The gist: It depends who you ask. Readers responding to our Conversation this week generally have similar visions of what a vibrant community is but diverge on whether Lafayette is one. (Responses edited for brevity and clarity.)
Diversity, social vitality and opportunity are big themes. A vibrant community is a place people from all walks of life are attracted to and can thrive.
“A diverse, visible population. A diverse, growing economy with entry-level employment at various education/training levels. A well-funded public school system. Engaged, community-oriented law enforcement. A welcoming attitude toward new arrivals. A responsive, representative government. Honest, apolitical local leaders who set an example of tolerance and patience. Activities that bond the community.” — John Mikell
“A vibrant community exists where cultural, social and business interests converge for the good of all.” — Ric Trout
Lafayette’s vibrancy is uneven, readers say. That tracks with conventional measurements of social and economic health. Some areas of town are deeply blighted and suffer from high poverty. Others have high concentrations of wealth, with better schools and access to essentials like healthcare.
“A semi-vibrant community depending on what part of town.” — Matt Stuller
“North Lafayette is a vitally important part of Lafayette that deserves respect and resources.” — Mary Ann Doyle
47% of Lafayette residents are income constrained or in poverty. That’s based on data collected in the United Way’s ALICE report. By contrast, 34% of Escambia County, Fla., residents are below the ALICE line. Escambia County is home to the Studer Community Institute, facilitators of the Vibrant Community Summit kicking off Thursday. Studer tracks several benchmarks in metro Pensacola, including indices for education, health, opportunity and safety. (That’s a pretty good idea.)
What would make Lafayette more vibrant? Ah, the million dollar question. Again, the themes are pretty consistent: an inclusive community that gives everyone a chance to succeed. Readers believe the ingredients are there for improvement.
“Invest in what it takes to make safe, clean, fun, and family-friendly spaces in the community for the community to come together frequently, particularly in Downtown, in the city parks, and along the river.” — Sam Oliver
“Less segregation, more local investment in the entry of the city and the surrounding neighborhoods. More investment in education and opportunities for all.” — Kerii Landry-Thomas
The Vibrant Community Summit kicks off with a free public presentation Thursday at 5:30 p.m., followed by a community concert at 7:00 p.m. at Parc Sans Souci in Downtown Lafayette. Get more info here.