The Best and Worst Run Cities in America

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Best Run Cities

20. Boston, Mass.
> Population: 624,969
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 8.45 (29th highest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (tied-17th lowest)

Boston is a popular city among professionals and well known for its universities and hospitals. Although the median household income of just over $49,000 was below the national median in 2011, more than 10% of households earned in excess of $200,000. Boston was in the top third of U.S. cities for violent crime, one of the few areas where it did not excel among the metrics we reviewed. Among the goals the new Boston City Council president has for the upcoming year is to enact stricter gun control measures. These include banning assault weapons, stricter background checks and even limiting the glorification of violence in movies and videogames.

19. Lubbock, Texas
> Population: 233,735
> Credit rating: Aa2
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 7.68 (32nd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.1% (6th lowest)

Lubbock, located in Northwestern Texas, benefits from a relatively stable economy. Home values in the city increased by more than 14% between 2007 and 2011, higher than all but two of the 100 most populous cities. Foreclosures in Lubbock were next to non-existent in 2011. The unemployment rate of 6.1% in 2011 was the sixth-lowest of all large cities. The Lubbock City Council approved a property-tax hike in September as part of the budget, rising by nearly 2 cents to 49 cents per $100 in property to 49 cents  making slightly more than 49 cents to approximately $100 in valuation. The increased revenue allowed city employees to receive a 3% pay rise.

Also Read: The States That Recovered the Most (and Least) from the Recession

18. Fayetteville, N.C.
> Population: 203,922
> Credit rating: Aa1
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 5.17 (36th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.6% (tied-28th lowest)

Although Fayetteville is not a particularly high-income city — the median household income in 2011 of $43,379 was more than $7,000 below the national median — it does well in many other areas. The Fayetteville housing market has done better than all of the 100 largest cities. Median home values rose 17.4% between 2007 and 2011, even as they declined by 10.7% nationwide. The defense industry plays a significant role in Fayetteville’s economy. The city is home to the Fort Bragg and Pope Field military bases. According to the city, these bases pump $4.5 billion into the area’s economy each year.

17. Irving, Texas
> Population: 220,699
> Credit rating: Aaa, negative outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 2.33 (10th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.2% (tied- 19th lowest)

Irving has a diverse economy, a strong housing market and a low crime rate. The city is home to the world headquarters of ExxonMobil, the largest company in the U.S. in terms of revenue in 2011. Many other Fortune 500 companies also have a sizable presence in the city. The largest employer as of 2011 was Citigroup, with approximately 7,500 employees. Other large companies with a significant workforce in Irving include Verizon, Allstate and Microsoft. Irving was also able to avoid the housing mess that most of the country faced. Home values actually rose by 2.1% in the city between 2007 and 2011, even as they declined by 10.7% nationwide. The violent crime rate of just 2.33 cases per 1,000 people is the 10th lowest of all large cities.

16. Omaha, Neb.
> Population: 415,076
> Credit rating: Aa1, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people:  5.60 (42nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 5.1% (3rd lowest)

Omaha was able to escape the recession relatively unscathed. Home values between 2007 and 2011 rose 3.4%, despite declining 10.7% across the country. Just 0.77% of Omaha’s homes were in foreclosure in 2011, one of the lowest rates of all the cities measured. The city’s strong housing market helped contribute to a 5.1% unemployment rate in 2011, the third-lowest of all 100 largest cities. While the economy is already strong in Omaha compared to the rest of the country, 46% of residents expect more growth in 2013, while just 10% believe that the economy will shrink, according to a survey conducted by the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce.

15. Portland, Ore.
> Population: 595,325
> Credit rating: Aaa
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 5.15 (35th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.4% (tied- 38th lowest)

In Travel + Leisure’s ranking of America’s Favorite Cities, Portland was rated the best city for both environmental friendliness and public transportation/pedestrian friendliness. Like most cities, however, Portland continues to deal with fiscal woes. The budget passed by the City Council in the spring of 2012 cut administrative services in the Office of Management and Finance, the city’s office dealing with revenue and spending, and also delayed cost-of-living adjustments for city employees. But even as it seeks ways to cut costs, Portland is one of just two cities with a population of over 200,000 to have no sales tax, making it attractive for business and residents. In 2011, regional GDP grew by 5.5%, more than all but two of the corresponding metro areas for the 100 largest cities.

14. Colorado Springs, Colo.
> Population: 426,406
> Credit rating: Aa2
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 4.40 (30th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 9.1% (tied- 49th lowest)

Like many of the best-run cities, Colorado Springs avoided the worst of the housing crisis. Median home values in Colorado Springs saw no significant decline between 2007 and 2011, compared to a drop of more than 10% in the country as a whole. One weakness was Colorado Springs’ unemployment rate of 9.1%. Though higher than the 2011 national rate, it was still lower than most of the worst-run cities. Colorado Springs’ economy is primarily driven by the defense and technology industries. Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman are among the 10 largest employers in the area as of 2011, while Hewlett-Packard and Verizon also have a sizable presence.

13. Chesapeake, Va.
> Population: 225,050
> Credit rating: Aa1
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 3.97 (22nd lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 6.5% (tied- 11th lowest)

Chesapeake, the third-largest city in Virginia, has the seventh-highest median household income — $66,563 — of all of the 100 largest cities. While households were very wealthy in 2011, extreme poverty in Chesapeake was also low. Only 3.4% of families earned less than $10,000, better than the 5.1% of households nationwide and the eighth-lowest rate among all the cities measured. Chesapeake’s workforce is spread out among a wide range of industries. Some of the largest employers include HSBC Finance, Cox Communications and QVC.

Also Read: The 10 Most Hated Companies in America

12. Chandler, Ariz.
> Population: 240,098
> Credit rating: Aaa, stable outlook
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 2.84 (13th lowest)
> Unemployment rate: 7.1% (tied- 17th lowest)

Chandler, which is part of the Phoenix metropolitan area, had a median income of $69,260 in 2011, the sixth-highest of all cities measured. Many city residents work in the technology industry, specifically in semiconductor and chip making. The one negative in Chandler is its high foreclosure rate of 4.61%. This was the sixth-highest rate of the 100 most populous cities. The top employer in Chandler is Intel, with over 10,000 employees. Financial services is also a major industry in the city, with both Bank of America and Wells Fargo employing several thousand people.

11. San Francisco, Calif.
> Population: 812,826
> Credit rating: Aa2, on review for upgrade
> Violent crime per 1,000 people: 6.60 (43rd highest)
> Unemployment rate: 8.6% (40th lowest)

While California continues to struggle with budget woes, San Francisco’s finances are in check. Mayor Ed Lee signed a two-year, $14.9 billion balanced budget in June that includes training for 300 new police officers and 84 new firefighters, and reinstates funding for HIV and AIDS services. Because San Francisco is a highly desirable city to live in, the cost of buying a home is very high. The median home value in the city was $719,800 as of 2011, the highest of all of the 100 most populous cities. Of course, residents are able to afford these steep prices – median household income was also nearly $70,000, the fifth-highest among the largest cities.