracts of high concentration of poverty (about 10% of all our poor). In 2013, that number had increased to 32 tracts (about 20% of all our poor). 

--Areas of concentrated poverty produce health and social outcomes in a context of "toxic stress," a condition that has been identified and studied in the last decade.  "Toxic stress" results from a pathological, comprehensive "surround" that confronts our very poor neighbors here in Dallas day after day.

--Name the social, community challenge and identify its presenting data, and the poverty maps overlay perfectly:  asthma, health, housing, test scores, wages, employment and access to goods and basic services.  Poverty drives all of our negative, deadly data reports.

What's the answer? 

How do we go forward? 

Any serious plan to cut into poverty must involve serious conversations about wages and tax policy.

We have neglected our human "infrastructure" for far too long.  Our short-sighted policies have caught up with us.  We must act decisively for the sake of our community's future. 

And, the operative value, the back drop for every conversation, debate and action seems clear to me:  COURAGE!

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