Having and Having Not in Somerville – October, 2010

October brings an end to the Farmers Market in Union Square. It has been a banner year for what has become a high point in our community. This season saw a near doubling of the number of people who shop in the market on Saturday mornings, the introduction of credit card payments, and the reintroduction of the acceptance of SNAP cards. SNAP, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (formerly known as food stamps) is part of the safety net that helps those below, at and near the poverty line to remain afloat.

The gulf between rich and poor in our country continues to widen. A recent article in USA Today reports that the top 20% of Americans receive 49% of the income generated by our economy, while those living in poverty receive 3.4% of our domestic income. Among the Western industrialize nations, the US has the greatest disparity between rich and poor.

We can see the outlines of this “winner takes all” approach here in Somerville. The city’s proposal to outsource the school janitors’ jobs, and the Zoning Board’s rejection of the Somerville Community Corporation project to build six affordable apartments at 162 Highland Avenue, strongly suggest that the gap between our vision of ourselves as a city that values diversity, and the city that we are actually building may be a very wide indeed. I hope that you will join me in building a city that values people based on the content of their character and not the size of their bank account.

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