Mayor Whitling Calls Poorest Towns Article ‘Misleading’
The article, The 35 poorest towns in Pennsylvania, used 2016 Census data, which is the most recent data available, to compile a list of the 35 towns and cities in Pennsylvania with 30 percent or more of their residents living in poverty.
Clarion Borough was listed as number eleven, with a recorded population of 5,276, and 1,900 of those people, or 36 percent, living in poverty.
Whitling told exploreClarion.com he saw the article being shared multiple times on social media, often with sad emojis or other expressions of dismay, and decided to take a closer look at it.
“If you look at the communities in the list, a lot of them just happen to be towns with universities in them,” Whitling said.
He went on to note that due to often working part-time jobs while in school, or depending on other means of support, from family to grants, scholarships, and loans, many university students, who don’t live on campus and could be counted in the Census data, live below the poverty level.
“It doesn’t mean they are necessarily poor or physically irresponsible; it’s just kind of a stage in your life where you’re financial responsibilities are often being met by other means rather than by a wage,” he noted.
According to Whitling, this data could skew the numbers against college towns.
“Indiana Borough was listed as number one, and I really don’t think Indiana is doing that bad.”
However, while he feels the data may make university towns look worse than they actually are, Whitling noted he doesn’t deny that poverty is an issue in Clarion Borough and the surrounding region.
“I don’t want to seem like I’m denying the noticeable level of poverty in our community. It’s important to investigate that and look at ways to work on that. There’s simply no one answer for it. It’s going to take a large collaborative effort of many intelligent, creative individuals and groups to move forward.”
Whitling noted that one of the things that makes Clarion special is that we have so many individuals and groups working to make a positive impact on our community.
“We have Destination Downtown Clarion, Blueprint, the University, Economic Development, and too many more to even mention them all.”
Whitling also said that he believes Clarion Borough is in a more stable place now than it has been in recent years.
“Over the past decade, there’s been a definite economic shift within Clarion Borough, but I feel that where we are as a community right now, we are starting to level out and recognize who we are as a community again, and we have a lot of great organizations and responsible levels of government that are doing their best to better the lives of people in Clarion Borough and all of Clarion County.”
Even in the face of the closures of several major area businesses in the last year, Whitling remains optimistic.
“Clarion lost several key businesses over the past year, but I don’t believe all of these were due to financial distress. Several of them closed due to it just being time for the owner to retire, and with that, we should celebrate the years they were here to serve our community. But, I believe when one door closes, another one opens. Several businesses have opened or begun to open in the area, and with that, we should be grateful seeing these businesses invest in our community.”
He also noted that there’s more work to be done, and he is glad to have the opportunity to be a part of that work.
“I never wanted to take this position for me. This was never about me. I just want to work alongside the council and be a positive influence, to support my community, my neighbors, my friends, and my family. All of that is done through a collaborative effort with different groups who have the same ambition, though many have their own vision of how to get there. And, I feel like I can be there to help support their vision and to see things come through.”
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