I've always been skeptical of the glossy magazine tendency to rank things. Atlanta's Top Doctors! Missouri's Best High Schools! New England's #1 Chowder!
These rankings must be a crock, right? I mean, how could some dopey editor actually survey all the doctors in the Atlanta metro area? Or, for that matter, all the chowder in New England? These exercises must be bogus, right? I've suspected as much, but now I have proof.
Money magazine has just ranked America's "Best Places to Live" for 2005. Yup, these geniuses have performed the Herculean task of surveying every town, from sea to shining sea, compiling a careful set of metrics, and ranking the towns accordingly. I'm sure the editors at Money are all very nice people, but they're also frauds. Gigantic, stinking hacks. How do I know this? Because I grew up America's #1 Town (for 2005)--sunny, beautiful Moorestown, New Jersey.
Mind you, there's nothing wrong with Moorestown. It's a perfectly pleasant little berg. It has a nice main street, reasonably good public schools, and an unbelievably kick-ass program of girls sports. (During my time at Moorestown High, the girls' soccer, field hockey, tennis, and lacrosse teams all won multiple state championships. Those programs are all still dominant today, as is the girls cross-country program, which has also added a couple won state championships. If you want your daughter to get an athletic scholarship to college, Moorestown might well be your #1 town.)
But Moorestown's best days are behind it. In the last 15 years the township has been plagued by sprawl as the town council granted virtually unlimited rights to the Toll Brothers to develop every last inch of land. Moorestown used to be stately houses, well-planned subdivisions, and acres of peach orchards. Today you're hard-pressed to find a single tree where the farmland used to be. McMansions huddle next to each other on itsy-bitsy parcels of land. The quaint demeanor the Money editors admire is now indistinguishable from nearby Marlton or Medford.
The town's infrastructure is set to buckle under the population boom--there simply aren't enough roads to get new residents quickly from their homes to Route 38 and I-295--which most of them will take to their jobs. The school system, once one of the best in New Jersey, has been passing a series of ill-advised bond measures to fill in the gaps as the school-age population has just about doubled in less than a decade. The system's shortcomings have been papered over so far, but only just, and the biggest glut of kids is on the horizon. Yet the town still has no long-term plan. Anyone who spent even 36 hours in Moorestown researching the community would uncover this problems easily.
(And what type of people are living in these McMansions and sending their kids to the schools? Remember Blair Hornstine, the girl who, at the urging of her father, sued her school to be valedictorian? That was Moorestown.)
Moorestown, in other words, has, for years now, been passing the buck through bad management. It has a nest of problems all beginning to manifest themselves. Did I love growing up there? You betcha. Is it still a great place to raise kids? Sure. But is it the "#1 Town in America"? Absolutely not. It isn't even the #1 town in South Jersey. (That would be Haddonfield.)
The goal of this, mind you, isn't to knock Moorestown, for which I have a great deal of affection. The point is that the people at Money don't have any idea what our country's "best town" is. And by pretending that they do somehow "know" this great unknowable cardinality, the editors and their sham rankings only reinforce to the world how arrogant and idiotic and intellectually bankrupt most journalists are.
Like we needed the help.
29 minutes ago