On the surface, Curry County can serve as a microcosm of the country, but when you look more deeply, Curry County and Brookings are both more blessed and more troubled.
The rest of the country doesn’t have anything close to our rivers or our access to beautiful outdoor activities.
We have a shore with incomparable scenery and trails along the coast, on the Pacific Crest and through the redwoods.
We are blessed. And more blessed are those with kayaks.
But we also have a median income comparable to a rusting steel town combined with exorbitant housing costs that are still rising.
We should be fearful of arrogance.
I grew up in Hubbard, near Youngstown, Ohio, and my dad had a cabin in a park near Lake Erie in Geneva, Ohio –– Erie, in that area, has a beautiful shore, a fishing and recreational port and a resort town –– and both places have a median income of about $43,000 a year.
In Geneva, a nice looking house on some land outside of town runs about $100,000. A similar, older but well maintained house in town costs anywhere from $40,000 up to to $100,000. Geneva’s median home price was $110,000.
Hubbard was less affordable by listings, but it turned out to have a lower median home price of $85,000.
In Brookings, the median income is $44,000 a year, comparable to Hubbard and Geneva, but the median home price is $326,000.
These figures are averaged from different sources, but they provide a troubling picture.
On the web, listings for houses in Brookings include utter disasters priced at almost $300,000.
When few people working in town can buy a house, most people have to rent and, while rents in Hubbard and Geneva range from $500 and up and rentals are plentiful, rentals in Brookings are scarce and generally for more than $1,000.
The troubling picture just got more troubled.
I know Lake Erie is not the Pacific, and Hubbard and Geneva both lack mountain views, and neither has balmy year-round weather, but both areas have more to offer educationally, and neither requires planning a trip to go shopping.
And working people in both towns can rent or buy a home.
For me, arrogance arises when I think my blessings are deserved and other’s wants are due to their inadequacies.
There are rumblings of such arrogance in Brookings. People say a place this beautiful deserves to be expensive, and people who can’t afford it shouldn’t live here.
A recent report by the United Way called ALICE, which stands for Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed, stresses the importance of survival wages given a community’s cost of living.
The report specific to Curry County shows 51 percent of our working residents below the ALICE threshold. Half of our neighbors are on survival wages, and most of them are one unforeseen expense from catastrophe.
Employment should be a blessing, but working 40 hours a week to barely hang on in substandard housing is not a blessing.
Working citizens of Brookings pay rent that’s over half their income.
We all know people who moved here for work and then looked at houses. They left in less than a year.
Teacher turnover rates at local schools run close to 25 percent, and that’s because a teacher starting here with a master’s degree will probably never own a home.
Brookings is blessed by the people who work here, and we are all blessed by the people who struggle to live here.
I am blessed to live in Brookings, but the county faces disparities in income and housing costs they must address.
While these disparities won’t keep money out of town, they will send good people away.
And it is arrogance to think money is the blessing.
Reach Boyd C. Allen at email@example.com .