Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

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March 19, 2014

Mark Maynard: Calipari not only one irked by rankings: 3/20/14

ASHLAND — Living all 56 years of my life in Ashland, I’ll admit to having some blinders on when it comes to Our Town.

But am I the only one who gets a little irked when these lists come out on the Internet that would make Our Town seem more like Death Valley than Happy Valley?

The latest such list I came across ranked the top 15 best places to live in Kentucky based on research from a national real estate company.

By the way, Ashland wasn’t one of them.

Well, OK, I thought.

Maybe we still have a ways to go to be considered in the top 15, even though we used to be right there in the top 5 some 40 to 50 years ago. I’ll admit, a lot has changed. For instance, did you know this year is the 20th anniversary of Armco becoming AK Steel? That was a big one.

Ashland Inc., of course, left us, too, for the ever-growing area of northern Kentucky.

We’ve been dealt some blows. So, not being in the top 15 wasn’t all that surprising, even given those two events.

The survey ranked the top 42 (actually there was only 41) of cities with populations of more than 10,000. It was based on seven criteria:

‰total amenities

‰quality of life (cost of living, median home price, median rent price, median household income, teacher per student ratio)

‰total crimes

‰tax rates (sales tax, income tax)

‰unemployment rate

‰commute time

‰weather (temperature, air quality)

Where did you think Ashland would rank?

Near the top?

Middle of the pack?

Bottom of the barrel?

If you guessed near the bottom, give yourself a booby prize.

We were 38th out of 41, ahead of only Winchester, Somerset and Campbellsville.

Maybe it’s my Ashland bias shining through, but that seemed a little off to me. Now I’m not ready to call us top 10 — our air quality alone wouldn’t allow us anywhere near that group. But are we not in the upper half of the best places to live in Kentucky?

If UK Coach John Calipari can complain about Kentucky being a No. 8 seed in the Midwest Region, then I can complain about Ashland being a 38 seed (out of 41) in this ranking system.

Or, like Calipari, maybe I’m just stirring the pot to motivate anybody and everybody who can to Do Something about our poor standing.

We ranked dead last in weather, not beause it’s too hot or too cold (I mean, really, how much does the weather change throughout Kentucky?) but because of our air quality. One note there, though, is it’s better than it used to be since the AK Steel coke plant closed a couple of years ago.

The most puzzling of the rankings came in the category of Total Crimes, where we ranked 38th out of the 41. I would have thought just the opposite.

So, too, would Ashland Police Chief Rob Ratliff.

“I respectfully disagree with whatever formula they used to come up with that ranking,” he said.

I would most certainly agree with Ratliff, who said the APD is close to finishing its annual report, which actually showed less crime in Our Town in 2013 than the previous year.

I’m not sure how this group came about those numbers or, better yet, if it had ever even been to Ashland (probably not).

We may not be the Garden City of Kentucky, but we’re not the bottom of the barrel, either.

How about it, Mayor Chuck Charles?

“I really take issue with these surveys,” he said. “I called one of them after they rated us the ‘Unhappiest Place to Live in the United States.’ I asked them all kind of questions.”

And none of the answers were satisfactory.

Charles said it’s an almost built-in bias about the Ashland-Huntington metropolitan area where we are typically lumped in national surveys. “There’s a huge difference between Ashland and Huntington,” he said.

Charles is from Ashland, but he hasn’t spent his entire life living here. He’s even been to the big cities like Washington, D.C. But he sees Ashland as an ideal location to live, and not just because he’s mayor.

“Some things we don’t have like a big city are traffic and crimes,” he said. “I’m not sure where they’re getting those crime numbers.”

Ratliff had a theory that everything categorized with an Ashland address, including areas outside the city limits, were included. But even then, he said, the numbers don’t add up in his mind.

“We have our share of everything that everybody does, but not the magnitude they have,” he said.

From the ranking in the survey, you’d think the mob has taken over Our Town.

Here was a bright spot: We ranked ninth in the Commute section. Unfortunately, it’s an easy commute to a lot of Ashland because of going from empty building to empty building.

Like I said, we’re hardly top 10 material although we’re in good (bad?) company. Lexington and Louisville didn’t make top 10, either. They are tied for 12th.

Each of the top 15 cities in the survey had a photo and description, although Erlanger apparently had the wrong photograph attached with it, according to comments.

So much for credibility.

Here is the link to the survey from Movoto Real Estate,  a national online real estate brokerage: movoto.com/blog/top-ten/best-places-in-kentucky/.

Scroll to the bottom for a look at Ashland’s vital statistics.

Welcome to Death Valley.

MARK MAYNARD can be reached at (606) 326-2648.

 

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