If you think it's been a bad year for housing prices, jobs and mass transit in Baltimore -- well, Money magazine says you're right.
Problems in these areas were the major culprits as Baltimore fell from a relatively lofty 39th position last year to No. 114 this year in the magazine's annual ranking of livability in 300 U.S. metropolitan areas.
The sister cities of Orem and Provo, Utah, topped the list as most livable in the September issue of Money, which will be on the newsstands Monday.
Money made the rankings by asking a representative sampling of its readers what they valued in a place to live. They named environment, crime rate, medical care and economic conditions. Computer analysis then weighted these results and applied this calculation to data about the country's largest 300 metropolitan areas.
Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke declined to comment on the study
because he had not yet seen it. But one of his mayoral opponents, Clarence "Du" Burns, whose campaign has stressed the decline of Baltimore, noted, "The people of Baltimore sure won't be surprised by this news. They're living it and they're all too aware of the disastrous track this city is moving on."
Robert Keller, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, advised "a little skepticism" when looking at this or similar reports.
"These kinds of surveys are unscientific and unreliable," Mr. Keller said. "It's somewhere between simple-minded and absurd draw conclusions like this based on the kind of research they do."
A similar caution came from a perhaps more objective observer. Randy Arndt, spokesman for the National League of Cities, a public interest group for cities, warned that "these people are not there to sell cities, they're there to sell magazines. You have as many different opinions on something like this as you have cities. It's perhaps stimulating to conversation, but I don't know what it contributes to an accurate assessment of what a place is really like."
Faring much worse than Baltimore was Hagerstown, which ended
up 295th on the list. (Last year Hagerstown was No. 210.) Economic factors were the primary reason for the low ranking, according to Money writer Marguerite Smith, but Fred Teeter, executive director of the Hagerstown Chamber of Commerce, offered another perspective.
"I personally relocated here from the Baltimore metropolitan area and this is a delightful community," Mr. Teeter said. "I suspect there are a lot of things a survey like this couldn't measure. It's a little difficult to quantify the value of being able to walk down the street and have 10 people say hi to you."
Top 10 cities
Money magazine picked these as the top 10 places to live in the United States:
2. Bremerton,.. Wash.
3. Bryan,... .. Texas
4. Boise,... .. Idaho
5. Lubbock,.. ..Texas
6. Billings,... Mont.
7. Fayetteville, Ark.
8. Madison,.. ...Wis.
9. Austin,.. .. Texas
10. Lincoln,.... Neb.