We’re No. 5! Columbia has come a long way as it cracks top 10 Great Places to Live list

nwhite@thestate.comAugust 18, 2013 


ILLUSTRATION BY SUSAN ARDIS — sardis@thestate.com

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Hey, everybody, great news!

In fact, this news is so great that I’ve been asked to write about it instead of reporting on the South Carolina football team’s backup long snappers.

It seems that some outfit called Kiplinger’s has ranked Columbia as the No. 5 city in the United States on a recent Top 10 Great Places to Live list. It’s true, I swear.

Of course, there is one caveat. This list only includes cities with a population under one million in the metropolitan area, which means that Columbia didn’t have to compete with beautiful bigger cities like Detroit.

Now I’m not sure how credible Kiplinger’s is – for all I know, it could be some guy named Earl Kiplinger living in his basement while blindly throwing 10 darts at a RandMcNally map and publishing his results on a mimeograph machine – but somebody told me that these Kiplinger people have a business and personal finance magazine as well as a website. So if it’s on the Internet, there’s no question the information is completely accurate.

Naturally, both Charleston and Greenville are insanely jealous of our nifty new ranking and have complained loudly that we are way overrated. Well, they can bite it. The rankings are supposedly based on good jobs, reasonable home prices, good schools, and great health care with extra credit for things like geographic setting, green living, amenities, and arts and sports culture. (I’m sure if horse poop had been one of the criteria, Charleston would have rocketed up the list.)

This is a new day for the Capital City. Back in the 1970s, Columbia couldn’t make a list of 10 great places to live in South Carolina, as it regularly lagged behind both Pelzer and Whitmire in many rankings. And I’ll never forget the dark days of the tyrannical Coble regime, when Money magazine once ranked us No. 572 on the 500 Best Medium-Sized U.S. Cities That Rhyme With Jolumbia.

So there’s incredible pride knowing that we’ve climbed on this particular list all the way to No. 5 – ahead of No. 6 Billings, Mont.; No. 7 Morgantown, W. Va.; No. 8 Ithaca, N.Y.; No. 9 Anchorage, Alaska; and No. 10 Dubuque, Iowa. (Come on, like Ithaca really ever had any chance of beating us out.)

However, we remain behind No. 1 Little Rock, Ark.; No. 2 Burlington, Vt.; No. 3 Bryan-College Station, Tex.; and No. 4 Santa Fe, N.M. If I ever find this Kiplinger guy, whoever he is, I’ve got one thing to say to him:

“College Station No. 3? Seriously? Even Johnny Football can’t wait to get out of that place.”

While I’ve never been to any of the other nine cities on the list, that’s not going to keep me from disparaging them if it’ll help Columbia move up. For instance, take Santa Fe, which means “boring burg” in Spanish. And don’t even get me started on Dubuque, which should be disqualified for having a “q” in its name.

The key for Columbia will be to find ways to improve because, let’s face it, if Little Rock can be top-ranked, any city can do it. But it’ll take a concerted effort. I did a little checking with the Kiplinger people – I spoke on the phone with Ernie, who is, from what I understand, Earl’s second cousin on his mother’s side – and he spelled out what we needed to do.

Everybody already knows Columbia has an incredible obsession with college sports.

Each fall the locals go absolutely crazy over Columbia College Fighting Koalas volleyball, Benedict College cross country, and Midlands Tech Frisbee (Airport campus only). And there’s a vibrant arts scene, which includes competing ballet companies that have been known to rumble in the Koger Center parking lot. So we just need to work on a few other areas. Here are the suggestions:

Cut the time waiting in line to vote from 10 hours to one hour.

•  Fill up all those empty Innovista buildings on the USC campus.

•  Ignore the city police scandals and just get a Bat Signal.

•  Tell those dorky state lawmakers to go meet in Goose Creek instead.

•  Update the slogan from “Famously Hot” to “Famously Damp.”

•  Follow through on the secretive Bull Street development (code-named “Green Diamond Without The River” among city officials).

Or we could just not worry about the rankings. After all, these various outlets routinely rank the cities differently. Until there’s a national playoff that brings together the top places in the Kiplinger, Forbes, Money, and Bloomberg Businessweek polls, it’s nothing more than idle chatter for a summer day.

Unless, that is, we want to bust Ithaca’s chops.


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