Monday, July 14, 2008

Guest Contributor: McCready

On CNN's outdated Best Places to Live Rankings:

Another year, another notification that I live across the street from one of the greatest cities in the USA! Not only that, my personal winner for "Best 1980s-era development planning and codes" is just outside the top at #11.

Good enough for a berth in the liveability Ryder Cup.

Honestly, their qualifications for quality are so outdated. It's almost criminal to hold most of these cities in high regard in such a public location. Lists like this set back planning a full year. I can't imagine walking into the city council of Overland Park and telling them their city is fatally flawed. All they would have to do is showcase this ranking and their supporting stats and happily bury their heads in the sand. They would also probably point to their tiny lifestyle centers that are separated from the rest of the city by 6-lane collector roads and promote them as progressive design.

I would love to see the population density, population growth, and codes for these cities and see if they are even remotely sustainable. Can you imagine a Ryder Cup for liveability? I would love to see the 12 best places to live in Europe in a competition with the cities mentioned.

Would it be a 28-0 sweep?


Seriously. They don't say much about their methodology, but it appears the only factors weighing heavily enough to matter or housing affordability and public schools, I suppose. There isn't a single place on this list I consider remotely interesting, except perhaps Fort Collins, CO and that is only because of the New Belgium Brewing Company. From their website:

In 1999, New Belgium became the largest private consumer of wind-powered electricity at that time and the first wind-powered brewery. In 1998, when we were researching ways to lower our environmental impact, Fort Collins was launching the first city-sponsored wind program in Colorado. We made a 10-year commitment to buy all of our electricity through the program, which allowed them to install an additional turbine, in Medicine Bow, WY. Since the wind premium increased our total cost per kilowatt-hour by 57%, it impacted employee's profit sharing pool. So, we asked employees: wind-power or not? They unanimously voted for clean energy, and the decision is a fabled moment in New Belgium history.
But, four texas 'burbs make the list: Round Rock, McKinney, Carrollton, and Richardson. I don't find any of them remotely as well-prepared for the 21st century (unless by well-prepared you mean easily adaptable because so much of what is there is temporary) as say, State College, PA, which makes the list as highest percentage of work commutes by bike or foot, at a whopping 42%.
I wonder what the foreclosure rate is as well in those places? They've all boomed in the last twenty years and are extremely homogenous, which is the way to construct extremely fragile and brittle systems. Furthermore, they are all essentially bedroom communities leaching off the amenities of the larger city.

State College, a place where having a car, at least as a student, was literally a detriment. You would drive up at the beginning of the semester. Park your car somewhere towards the edge of town and not see it again for four months.