Local Commentary

Editorial: Will F.C. Reverse the Income Gap?

The 12,500 people living in the 2.2 square miles of the City of Falls Church enjoy an unprecedented level of prosperity and good living compared to those of almost any other comparably-sized independent enclave of humanity on this planet. Officially, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, the City has the highest household income in the U.S., and a higher percentage of citizens with college and secondary degrees than any other jurisdiction in the U.S.

In keeping with that, the City’s schools are world famous. The U.S. State Department counsels its counterparts from other parts of the world that their diplomats coming to Washington should take up residence in Falls Church to take advantage of the school system for their kids.

To us, these realities define the City’s goals moving forward. The goals are two.

Goal No. 1: Maintain and enhance the quality of the school system, creating a model of excellence for part of the globe to see and emulate. It is fascinating, as an example, to watch the City’s School Board struggle with the open-ended future of remaining current in the use of technology in the classroom.

Goal No. 2: This is counter-intuitive, not to maintain the City’s standing as the best-heeled anywhere, but it is precisely to work against that trend to make the City more diverse, economically and otherwise, to enjoy the universal benefits of such diversity for all its residents.

In short, an enlightened City leadership would work to ensure the City is less white, and less rich, even while its school continue to excel and its citizens enjoy an exemplary quality of life.

Affordable housing, for example, is a meritorious undertaking not only because of the pressing need, but because it is good for the Little City.

Part of the misunderstanding, confusion and angrily selfish “not in my neighborhood” sentiments that arise whenever the subject comes up is linked to largely outdated ideas on the subject. It need not be dependent on added government spending so much as on a political willingness to permit the private sector to develop the kind of affordable housing which would be profitable and also benefit families further down the income scale.

There are new models for this being built in San Francisco now, and they are variants on the kind of urban housing build during the Great Depression when large structures of many hundreds of efficiency-unit dwellings sprung up in the downtowns of large cities to house workers and their families.

Falls Church is challenged to buck the trend documented in the new Brandeis University study showing the wealth gap between blacks and white since the middle of the Reagan administration nearly tripling between 1984 and 2009. Median white households in the U.S. held a net worth of $265,000 by 2009, eight times that for black households of $28,500.

It would be a noble step for Falls Church to announce a commitment to reversing that trend.