After perusing recent online lists ranking Idaho cities, that quote by Charles Dickens comes to mind: “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.”
Those words are from Dickens’ novel “A Tale of Two Cities,” written in 1859.
Let’s begin with the good news: The NerdWallet.com study that ranked the Gate City as the 34th best small city in the United States. The only other Idaho community to make it into the top 50 was Moscow — ranked 24th best.
NerdWallet’s press release stated that Pocatello’s “strong score was supported by its solid growth and affordability metrics. This thriving community includes a diverse job market and a progressive economic development focus for business owners. The unemployment rate in 2013 was 4.8 percent and the median household income $40,434. Workers log an average of just 36 hours a week, leaving ample time to enjoy the natural beauty surrounding them such as taking a stroll on the Portneuf Greenway.”
NerdWallet said it calculated its Best Small Cities in the U.S. study using “economic health, affordability and quality of life” data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s American Community Survey.
The NerdWallet study looked at over 1,300 cities with populations of less than 75,000 people.
It ranked Moorhead, Minnesota, as the best small city in the U.S., and overall the study ranked communities in the Midwest and college towns higher than the rest.
The vast majority of communities in Idaho have less than 75,000 people, and according to NerdWallet, Pocatello is a better place to live than all of them except for Moscow.
But before Pocatellans start feeling good about themselves, let’s look at the study by HomeSnacks.net.
That website ranked Idaho’s worst places to live with populations of over 4,000 people.
Pocatello came in as the eighth worst place to live in the Gem State and the only eastern Idaho community to make the worst 10 list, according to HomeSnacks.
The places in Idaho that are apparently worse than Pocatello include, in order of badness, Middleton (the absolute worst), Caldwell, Payette, Mountain Home, Nampa, Emmet and Weiser.
HomeSnacks attributed its poor ranking of Pocatello to the city’s schools (ranked seventh worst in Idaho) and crime (ranked 10th worst in the state).
The website says it tabulated its list of Idaho’s worst cities by using statistics on population density, unemployment rates, median income, housing vacancy rates, education, commute times, crime and weather.
Other eastern Idaho cities to crack HomeSnacks’ 25 worst in Idaho list are Idaho Falls, Preston, Blackfoot, Burley, Ammon and Chubbuck.
It’s a head scratcher that one study can rank Pocatello as one of the best small cities in the United States while another names us as one of the worst places in our entire state.
Perhaps we should all take these frequent online rankings by various websites with a humongous grain of salt.
We can all think of Pocatellans who look at their city, in Dickens’ words, like it’s stuck in a perpetual “winter of despair.” Then there are those who see the Gate City as being in an everlasting “spring of hope.” We’re a city made up of those who think we have “everything before us” and those who say we have “nothing before us.”
The truth, of course, when it comes to the tale of the Gate City is that it’s somewhere in the middle. And that’s just fine.