In a metropolitan area, or in a very large city that encompasses a wide range of economic activity, a high median income is a badge of honor. It usually involves some combination of an educated populace, vibrant research institutions, policies that help entrepreneurs, and high quality of life.
For a city, like Sammamish ($), that is a small part of a larger area, it means something slightly different. Policies in Sammamish are not creating high-paying jobs in Puget Sound; instead, they are skimming off the cream of that growth through exclusionary zoning.
Sammamish residents don’t have higher-paying jobs due to the business environment there. It’s because the zoning is designed to ban any home that a person in a less remunerative profession could afford, or any features that are attractive to most young people starting out in their careers.
This isn’t to slag on the personal choices of Sammamish residents: a place without poor people is likely to have less violent crime and schools with higher test scores. It’s a practical choice, if not an idealistic or commendable one. And if the merely affluent cutting themselves off from the poor is less than ideal, the plutocratic communities designed to ensure low property tax rates ($) that don’t pay for anyone else’s services are an inequality Chernobyl.
If County and State leaders are interested in doing something about inequality without entering the choppy waters of an income tax, they could do worse than forcing the annexation of these wealthy enclaves into larger neighboring cities, and shifting more of the tax burden from the local level to higher ones that make it harder to opt out of providing services for society.