I think we all know what we’ve got here. It’s that old failure to communicate.


Another painful skirmish over racism took place this week at City Hall. According to a story by Herald-Tribune government reporter Tim Fanning, the occasion was a discussion on where to put Sarasota’s expanding development services department.


One option was to relocate the staff to Newtown, the city’s historically African American neighborhood. But the employees themselves preferred a downtown site on Second Street, just across from City Hall.


Reading about this apples-and-oranges dilemma, I slipped into a little thought experiment — knowing full well that anyone as white as I look in this postage-stamp photo will automatically fall under suspicion of not coming to the question with a clean heart.


Anyway, this was the experiment: What if the Herald-Tribune gave up our space on Main Street and set up shop on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Way?


My first thought was that we wouldn’t be able to roll our own swivel chairs to the new digs, as we had to do three years ago when we left our custom-built home for the high-rise next door. (There was some hilarious video on social media of us dancing with our chairs.)


But my immediate second thought was professional curiosity about how such a move would affect our work. There’s no doubt in my mind that practicing daily journalism in Newtown instead of downtown would expose us to stories and angles we would not otherwise consider. And in turn, our presence would transform an insular and close-knit community in unpredictable ways.


The prospect was tantalizing. But then of course I had that third thought, which was entirely about myself.


If our offices were in Newtown, I would no longer be able to walk to work, or to my favorite sushi restaurant, or the to halls of government where it’s useful to hang out. A job that already has its stresses would upload more of them, as I learned to navigate a part of town where I felt less at home — and maybe, frankly, a bit less welcome.


Was race a factor in these imaginary deliberations? Yep. Was racism a factor? I don’t think so; but why should you believe me?


We can’t know all the factors that convinced city commissioners to go with the safer bet, creating space for development services closer to its current offices. It’s reasonable to conclude they were a mixture of good intentions and logistics, as well as the usual self-interest and resistance to change.


But Commissioner Willie Shaw, who represents Newtown, saw the outcome as racist — as one more deliberately broken promise to a sector of the city that always seems to get the dandelion when roses are being handed out. And his accusation put others on the defensive.


Newtown’s grievances are real, and after all these years we’ve just got to find better ways to talk about them.


Might we start fresh, with a broader civic thought experiment?


Maybe the question isn’t who wants to be in Newtown — but, ultimately, who Newtown wants to be.


Barbara Peters Smith is the Herald-Tribune’s opinions editor.