Being chosen as the best may not always be best

Filed under: Opinion |

Believe it or not, Colorado Springs isn’t one of the best places to live in America.

Of course that’s a subjective conclusion arrived at by Money magazine and CNN/Money based on data from OnBoard. According to the aforementioned authorities, the best place to live in America in 2005 is Moorestown, N.J.

The only Colorado town on the list is Louisville, which ranked No. 5.

Money and CNN/Money considered cities “with population above 14,000, above-median household income, population growth and real estate appreciation over the past five years.”

Colorado Springs qualified based on those criteria, as did 1,320 other cities.

But to narrow the list of prospects, cities that are more than 60 miles away from a major airport or more than 30 away from a major teaching hospital were excluded.

Just in case you haven’t guessed by now, Colorado Springs strikes out in both instances. While I enjoy the convenience of flying out of our airport, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it isn’t a “major” facility.

According to Mapquest.com, Denver International Airport, which I’m betting does qualify as a “major,” is 86.51 miles from downtown Colorado Springs.

You also have to look more than 30 miles away for a major teaching hospital.

So, based solely on location (guess Gen. Palmer didn’t take these survey things into account way back when), the Springs was out of the running even before the race began.

But since Louisville did manage a top five ranking, I thought it might be worthwhile to see just how closely we match up despite our geographical difficulties.

Louisville pretty much thumps Colorado Springs in the median household income category. Theirs is $79,169. Ours is $51,733. The best places average was $68,160.

We do have lower sales taxes, though. Ours is 6.60 percent. Theirs is 8.15 percent. The best places average was 6.78 percent.

We also have more affordable housing. Our average home price is $184,313. Theirs is $295,718. The best places average was $316,665.

Colorado Springs also takes a thumping when it comes to access to higher education. Louisville residents can choose from 25 colleges, universities and professional schools; and 18 junior colleges and technical institutes. Colorado Springs residents have a choice of 11 and five, respectively. The best places averages were 33 and 15.

We do better than Louisville when it comes to student to teacher ratio in grade school. Our number is 15.8; theirs is 18.3. The best places average was 15.37.

In the quality of life categories, we don’t even come close to our neighbor to the north.

Their air pollution index is 46; ours is 94. One hundred is the national average and lower is better. The best places average was 90.

Residents of Louisville have a personal crime risk of 24. The risk for Colorado Springs residents is 82. Again, 100 is the national average and lower is better. The best places average was 69.

Property crime risk in Louisville was 56. In Colorado Springs it was 111. The best places average was 78.

In the leisure and culture category, we’re tied with Louisville in movie theaters within 15 miles at 11. The best places average was 27.

They have more restaurants, 1,719 vs. 1,300, more bars, 153 vs. 136, more golf courses 71 vs. 24, more libraries, 38 vs. 16 and more museums six vs. four.

The best places averages for movie theaters was 27; for restaurants, 3,431; for bars, 241; for golf courses, 71; for libraries, 60; and for museums, 10.

Louisville also beats us by more than an inch in annual precipitation, 19.93 inches for them and 18.63 inches for us. The best places average was 37.78 inches.

We’re substantially cooler during the summer, though. Their high temperature in July was 87.2 degrees Fahrenheit; ours was 82.4.

So what does this all mean? I think I can sum it up in one long, meandering sentence.

It’s cheaper to live in Colorado Springs, which is good because we don’t make as much money as they do in Louisville, but they have better access to higher education options and run much less of a risk of breathing dirty air or being victimized by personal or property crime, which means that they can concentrate more on taking advantage of their generous leisure and cultural offerings, except when their extra inch or so of precipitation gets in the way.

Whew.

What it really means? Not a thing.

Criteria are subjective, and I’m sure that there are folks throughout the country that feel equally slighted and bemused by the Money, CNN/Money rankings.

If you’re happy where you live, if you’re happy doing what it is you do, if you’re happy with your lifestyle and quality of life, what does a survey matter?

In the grand scheme of things, it doesn’t.

Mike Boyd is editor of the Colorado Springs Business Journal. He can be reached at mike.boyd@csbj.com or 329-5206.