Wealth Inequality and Income Segregation

Downtown El Paso used to belong to all El Pasoans.

Sure, there was poverty. But there were also places that rich people could go. Like Cafe Central.

Now, if you’re not well-heeled, where can you go downtown? The Tap?

At the Tap, the Mexican Plate #2, one taco, one enchilada and rice and beans, costs $10.

That’s not cheap.

In contrast, the Mexican Plate #2 at the Mexican Cottage, on the eastern edge of downtown, costs $8, and it includes a enchilada, a taco, and a chile relleno, and I’m sure it comes with rice and beans, though they’re not mentioned on the menu.

The Mexican Plate at the Jalisco Cafe comes with a chile relleno, an enchilada, a taco, red and green chile, and rice and beans for $6. The Jalisco is in Segundo Barrio, less than a mile away from the Tap.

Look, the Tap can charge whatever they want to. I’m just saying that the City’s top down gentrification is making downtown unaffordable for poor people.

Did you know this?

The most highly [economically] segregated metros are actually smaller and medium sized, many of them in Texas. El Paso tops this list, followed by second and third-ranked Laredo and McAllen. College Station comes in sixth place. San Antonio, which is first out of large metros, is eighth overall, and Brownsville is ninth. Outside of Texas, Bridgeport, Connecticut is fourth; Trenton, New Jersey fifth; Memphis eighth; and Jackson, Tennessee tenth.

That quote comes from a 2014 report in CityLab.com on income segregation. I’m sure El Paso is more highly segregated now, but the census data hasn’t been released lately.

(That report, by the way, was written by Richard Florida, whose ideas on the creative class were used to justify these best laid plans. I’m sure he’s waiting to die now so he can roll over in his grave.)

The rich people weren’t satisfied with the west side. They wanted downtown, too. So they bought City Council, and hired a City Manager who would give it to them.

The City of El Paso declared (economic) war on poor people, which is weird, because El Paso is poor.

The unfortunate thing is that the west siders aren’t making the pilgrimage to downtown. They’re eating at Avila’s (one taco, one chile relleno, one enchilada and rice and beans for $11.49).

Maybe you’re thinking, yeah, the rich people have taken over downtown, but at least they’re paying higher property taxes, which goes into the General Fund, and helps ease the tax burden on the rest of us. You might think that, but you’d be wrong. Some of the new development downtown got 380 agreements, which reduce their tax obligations for years. But even that doesn’t matter, because downtown is covered by Tax Increment Reinvestment Zone 5, which means that the money from any increase in property taxes downtown stays downtown. They get to spend that money on improvements to the downtown infrastructure.

At least the trolley’s free. For now. You can look at all the pretty buildings downtown through the trolley’s tinted windows.

For now.

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