Monday, August 24, 2009

Best cities for kids

Now this is a list I wish Charlotte were on:

U.S. News & World Report's list of the 10 best U.S. cities and towns in which to grow up (link here) does not, sadly, include Charlotte. Here are the criteria the magazine said it used:

"First off, you'd probably want a low crime rate. A strong school system would also be key. From there, you'd need lots of other children, expansive green spaces to play in, and plenty of nearby family events. Toss in an abundance of artistic and recreational activities, and all of a sudden you've got one heck of a place to grow up."

Obviously, different people value different things. I might have put a bit more weight on the attributes of a large city, which can offer plenty of things to do without having to drive everywhere. San Jose, Boston and Denver are on the list. Public school problems probably kept New York and Washington off the list (I'm speculating, I don't have inside info). Green space probably hurt Atlanta and Charlotte. Crime probably hurt Charlotte – the city has had, comparatively speaking, a high crime rate for decades.

It's hard to tell if the list is in order of No. 1 to No. 10, but here are the cities, in order:
1. Virginia Beach, Va.
2. Madison, Ala. (a bedroom suburb of Huntsville)
3. San Jose, Calif.
4. Overland Park, Kan. (outside Kansas City, Mo.)
5. Boston
6. Denver
7. Rochester, Minn.
8. Cedar Rapids, Iowa
9. Plano, Texas
10. Edison, N.J.


Anonymous said...

The fact that a city/town in Kansas, a city/town in NJ, and a city/town in Iowa made this list is clear evidence that it has no credibility.

Note also that over half the places on the list you can't even go outside more than half the year due to miserable weather.

I'll take having grown up in Charlotte any day.

Anonymous said...

For over a year, the monkeys in your comments section have ridiculed any and all measures to help people get around without a car. Rail. Buses. Biking. Even sidewalks.

These are the same monkeys who set the tone in Charlotte, who make it socially acceptable to throw things at people they see walking by the side of the road.

These are the people who keep it impossible for a child around Charlotte to do anything at all without being bussed and chauferred until age 16. These people help make sure that Charlotte kids develop very little independence or responsibility until then. And so, another cohort of kids grows up with their maturity and judgement stunted, and unsurprisingly, many grow up to be the same breed of monkey we see in the comments here.

Until that changes, greater Charlotte is no place to raise a child.

Anonymous said...

To Anon who commented at 04:05 pm: You raise an excellent point.

As the crow flies, I live 1.5 miles from Myers Park High School. My wife and I have no children, and so we were amazed at the main email topic being exchanged this past week in our ‘hood: Parents finding rides for their teenage kids to get to and from that school. (Only seniors can get a parking space, and apparently even they have limited access).

Although there are sidewalks from here to the tri-school campus, apparently walking 1-2 miles is out of the question. It just isn’t cool. I walk 4 miles a day for exercise. This 65-year-old averages about 17 minutes to a mile. I figure these older kids can do a mile in 15 or less without breaking a sweat. If it rains, there have these wonderful inventions call umbrellas, raincoats and boots, which the kids could use.

Most if not all these teenagers also have access to a bicycle. They could ride on the sidewalks if parents are worried about careless motorists. Surely the school has, or could have, bike racks. The kids could use locks to protect their ride. Practical, cheap – but not cool.

So, apparently the best way to get your frosh, sophs and juniors to school in Charlotte is to have a text-messaging, cell phone addicted, 17-year-old potential speed demon haul them there in a polluting, street-clogging automobile. Heaven forbid that some consider taking a city bus if the routing is feasible, especially the kids in this 'hood who attend private schools.

Yes, you are exactly right. These kids in turn will raise kids who will be coddled and made to think they will always be the center of attention. You have to buy them a car at age 17, because how else in a city with a light-rail system, buses, bike lanes, and sidewalks could a kid or adult possibly get around without their own expensive means of transportation? DUH!

But you are wrong about them being “monkees”. Monkees are much smarter than these resource-hogging elephants. Which is the reason Charlotte may never make that list.

Anonymous said...

I checked the demographics for a few of these cities. The pattern is easy to spot. High median household incomes, low African-American populations, very low poverty rates. I don’t think greenspace and police criteria have much to do with their selection. If you live in a wealthy community, it’s natch that there will be a low crime rate, and since everyone’s kid is above average and wants to go to Harvard, no problem in the schools, either.

In fact, many of these burgs are also on Money Magazine’s list of “best” places to live. Yep, if you have it made, these are the cities and suburbs in which you will want to live.

Mary, if the city will just release SouthPark and/or Ballantyne from its clutches and let them go their own way, we could have at least two mentions on that top ten list.

Anonymous said...

I see where the mayor vetoed the street car line that was to run from uptown to Eastland Mall. It would cost at least $500 million. The mayor and fellow GOP councilmen said the matter should wait until this recession ends and it can be determined from where the funds would come.

On the other hand, all seven Obamacrats on council voted for it, and threaten to override the veto next week. "Heck, it's only $500 million" must be their reasoning.

I guess the main clientele for such a line would be the Plaza-Midwood crowd, although I can't imagine them riding out to the mall - just to uptown. But think of the potential: South and Southwest Charlotte residents taking the Blue Line to uptown and transfering to the street car to shop at Eastland. In the future, north Mecklenburg residents or the University City folks could do the same once their light-rails are built.

Makes perfect sense to spend half a billion. (At least to Nancy Carter and pals).

consultant said...


Don't feel bad. These "top 10" lists put together by these magazines usually have little academic integrity. In other words, they're worthless.

It's tough being a kid ANYWHERE in America today.

Anonymous said...

We lived in Overland Park for two years before we moved to Charlotte. It is indeed a very family/children friendly place, primarily because they understand that there is nothing wrong with schools being the center of a community. Sidewalks and bike paths connect parks, neighborhoods, and schools. Children are expected to walk or bike to school. Although the city is (or at least was when we lived there) growing rapidly and thus has a continual need for more schools, they have a plan for at least ten years ahead (gasp) and you know for sure where your children will be attending if a new school is built near you--what a concept! Also new neighborhoods and schools are not built until the infrastructure is in place. Not surprisingly there are not very many private schools--people of all income levels support the public schools--attending public school is the norm.
It was easy to take advantage of all Kansas City has to offer (and for all you eastern/urban centric people mid-west cities have quite a bit to offer cultrally); the sports scene was good; the barbecue was great; and perhaps most importantly we didn't constantly hear the suburban bashing that goes on around here. Conversely there was then no reason to bash "the city" either.
Only thing I did miss was easy access to the beach. And the Colorado mountains were a long drive away!
Charlotte has a lot going for it with its weather and scenic beauty but its civic leaders (including Observer writers) seem to have a very immature and myopic view of what makes a great city.

Anonymous said...

As was pointed out further above, Overland Park is another of those locales where 91% of the population is white, 3% are African-American, and 4 % are Hispanic-Latino. Only 3% of households are below the poverty level. The median household income there is very high in relation to most of the United States.

Apparently to make the list of the Top 10 U.S. cities and towns in which to grow up, all you have to do is be well educated, white, and have parents with very-well-paying jobs. Oh, that and keep out the riff-raff.

Birds of a feather flock together, so indeed Overland Park and the ilk would be great places in which Buffy and Skippy could grow up. No black-on-black crime and no white-on-white crime. No worries about getting beat up at school by the kids who haven’t figured out that education is key to their futures. Plenty of tax money to be tapped to build tennis courts, pools and bike trails.

Obviously poor old Charlotte’s mistake was to continually expand its city limits to encompass all sorts of folks: rich, poor, black, white, Hispanic, youth, retirees, etc. That mix dilutes Bufffy and Skippy’s chances of growing up worry-free and conscience-free. Even if you live in SouthPark or Myers Park all your life, you still don’t live in what meets the criteria for the Money Magazine and U. S. News & World Report lists, because you still live in...gasp...Charlotte! We have poor. We have crime. We have money problems. We have too many problems to solve.

So what exactly is USN&WR telling us? Seems they are saying that to be a happy, white, coddled youngster, you need to tell your parents to move to a wealthy white community. Does anyone but wealthy conservative white folks read it and Money Magazine?

Anonymous said...

As I said in my previous post about Overland Park, it was refreshing not to hear the continual bashing of suburbanites (or apparently anyone who does not live the way the previous poster finds acceptable--doesn't care much for white children, does he?). As in other mature big cities in KC it was understood that usually large urban areas encompass a city itself plus thriving smaller cities and towns (think Chicago, NY, Boston, etc). Those towns probably wouldn't have been there if the big city was not there; the big city probably would not be able to have as many cultural, sporting, and entertainment amenities if those towns and cities were not providing attractive living options for a wide variety of people (race is not the only criterea for diversity) who used those amenities. Not everyone wants to be a city dweller but that doesn't mean they don't like cities!

Anonymous said...

Who cares?????

Anonymous said...

Charlotte will never be a good place for children as long as CMS school board keeps jerking families around

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The point is that the main reason for the existence of Overland Park, Madison, Plano, Union County, etc. is to provide a haven for those who don't want diversity. It's called "White Flight". There is no diversity in those places. Just hundreds of thousands of kids named Bobby and Suzie. The USN&WR is honoring white flight by listing the best places to flee.

Diversity is a city like Charlotte that has a 33% black population, a large Hispanic population, and a large white population. That in itself presents quite a challenge. We're only a few generations removed here from the ante-1964days when African-Ameicans were kept in virtual slavery: no equal opportunity (and therefore no incentive to become better educated), no property or voting rights, no equal access to cultural events, etc. There are a lot of problems to overcome when you have diversity.

Unfortunately, those moving into the Charlotte area are usually led by realtors to the "suburbs" outside the city limits, where they won't have to face the challenges of having all sorts of Americans living together.

I'm surprised that Mary, a died-in-the-wool urbanist, wishes that Charlotte were on the list. It can never be, because anyone who knows anything at all can look at the list and seen that it is stacked in favor of suburbs or homogenous urban areas.

Oh, and do tell us just where in the Charlotte area you moved from Overland Park. I rather doubt it was the west or east side of Charlotte.

The problem with "cities are a great place to visit but I wouldn't want to live there" is that those cities' cultural and entertainment facilities, not to mention the infrastrusture that gets you there and back, are not being subsidized by the suburbanites who use them. One day this city will wake up to that fact.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Cato said...

Regarding diversiphilia, about which there has been considerable preening here:

Harvard's Robert Putnam (of "Bowling Alone" fame) has done research indicating that high ethnic diversity is also correlated with low trust within a community. As he put it in an NPR interview: "The only two things that go up as the diversity of your census track goes up are protest marches and television watching."

Charlotte's own experience (see the CO's "Friendship, Not Trust, Crossing Racial Lines" 6/5/09) seems to bear this out.

Why is this a desirable trait in a city? Especially if you get more crime and worse schools in the bargain? Or is it that the intangible benefits of white liberal self-congratulation are enough to coutnerbalance it?

consultant said...


What version of Bowling Alone did you read?

Anonymous said...

“Why is this [diversity] a desirable trait in a city? Especially if you get more crime and worse schools in the bargain? “


I can’t argue with your observation. Obviously USN&WR as well as Money Magazine agree with you.

So, if diversity in Charlotte means you can continue to expect a higher crime rate and mediocre schools – not to mention more tax money being raised and channeled toward easing these problems – it appears that white flight to the suburbs is a solution, not a problem, and should be encouraged.

You indeed do find better schools there. The vast majority of the children are all already “assimilated” into the culture of learning equals success. Now that the courts have ceased forced busing, the far-suburbs’ schools don’t have to cope with street-smart center city kids whose culture is based on early pregnancies without paternal responsibility, Grandma raising the resulting brood, and the attitude that learning won’t get you anywhere because there is no where to go. (And the resulting crime rate and social service dependency that goes with that attitude).

Sounds like a great plan for many Americans. But although we can run, we can’t hide, because Americans are also organized at the county, state and national levels. You can’t duck the issues of the community-at-large just because you’re not in “the city”. The festering problems still come back to impact you. And realizing that Shontelle and DeMarco, as well as Pablo and Maria, are reproducing at a much faster rate than Buffy and Skippy, the future chances of the conservative, white political parties holding sway over others are rapidly diminishing.

Better to face the music and get the diverse choir singing from the same page and in the same community. (Or immigrate to New Zealand).

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:46 is clearly jealous of Buffy and Skippy.

Anonymous said...

I want my home to be a sanctuary against the worlds problems.

I am racist.
Non-white and poor = crime and trouble. I don't want to solve the world's problems. Deal with your own.

Why would I want my home in the middle of it. Crazy.

pagrundy said...

The USNR evaluation of the "best" cities and towns seems pretty narrow. To be one of the best cities for *all* children a place would need to offer advantages such as excellent public transportation, so families who can't afford cars can get to jobs and activities; a comprehensive public health system (such as in San Francisco or Mass.) so that all children would have access to quality health care; and a school system that isn't divided into "have" and "have not" schools, so that all children would have the opportunity for equally fine educations. Unfortunately, Charlotte wouldn't score well on any of these measures either.

Anonymous said...

Taxation is Theft!

Anonymous said...

How can we pay for health care? This country is broke. SS will be broke in 10 years. Social Security will go down as the largest PONZI scheme in histroy.