I was checking the weather online today, and I got distracted by one the weird little stories they run on the side bar. You know, the weird AOL type stories: "Cute Puppies", "Pretty Flowers", "Funny Pictures of Celebrities". This headline caught my eye: America's Most Miserable Cities.
A lovely little piece put together by our cheerful, helpful, and wise friends over at Forbes.
I have to admit, I'm so angry right now, my chest is tight and my hands are shaking as I type this.
Ok, so we're going to look for miserable cities. I can't possible imagine the value in this effort, but whatever. Let's see what you have to say. How are we going to decide this? Are we going to interview residents? How about we try to create some way of measuring happiness and well being? Are we going to count up all the books clubs and church groups, Robert Putnam style, to see how well connected to community is? No, apparently not.
Instead, we're going to measure that one single shining vale that Forbes spends all its time touting: material wealth. We're going to measure property values, mortgage defaults, population decline, average commute times, and, of course, tax rates.
Tax rates? Really? This is what makes a city a miserable place to live? Please.
High tax rates in a city? Imagine that. Our cities provide us public safety services, ambulances at our door step, clean beautiful water to drink practically for free, they enforce building codes and zoning that hold our communities physically together, they pay for parks and side-walks and fountains, maintain parking facilities, build dignified low income housing for us and our neighbours - they even facilitate public celebrations. They do all this, and then, they ask for taxes? They want us to help pay for it? How dare they. How dare they ask us to contribute to these public amenities that make us happier and more well connected to our neighbours. What losers.
You're right, Forbes. These cities are a disaster. We don't even need our cities anymore. We should all just move into a suburb in some god forsaken township where everyone has a swimming pool and a septic tank and a well. Ah, the fantasy of rugged independence. The taxes are so low, we can all afford a house twice as big as we need! No need for taxes I suppose, since the only public infrastructure is an eight lane death trap running right through our "neighbourhood" - shuttling us along at 55 miles per hour; it's a convenient straight line from our lovely McMansion right down to the local hangout: a Starbucks plopped in the middle of a parking lot. And, oh, did I mention the parking? Ah, the parking. As far as the eye can see. It is a glorious vision.
According to this insightful Forbes article, I should high tail it right out of town. My city, it seems, meets all the qualifications of being "miserable". Our population has been steadily shrinking over the past decades, there are foreclosures, and yes - our taxes are some of the highest in area.
I also walk to work everyday, along a publicly maintained river trail. There's a farmers market 3 blocks from my front door six months a year. We have four locally owned coffee shops within block of each other, side-walks to stroll on, a fountain to sit around and some of the most gorgeous homes in our state. Then there's the tiny little details that my friends and family live here too.
Come to think of it, I think I'll spend the rest of my life living in miserable American cities.