(Excerpt) DANBURY — Income inequality was a main topic of conversation as leaders of local nonprofit organizations met Wednesday with state legislators at the new Naugatuck Valley Community College branch in downtown Danbury.... [about DataHaven's new Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016, sponsored by Fairfield County's Community Foundation and others].

“The sense of urgency to me is the income inequality that exists because that creates an inequality of opportunities. There is a lack of future-facing, good-paying employment opportunities in our inner cities,” state Rep. Mitch Bolinsky, R-Newtown, said. “When people don’t have hope and don’t have jobs, they aren’t going to be as successful as the people who do. The state has created an outward flow of jobs that has left inner cities without the means to create employment. Our economic rebuilding has to start now." Bolinsky made the comments after the group visited four stations of discussion set up by foundation staff. The stations, which included poster boards that highlighted report findings, covered education, youth opportunities, housing and economic opportunity.

State Sen. Michael McLaughlin said the demise of the middle class has negatively impacted communities in many ways. “The middle class has historically presented stability to a community,” he said. “The dynamics are changing substantially and we need to pay attention to that.”

The Fairfield County Community Wellbeing Index 2016 shows that 21 percent of residents in the county are “low income.” Between 2000 and 2014, each area of the county has seen a percentage increase in the number of low-income residents. According to the report, the median income for Fairfield County is $83,163. The top 20 percent earns an average of $184,000 and the lower 20 percent earns $31,000.

“We need to restore and resurrect the working class into the middle class,” state Rep. Bob Godfrey, D-Danbury, said. “It’s a big job. There are not enough good entry-level jobs to allow people to live in Fairfield County. We don’t build beginner housing anymore. We build McMansions and luxury condos. We need to raise wages and rebuild the middle class.” State Rep. Richard Smith, R-Danbury, noted the inequality among ethnic groups in Fairfield County. The reports shows that 1 percent of whites live in poor neighborhoods, while 30 percent of Latinos and 36 percent of blacks live in poor neighborhoods. ....

FCCF will hold a public forum to discuss the report’s findings at Danbury Library on Jan. 31.

“Fairfield County’s Community Foundation is dedicated to addressing the county’s most pressing issues and we need to identify those issues,” Nancy von Euler, vice president of program at FCCF, said. “We firmly believe in the Wellbeing Index. It can help us jointly address critical issues and make Fairfield County a place where everyone can thrive, regardless of zip code.”