Dependable Erection

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Top ten

There's a lot of reasons to take ten best places to live lists with a grain of salt. Despite any attempt at objectifying the criteria used to rank various cities, it's a totally subjective game. If, for instance, a decent public transportation system is important to you, it's hard to see Durham breaking into your personal top 100 choices.

That said, there's even more reasons not to pay much attention to US News and World Report naming Durham one of the best places to live in the US yesterday.

For starters, they've got a number of facts wrong in their subjective list, especially the sales tax rate. If climate is that important to you for a place to live, it's hard to see how you'd pick Durham, or really any place in the Piedmont. Yeah, we get 5 delightful months (6 in a good year), but summers are particularly difficult, especially if you're coming here from SoCal, the Northwest, or the Northeast. Winters, while not as harsh or as long as the North or Midwest, are really winter, with temperatures dropping below freezing most nights in January and February. And while we don't get significant snowfall every year, in those years when we do, a 2 inch accumulation has the same effect on Durham as 18 - 22 inches does on, say, Rochester, NY.

And hiking? Seriously? I'm not much of a hiker, but almost every place i've lived, and that includes Sacramento, had better and more convenient hiking, both urban and rural. Durham is simply not in the same league.

But those are minor points. Those of us who love living in Durham all have our own reasons for it, regardless of whether USNWR found them. And there's the rub. If this mag actually inspires people to consider making Durham their home, i think it's likely that the people so inspired are going to be disappointed; and once they're here, they're going to dilute those aspects of Durham that are so attractive to the rest of us.

Durhamites are going to be pretty smug and self-congratulatory for the next month or so about how we made a better choice of residence than our peers who are living in Cary. I can live with some of that. I've indulged in some of that myself. What really worries me, though, is the likelihood that our elected officials are now going to say that, hey, we have one of the best communities in the US, why are you complaining about (insert whatever peeve you have about Durham here)?

Workable public transportation? Absentee and negligent landlords? Polluted waterways? Sprawl? Crime? Crumbling infrastructure?

Just because we're a top 10 city in some irrelevant magazine editor's eyes, doesn't mean that all of our problems have magically been solved.



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