2018’s Best- & Worst-Run Cities in America - Hint SF is 147 of 150

https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/
2018’s Best- & Worst-Run Cities in America

Jul 9, 2018 | Adam McCann, Financial Writer
17.8K
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Running a city is a tall order. The larger the city, the more complex it becomes to manage. In addition to representing the residents, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. That often means not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost and whether and how much to raise taxes, among other decisions.

But how do we measure the effectiveness of local leadership? One way is by determining a city’s operating efficiency. In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget.

Using that approach, WalletHub compared the operating efficiency of 150 of the largest U.S. cities to reveal which among them are managed best. We constructed a “Quality of Services” score made up of 35 metrics grouped into six service categories, which we then measured against the city’s per-capita budget. Read on for our findings, expert insight and a full description of our methodology.

Main Findings
Best-Run Cities in America
Overall Rank (1=Best)

City

‘Quality of City Services’ Rank

‘Total Budget per Capita’ Rank

1

Nampa, ID

70

1

2

Provo, UT

9

2

3

Boise, ID

5

3

4

Lexington-Fayette, KY

63

4

5

Missoula, MT

80

5

6

Sioux Falls, SD

4

18

7

Durham, NC

26

12

8

Lewiston, ME

38

8

9

Nashua, NH

2

30

10

Oklahoma City, OK

66

9

11

Las Cruces, NM

85

6

12

Greensboro, NC

32

15

13

Cedar Rapids, IA

22

21

14

Huntington Beach, CA

1

52

15

Billings, MT

49

14

16

Raleigh, NC

20

28

17

Rapid City, SD

73

11

18

Fort Wayne, IN

59

13

19

Fargo, ND

7

40

20

Virginia Beach, VA

3

46

21

Aurora, IL

28

31

22

Bismarck, ND

6

53

23

Lincoln, NE

12

47

24

Columbus, GA

121

7

25

Arlington, TX

53

23

26

Manchester, NH

33

34

27

Mesa, AZ

57

22

28

Salem, OR

56

24

29

Chesapeake, VA

24

44

30

Louisville, KY

86

19

31

Albuquerque, NM

123

10

32

Warwick, RI

39

36

33

Madison, WI

10

59

34

Salt Lake City, UT

31

41

35

Warren, MI

91

20

36

Grand Rapids, MI

42

43

37

Phoenix, AZ

43

42

38

Huntington, WV

120

16

39

Tucson, AZ

104

27

40

El Paso, TX

44

51

41

Portland, ME

17

67

42

St. Petersburg, FL

69

48

43

Tulsa, OK

111

26

44

Topeka, KS

115

25

45

Fort Worth, TX

60

53

46

Charleston, SC

23

68

47

Corpus Christi, TX

81

49

48

Mobile, AL

116

32

49

Aurora, CO

37

63

50

Worcester, MA

61

58

51

Reno, NV

101

39

52

Wichita, KS

124

33

53

Santa Ana, CA

35

69

54

Des Moines, IA

46

64

55

Spokane, WA

55

62

56

Little Rock, AR

119

37

57

Fort Smith, AR

128

35

58

Portland, OR

19

91

59

Eugene, OR

41

75

60

Las Vegas, NV

77

66

61

Gary, IN

142

17

62

San Diego, CA

15

93

63

Rutland, VT

25

83

64

Dover, DE

103

57

65

St. Paul, MN

27

87

66

Frederick, MD

14

99

67

Columbia, SC

122

55

68

Fremont, CA

11

102

69

Springfield, MA

108

60

70

Columbus, OH

84

70

71

Fairbanks, AK

96

65

72

Montgomery, AL

131

45

73

Austin, TX

8

107

74

Charleston, WV

125

56

75

Anchorage, AK

54

78

76

Houston, TX

89

71

77

Baton Rouge, LA

139

38

78

Dayton, OH

94

72

79

Casper, WY

50

83

80

Omaha, NE

58

81

81

Boston, MA

16

106

82

Tallahassee, FL

64

92

83

Hialeah, FL

92

79

84

San Jose, CA

13

117

85

Indianapolis, IN

110

76

86

Norfolk, VA

113

77

87

Anaheim, CA

30

109

88

Akron, OH

95

82

89

Orlando, FL

52

104

90

Minneapolis, MN

34

108

91

Shreveport, LA

143

50

92

Jacksonville, FL

99

88

93

Miami, FL

71

100

94

Colorado Springs, CO

62

105

95

Dallas, TX

83

97

96

Kansas City, MO

93

94

97

Bridgeport, CT

117

80

98

Tampa, FL

45

114

99

San Antonio, TX

48

111

100

Providence, RI

130

73

101

Jackson, MS

149

29

102

Milwaukee, WI

114

85

103

Bakersfield, CA

106

96

104

Pittsburgh, PA

68

113

105

Seattle, WA

18

130

106

Toledo, OH

145

61

107

Charlotte, NC

29

129

108

Lubbock, TX

107

98

109

Burlington, VT

40

124

110

Fort Lauderdale, FL

67

120

111

Nashville, TN

102

101

112

Garland, TX

78

115

113

New Orleans, LA

126

95

114

Fresno, CA

134

86

115

Birmingham, AL

135

90

116

Riverside, CA

75

127

117

Cincinnati, OH

98

119

118

Buffalo, NY

88

125

119

Stockton, CA

146

74

120

Richmond, VA

112

118

121

Sacramento, CA

82

131

122

Kansas City, KS

127

112

123

Modesto, CA

109

123

124

New Haven, CT

136

103

125

Knoxville, TN

76

134

126

Syracuse, NY

100

132

127

Rochester, NY

74

135

128

Wilmington, DE

132

116

129

Long Beach, CA

51

140

130

Baltimore, MD

140

110

131

Denver, CO

65

139

132

Cheyenne, WY

79

138

133

Yonkers, NY

47

143

134

Philadelphia, PA

138

125

135

Memphis, TN

141

122

136

St. Louis, MO

148

89

137

Atlanta, GA

105

137

138

Los Angeles, CA

72

144

139

Tacoma, WA

97

141

140

Chicago, IL

137

136

141

Hartford, CT

129

142

142

Cleveland, OH

144

133

143

Flint, MI

147

128

144

Chattanooga, TN

118

146

145

Oakland, CA

87

147

146

Gulfport, MS

133

145

147

San Francisco, CA

21

149

148

New York, NY

36

148

149

Detroit, MI

150

121

150

Washington, DC

90

150

[https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52059/artwork-2018-best-worst-run-cities-v1.png]

Detailed Breakdown by City
‘Quality of City Services’ Rank*
(Score)

City

‘Financial Stability’ Rank

‘Education’ Rank

‘Health’ Rank

‘Safety’ Rank

‘Economy’ Rank

‘Infrastructure & Pollution’ Rank

1
(71.19)

Huntington Beach, CA

28

1

6

19

8

137

2
(67.39)

Nashua, NH

43

25

17

2

12

108

3
(66.68)

Virginia Beach, VA

10

29

61

6

29

65

4
(66.59)

Sioux Falls, SD

26

17

19

28

4

69

5
(66.50)

Boise, ID

13

75

25

8

6

54

6
(66.48)

Bismarck, ND

20

64

9

23

9

41

7
(66.17)

Fargo, ND

49

11

23

14

11

27

8
(66.09)

Austin, TX

30

4

21

60

2

43

9
(65.91)

Provo, UT

16

37

63

7

25

57

10
(65.07)

Madison, WI

7

45

37

15

46

73

11
(64.98)

Fremont, CA

98

3

14

18

1

126

12
(63.69)

Lincoln, NE

14

71

30

12

32

93

13
(63.42)

San Jose, CA

69

30

3

40

3

119

14
(63.42)

Frederick, MD

38

5

31

21

61

117

15
(63.29)

San Diego, CA

90

8

12

34

47

28

16
(63.19)

Boston, MA

4

147

38

13

67

18

17
(62.98)

Portland, ME

35

36

55

17

73

16

18
(62.89)

Seattle, WA

34

48

10

88

16

31

19
(62.64)

Portland, OR

24

77

24

77

42

4

20
(62.23)

Raleigh, NC

15

63

45

37

27

50

21
(62.17)

San Francisco, CA

57

83

1

95

20

22

22
(62.05)

Cedar Rapids, IA

31

57

56

46

14

70

23
(61.99)

Charleston, SC

22

65

44

57

50

24

24
(61.36)

Chesapeake, VA

19

35

106

20

15

115

25
(61.07)

Rutland, VT

11

22

26

11

108

5

26
(60.82)

Durham, NC

6

62

35

72

51

118

27
(60.73)

St. Paul, MN

29

133

57

22

70

26

28
(60.28)

Aurora, IL

64

20

32

4

92

123

29
(60.14)

Charlotte, NC

17

21

80

71

28

104

30
(59.68)

Anaheim, CA

99

14

4

32

68

141

31
(59.65)

Salt Lake City, UT

12

101

43

135

7

33

32
(59.50)

Greensboro, NC

5

13

126

61

81

92

33
(59.39)

Manchester, NH

100

76

15

31

59

71

34
(58.94)

Minneapolis, MN

59

139

28

66

58

6

35
(58.73)

Santa Ana, CA

81

19

5

30

72

142

36
(58.50)

New York, NY

119

118

20

5

123

14

37
(58.29)

Aurora, CO

46

114

34

39

17

131

38
(58.24)

Lewiston, ME

61

113

75

26

65

29

39
(58.11)

Warwick, RI

112

93

68

3

33

110

40
(58.11)

Burlington, VT

131

59

2

9

88

11

41
(58.04)

Eugene, OR

27

140

58

84

76

2

42
(57.99)

Grand Rapids, MI

72

78

73

27

69

80

43
(57.92)

Phoenix, AZ

44

98

51

82

34

64

44
(57.76)

El Paso, TX

74

42

33

16

82

109

45
(57.68)

Tampa, FL

36

112

105

65

31

40

46
(57.49)

Des Moines, IA

60

38

108

56

35

90

47
(57.46)

Yonkers, NY

134

46

8

1

114

105

48
(57.28)

San Antonio, TX

37

15

84

115

36

88

49
(57.05)

Billings, MT

48

95

97

83

22

39

50
(56.95)

Casper, WY

1

132

101

10

39

51

51
(56.92)

Long Beach, CA

78

58

13

68

64

127

52
(56.77)

Orlando, FL

52

88

59

111

37

49

53
(56.66)

Arlington, TX

71

31

79

41

45

140

54
(56.52)

Anchorage, AK

62

44

83

98

10

97

55
(56.48)

Spokane, WA

56

54

42

103

86

63

56
(56.33)

Salem, OR

108

118

46

64

44

13

57
(56.33)

Mesa, AZ

68

96

54

45

30

136

58
(56.29)

Omaha, NE

89

49

107

36

56

86

59
(56.22)

Fort Wayne, IN

25

27

123

48

53

139

60
(56.13)

Fort Worth, TX

122

12

65

44

18

130

61
(55.94)

Worcester, MA

92

52

67

42

112

74

62
(55.93)

Colorado Springs, CO

94

120

60

47

5

122

63
(55.91)

Lexington-Fayette, KY

54

53

49

63

78

129

64
(55.86)

Tallahassee, FL

84

23

66

120

96

7

65
(55.82)

Denver, CO

57

149

36

51

24

83

66
(55.81)

Oklahoma City, OK

8

32

121

79

23

149

67
(55.74)

Fort Lauderdale, FL

45

115

27

119

84

32

68
(55.70)

Pittsburgh, PA

132

7

64

38

91

42

69
(55.68)

St. Petersburg, FL

51

110

94

112

19

48

70
(55.54)

Nampa, ID

75

123

96

54

43

35

71
(55.39)

Miami, FL

116

47

18

97

134

10

72
(55.36)

Los Angeles, CA

105

100

16

74

90

91

73
(55.23)

Rapid City, SD

88

99

22

81

71

66

74
(54.92)

Rochester, NY

83

92

76

53

143

1

75
(54.81)

Riverside, CA

87

41

39

90

38

144

76
(54.80)

Knoxville, TN

39

24

104

126

105

38

77
(54.62)

Las Vegas, NV

101

126

85

93

60

8

78
(54.41)

Garland, TX

141

9

70

43

21

135

79
(54.26)

Cheyenne, WY

9

124

82

75

13

78

80
(54.15)

Missoula, MT

125

2

50

128

79

45

81
(54.10)

Corpus Christi, TX

82

28

95

101

48

116

82
(53.99)

Sacramento, CA

107

108

62

85

55

77

83
(53.88)

Dallas, TX

136

6

52

73

62

72

84
(53.83)

Columbus, OH

91

72

115

52

74

79

85
(53.61)

Las Cruces, NM

41

90

113

70

119

59

86
(53.53)

Louisville, KY

42

106

112

89

77

96

87
(53.36)

Oakland, CA

113

60

11

141

40

112

88
(53.04)

Buffalo, NY

118

97

91

69

126

12

89
(53.02)

Houston, TX

123

16

71

106

97

60

90
(52.92)

Washington, DC

96

136

124

78

94

3

91
(52.72)

Warren, MI

40

116

89

25

100

120

92
(52.50)

Hialeah, FL

148

67

29

24

128

103

93
(52.46)

Kansas City, MO

86

18

87

138

63

114

94
(52.37)

Dayton, OH

55

89

90

110

141

19

95
(51.86)

Akron, OH

109

68

111

59

129

61

96
(51.83)

Fairbanks, AK

3

73

69

76

98

145

97
(51.76)

Tacoma, WA

111

87

40

133

57

111

98
(51.32)

Cincinnati, OH

93

125

132

86

116

15

99
(51.26)

Jacksonville, FL

103

105

136

91

54

52

100
(51.18)

Syracuse, NY

126

111

78

33

136

23

101
(50.98)

Reno, NV

130

86

109

55

41

95

102
(50.97)

Nashville, TN

119

91

125

100

26

58

103
(50.74)

Dover, DE

85

56

99

139

85

84

104
(50.70)

Tucson, AZ

110

122

47

116

113

76

105
(50.69)

Atlanta, GA

96

102

93

121

87

81

106
(50.29)

Bakersfield, CA

80

82

98

104

52

146

107
(50.03)

Lubbock, TX

77

33

103

142

66

133

108
(49.97)

Springfield, MA

124

128

53

62

133

62

109
(49.87)

Modesto, CA

114

79

81

134

49

121

110
(49.64)

Indianapolis, IN

21

142

134

123

101

89

111
(49.46)

Tulsa, OK

32

50

127

129

93

147

112
(49.43)

Richmond, VA

76

144

135

49

111

94

113
(49.41)

Norfolk, VA

73

137

142

50

107

100

114
(49.35)

Milwaukee, WI

121

69

92

113

117

87

115
(49.27)

Topeka, KS

106

107

133

114

75

44

116
(49.24)

Mobile, AL

53

43

146

124

122

30

117
(49.22)

Bridgeport, CT

144

61

7

29

146

98

118
(49.20)

Chattanooga, TN

102

40

110

127

80

56

119
(49.19)

Little Rock, AR

33

130

102

149

99

46

120
(48.95)

Huntington, WV

2

103

128

80

132

21

121
(48.82)

Columbus, GA

47

66

149

96

124

55

122
(48.75)

Columbia, SC

95

143

86

130

104

53

123
(48.73)

Albuquerque, NM

63

148

100

144

95

36

124
(48.70)

Wichita, KS

66

85

130

118

83

134

125
(47.83)

Charleston, WV

50

74

120

148

102

82

126
(47.36)

New Orleans, LA

140

10

117

122

135

9

127
(47.22)

Kansas City, KS

104

141

122

99

106

101

128
(46.99)

Fort Smith, AR

127

34

119

131

89

68

129
(46.90)

Hartford, CT

135

109

48

102

145

25

130
(46.22)

Providence, RI

142

117

77

35

142

17

131
(45.64)

Montgomery, AL

117

84

148

94

120

67

132
(45.36)

Wilmington, DE

79

55

118

146

144

113

133
(44.94)

Gulfport, MS

128

51

138

107

109

99

134
(44.83)

Fresno, CA

139

70

72

108

127

138

135
(44.79)

Birmingham, AL

115

26

129

147

131

106

136
(44.42)

New Haven, CT

143

104

41

105

139

47

137
(44.40)

Chicago, IL

149

39

88

67

115

34

138
(44.27)

Philadelphia, PA

138

146

143

58

125

20

139
(43.58)

Baton Rouge, LA

70

131

141

117

137

132

140
(43.27)

Baltimore, MD

65

145

150

136

118

75

141
(43.16)

Memphis, TN

67

121

139

145

121

125

142
(41.13)

Gary, IN

23

80

137

92

147

148

143
(41.13)

Shreveport, LA

137

81

140

109

140

107

144
(40.72)

Cleveland, OH

133

138

116

125

148

85

145
(40.41)

Toledo, OH

129

150

114

87

130

143

146
(39.45)

Stockton, CA

145

94

74

140

110

150

147
(37.96)

Flint, MI

18

134

147

132

149

102

148
(35.76)

St. Louis, MO

146

135

145

150

103

37

149
(35.28)

Jackson, MS

147

127

131

137

137

124

150
(27.79)

Detroit, MI

150

129

144

143

150

128

*No. 1 = Best Run

Ask the Experts

A well-run city isn’t just the product of efficient budgeting or lots of resources. It is the fruit of countless other decisions, too. For more insight into why some cities perform better than others, we turned to a panel of local-government, economic and diversity experts. Click on the panelists’ profiles to read their bios and thoughts on the following key questions:
1. In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing U.S. cities today?
2. Why are some cities better run than others?
3. What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?
4. Are some forms of city government — a strong mayor versus a strong city council, for instance — more effective than others?
5. In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top five indicators?
6. How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?
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Edward L. Rubin
University Professor of Law and Political Science, Vanderbilt University
[Edward L. Rubin]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

Coordinated metropolitan finance and planning; replacing the artificial barrier that separate center cities from suburbs. Cities like Detroit and Memphis are dying, but the metropolitan areas as a whole have plenty of resources.

Lowering the carbon footprint of the city. If global warming does not stop, Boston, New York, Philadelphia, DC, Baltimore, Miami, Houston, New Orleans, LA, San Francisco and Seattle, at a minimum will be subject to repeated storm surges. Ultimately, we will need to abandon them or build sea walls. Either will reduce the real wealth of the nation-- maybe by a third, maybe more. Sea walls for NY alone will probably cost $ 1 trillion.

Mass transit. Even apart from its impact on the carbon footprint, this is essential. US cities are simply choking on traffic and every additional minute people spend commuting is a deadweight economic loss. Most European cities above two million people have rapid transit systems. I was just in Sofia; Bulgaria is very poor by US standards, but they have a beautiful new metro.

Policing. See below.

Why are some cities better run than others?

Cities that can make decisions based on expertise will be better run. Urban planning is a real field, and needs to be given a more prominent place in decision making.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Nothing should be done. It's not a problem. The problem is lack of expertise, not lack of political input. I'm writing a book about this.

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- more effective than others?

Cities like Nashville that have Metro government.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

The police, like every other government institution, need to be supervised and checked. This is the basic Madisonian approach to government built into our Constitution. There should be a racially mixed board overseeing all police activities.
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/51979/ivy-garcia.jpg] Ivis García Ph.D., AICP, Assistant Professor at the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, The University of Utah <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#ivis-garc-a>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/51980/randall-a.-cantrell.jpg] Randall A. Cantrell Assistant Professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Housing & Community Development, University of Florida <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#randall-a-cantrell>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/51985/mary-e.-guy.jpg] Mary E. Guy Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#mary-e-guy>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52014/roland-v.-anglin.jpg] Roland V. Anglin Dean and Professor, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#roland-v-anglin>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52084/donovan-finn.jpg] Donovan Finn Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Sustainability Studies Program, Stony Brook University <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#donovan-finn>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52085/jean-paul-addie.jpg] Jean-Paul Addie Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#jean-paul-addie>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52086/adam-okulicz-kozaryn.jpg] Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#adam-okulicz-kozaryn>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52124/bruce-berg.jpg] Bruce Berg Professor of Political Science, Fordham University <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#bruce-berg>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52145/constance-a.-mixon.jpg] Constance A. Mixon Director, Urban Studies Program, Associate Professor, Political Science, Elmhurst College <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#constance-a-mixon>
· [https://d2e70e9yced57e.cloudfront.net/wallethub/posts/52146/edward-l.-rubin.jpg] Edward L. Rubin University Professor of Law and Political Science, Vanderbilt University <https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/#edward-l-rubin>
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Ivis García
Ph.D., AICP, Assistant Professor at the Department of City & Metropolitan Planning, The University of Utah
[Ivis García]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

U.S. demographics are changing profoundly. The forces behind these changes are multifaceted and well documented. These forces include immigration, aging, decreasing housing affordability, among others. Exemplifying the change in U.S. demographics is the projection that more than half of people living in the U.S. will be persons of color by the middle of the twentieth century. However, people of color or nonwhites-that is, African Americans, Hispanics, Asians, Pacific Islanders, Native Hawaiians, Alaska Natives, American Indians and other multiracial/ethnic groups-remain underrepresented in decision making nationwide despite their population growth. Everyone, regardless of ethnicity or race, wants a decent quality of life. Planners, elected officials and decision makers have an enormous responsibility to work with the public, private and nonprofit sectors to create communities that support livability.

Why are some cities better run than others?

U.S. cities are becoming more diverse. City managers must plan for an increasing number of individuals and families of color. This is a challenge but also an opportunity. Decision makers can have a positive impact by providing people of color access to opportunity in education, transportation, employment and other domains of life. Most importantly, government staff and officials can rectify some of the harmful effects of racism, xenophobia, and discrimination in this way. However, city managers need to be aware of their implicit biases in order to understand the consequences of color blind practices. Recognizing inherent biases is not an easy task. We develop blind spots because of our background, our experiences, as well as larger societal narratives. Implicit biases are unintentional.

A lot of cities are starting to offer cultural competency training. Cultural competency is a set of skills that enables planners to engage, communicate and plan more effectively, respectfully and compassionately with communities of color. Building cultural competency is central to planning neighborhoods and cities that serve the needs of diverse groups and people. However, learning and practicing cultural competency is not central to all of city management. Most city managers learn about cultural competency through interacting with others in their workplaces and their everyday life. City managers and staff must actively seek to understand their implicit biases (positive or negative) and engage with individuals and groups different than them to build cultural competence. The cities that are able to take cultural competency seriously will be better run and more livable for citizens than those who don’t.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Citizens should be involved. They should develop partnerships with government officials. This is important to create inclusive places. Citizens should recognize policymakers as allies to achieve goals and vice versa. People of color are more likely to advocate for smart growth initiatives, such as mixed use, transit oriented and walkable development. Policymakers should not use citizens for their own selfish purposes but rather listen to people and recognize their values.

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- more effective than others?

I believe that it depends on who’s the mayor.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

Creating inclusive places is an enduring challenge for policymakers. People of color have been historically excluded from the planning and decision-making process. Barriers leading to exclusion include racial and ethnic discrimination and poverty. Policymakers are responsible for providing access to amenities in the built environment. Given that this is the case; policymakers should aim to practice intentional inclusiveness in making decisions about the built environment.

Immigrants and people of color often experience barriers that prevent them from participating in community activities. Common barriers include lack of transportation, childcare, money, time, information, language, literacy and trust. Planners can help to overcome these barriers in various ways. One strategy is to locate participatory activities near transit in places that are meaningful to target communities. Another strategy is to speak simply and clearly to community members in their own language and to use techniques that are fun, engaging and accessible to people with low English language literacy. Policymakers should also draw on local knowledge in choosing a time and a place that works for community members and aim to build partnerships with community leaders as a way to build lasting trust.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

I would say to be inclusive of people of color. People of color also are more likely to embrace and support smart growth initiatives such as mixed use, transit oriented and walkable development. Thus, communities of color may be allies for planners attempting to bring about smart growth. A more efficient and equitable practice would be to provide further access to transit dependent communities instead of promoting new development that may result in the displacement of people of color from areas of high opportunity to areas of low opportunity-as defined by access to transit and employment and affordable housing. Overall, the higher likelihood of people of color and immigrants to embrace progressive planning-meaning affordable housing, public transit and other policies that reduce inequality-offers a tremendous space for planners to improve neighborhoods, cities and regions for everyone, not just people of color.
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Randall A. Cantrell
Assistant Professor, Department of Family, Youth and Community Sciences, Housing & Community Development, University of Florida
[Randall A. Cantrell]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

Decent, affordable housing; safe places for youth to play; integrated transportation methods providing public and private options.

Why are some cities better run than others?

“Better” is obviously a loose term, but an overall sense of fairness and inclusiveness are a couple items that come to mind for making a successful setting within a city. All segments of the population need to feel heard and represented by the actions of the city government. When this type of action is traceable and acknowledged, all segments seem to feel a sense of equity.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

It is imperative to attend local school board meetings and council meetings and any other open government meetings. All public votes must be made available to constituents on a routine basis so the public knows when there are discrepancies between campaign promises and topical voting issues.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

I am sure this is published in some sort of format. It seems to me a city should have:
· A nice blend of elected officials that have been in office for several years while several of them continue to be relatively newly elected and from all walks of life.
· A nice blend of diverse public speakers that have visited and successfully been able to deliver their message without interruption from outside, paid factions.
· External dollars infused into the economy from outside sources that have been purposefully recruited to spend money within the city, which is then retained and re-spent within the city creating an economic multiplier effect.
· Crime stats that reduce, especially where youth offenders are involved.
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Mary E. Guy
Professor, School of Public Affairs, University of Colorado Denver
[Mary E. Guy]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?
· Funding services that citizens want.
· Integrating diverse constituencies while celebrating the differences between them.
· Creating and maintaining a sense of belongingness for all residents.
· Ensuring that safety net services are well managed (police, fire, housing for the homeless, emergency preparedness, healthcare for the medically indigent).
· Maintaining a public school system that residents are proud of.

Why are some cities better run than others?

There are as many reasons for this as there are histories for (and conflicts within) each city. The quality of city management results from a blend of past leadership, integrity and community-mindedness on the part of current leaders, a sense of place among urban residents, partnership between the business community and government, effective branding of the city, a vital civic culture, a willingness of citizens to pay sufficient taxes to fund the city, a civic-minded philanthropic community, leadership that stays closely connected with neighborhoods while nudging them forward, publically sponsored leisure events that build pride in the city (jazz festivals, Fourth of July events, ethnic festivals, sports events, etc.) No city can achieve all these all the time, but those that achieve a good number of them do best. The best city managers in the world cannot turn around a city whose populace don’t care about their environment, aren’t willing to tax themselves enough to cover costs, and are disengaged from any sense of community.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Local news outlets are quite effective at spreading the word about transparency and accountability, or the lack of either. To the degree that citizens support local media, they can exert more pressure. Community organizing is also effective, in terms of mobilizing neighborhoods to exert pressure on city officials. Political campaigns also offer windows of opportunity for demanding greater accountability. Additionally, citizens’ councils and city websites can be constructed in such a way that they become vehicles for city officials to make information accessible.

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- more effective than others?

Both systems have been tried and found wanting because city management is hard. After years of a strong mayor system, some cities try switching to a strong city council system. Similarly, after years of a strong city council, it is not unusual for cities to try a strong mayor system. Both systems have their failings and their successes. In theory, a council - manager system (which implies a weak mayor who is primarily an ambassador for the city) is thought to provide more skilled management, while a strong mayor is thought to bring a unified vision. That which works best in some places does not work so well in others. And whatever works well for a while ultimately stubs its toe and gives rise to calls for the other. If there is any rule of thumb, it is that a strong Mayor works better in large cities (think Chicago, New York, Los Angeles) while the council - manager system works well in moderate-sized cities.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

This is a hugely important question that municipalities are grappling with. Neighborhood representatives and local police have to sit at the same table and talk about what divides them. Dialogue, discourse, shared formation of policies and procedures, and accurate, rapid reporting of incidents are essential. Many city police departments are currently reaching out to neighborhood representatives to initiate dialogue. This is an uphill climb but it has to happen.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

Any number of indicators can be used, depending on how “well run” is defined (financially, culturally, politically). Here are a few:
· Unemployment rate
· Population growth
· Crime rate
· High school graduation rates
· Citizen satisfaction scores
· Business growth
· Per capita income
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Roland V. Anglin
Dean and Professor, Maxine Goodman Levin College of Urban Affairs, Cleveland State University
[Roland V. Anglin]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

America’s cities face many challenges.

Finding the “new, new thing” that will produce jobs is the key challenge. Many cities are on a quest to find strategies that will produce jobs. But the numbers show that postsecondary attainment is the new economic development. Possessing a credential (not just a BA) increases the possibility of employment and higher earnings over a lifetime. The facts also show that today’s companies put a premium on access to a large pool of educated workers. Many cities, to their credit, are getting serious about improving and articulating their K-postsecondary credential pipeline through dedicated strategies to provide support and guidance along the path.

The second major challenge is the continued need to refurbish or replace deteriorating infrastructure. Clearly, this challenge falls mainly on urban cities (big cities), but I include in that urban category formerly first-ringed suburbs with populations of 50k. While population loss has slowed, it still continues for many cities. With population loss comes higher taxes to maintain a civic infrastructure built for more people. Many cities are filled with buildings, such as schools, built to accommodate a larger population and now lie fallow. Lastly, youth unemployment remains a significant challenge — especially among minority youth. We have to find ways to bring youth earlier into the world of work through apprenticeship and other types of training programs.

Why are some cities better run than others?

I hesitate to say cities can be measured along the lines of better or worse - though I know that some measure of the kind can be found. City vibrancy in governance education, economic development, and other such important areas is dependent on leadership, resources, and talent to address challenges. You don’t get this equation satisfied across cities at the same time. What you are left with are cities that run well at any given time period, but that can change rapidly with a change of administration, a recession, etc. Today’s well-run city is tomorrow’s basket case.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Most larger and mid-sized cities have improved dramatically in terms of transparency. Information technology is a key component here. Cities now place a lot of information online including videotaped council meetings for later viewing. All this reduces the friction costs of democracy. With all this information available, there is still the age-old challenge of collective action for accountability. In other worlds, transparent government does not mean more participation. It may mean more ease and access to city services and resolve of daily problems. That is a good thing. But accountability, even in the information age, means good old fashioned shoe leather, pounding the pavements to organize neighborhoods if something is wrong on your block, your community, or your city.

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- more effective than others?

All forms of urban governance are fraught with limitations and none are superior to the next. Urban governance works well when there are leaders possessing important analytical and political skills in roles such as city manager, mayor, and city council. By nature, conflict is part of the process; good leadership will find ways to overcome built in conflict and then move toward cooperation and a functioning city.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

Back to the Future! Many years ago, “human relations committees/councils” were a big part of promoting conversations between different groups in cities. They were never panaceas, but they were organized ways to manage difficult conversations. We need modern day, standing committees that take group relations seriously all year round and not when there is a police involved shooting. Mind you, many human relations committees still exist but they have become too much a part of managing out conflict instead of promoting understanding and dialogue. I think we need safe spaces for actual people to talk and deliberate America’s thorniest legacy.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

I hesitate in answering this question. There are no empirical indicators that you can use to define a well-run city. Running a city is an art because the variables that go into governing are so many and often random. I will say there are effective building blocks, precursors, for a well-run city. Number one is a diverse economic base. Second and no less important is an active civic life that promotes cross generational, cross ethnic, cross class, cross everything discussions and collaborations. Third, good schools that not only educate for success in the workplace but are a helpmate to success in civic life. Fourth, a sense of civic spirit or culture that is the glue for the city. Sports teams are an important ingredient (but not the only one) in creating a sense of civic spirit; cultural amenities (a vibrant, local arts scene) are another binding element. Fifth, a governance community (the private, public and non-profit community) that embraces innovation and change. If all of these are in place in a city, all else will work itself out.
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Donovan Finn
Assistant Professor, School of Marine and Atmospheric Sciences and Sustainability Studies Program, Stony Brook University
[Donovan Finn]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

Managing a city is like balancing on a three-legged stool: if one leg is the wrong length, you fall over. The three legs are social issues, economic issues and environmental issues. Addressing one kind of issue will always impact the other two. Crime scares off tourists, businesses and potential homebuyers. But heavy-handed policing risks trampling on civil and human rights. Potholes need to be filled, parks cleaned, and school buildings maintained, but this requires tax money, and high taxes can throttle business growth. Beautiful public spaces invite investment and lure affluent residents and visitors, but they may be of little use to citizens of modest means who don’t have the money or free time to partake of these amenities. In other words, everything is a tradeoff. Additionally, given the current federal rollback of environmental regulations, cities (and states) are now ground zero for any potential efforts to address issues of environmental stewardship, climate change mitigation and adaptation, and sustainability.

Why are some cities better run than others?

A different three-legged stool metaphor is applicable here, too. Cities need effective leaders who make good policy (the first leg). Good leaders will, hopefully, hire effective bureaucrats to carry out their policies (the second leg). Good leaders are elected by an informed and engaged public (the third leg). The three legs have to be balanced, because good leaders empower publics to be engaged, effective bureaucrats help create informed and visionary leaders, and so on. Too often, disconnects among these three broad types of stakeholders creates tensions, conflicts and missed opportunities. But well-run cities find ways to activate public energy and goodwill. They empower their bureaucrats to make decisions and think creatively. Their politicians are not afraid to ask questions, be deliberate, take risks, and even make mistakes, because they are part of a culture of trust. This is how you can create real and durable change.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Start with the easy stuff, because sometimes it works. Go to public meetings about issues of importance to you, or meet with your local elected officials, and ask hard questions. Be firm, but friendly. Demand answers. You might be surprised, sometimes the politician wants these answers too, and they can use your demands as a lever with a public agency. If this doesn’t work, escalate your efforts. Start a civic group that advocates for issues you are passionate about. Make Freedom of Information Act requests and publish the results on your organization website. Get friendly with the local press. There is nothing a politician or agency head dislikes more than bad PR. But reporters are busy. If you can hand them a readymade story and all the facts and evidence they need, instead of a vague tip, you’re much more likely for them to run with it. If these strategies don’t work, run for office.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

Alongside dealing with the effects of climate change, addressing racial and ethnic tensions is the challenge of our age. The efforts of the 1960’s created the legal structure for civil rights but we’ve moved too slowly in practice in terms of making our communities colorblind, equitable and proudly diverse. American cities remain highly segregated along racial, ethnic and class lines. This trickles down to almost all of the other issues that local governments have to deal with. But clearly there is no simple answer. That said, cities outside the US offer some potential lessons. London and Toronto have made great strides in how they engage new immigrants, creating programs that are proactive, welcoming, and sensitive to the needs of their newest residents. While these cities still have racial tensions, focusing on helping immigrants as an official policy priority is a huge first step. Other places, like Curitiba in Brazil and Medellin and Bogota in Colombia, offer great lessons for using urban design, public transit, public health and other approaches to make cities more equitable, safe and dynamic with the added benefits of addressing issues like entrenched poverty and structural racism.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

A top five is difficult, but I’ll offer a quick five for US cities that would probably be different if you asked tomorrow:
1. The cleanliness of the local air and water.
2. The high school graduation rate.
3. The crime rate.
4. The incarceration rate.
5. The number of women and people of color in positions of authority in city government, whether that’s elected officials, agency heads, or senior management.

The truth is, no single indicator or set of indicators is perfect, but some are more useful than others.
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Jean-Paul Addie
Ph.D., Assistant Professor, Urban Studies Institute, Georgia State University
[Jean-Paul Addie]

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Local governments should be more than transparent, they should be actively opening the door to citizen participation and inclusive democratic practice. On one hand, citizens can take advantage of online platforms the local governments have been rolling out over the past few years to collect data or give access to forms or services. A central advantage of the rise of smart cities technologies is the ability of citizens themselves to create their own platforms and apps (either using city data or collecting their own). On the other hand, there are no technological solution to political problems. Citizens can look to hold local governments to account by organizing, whether through neighborhood groups, community activists, or issue-based mobilization.

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- more effective than others?

There are a variety of ways city governments are organized, each has their strengths and limitations. The most important questions, though, are what are they most effective in doing, and who benefits? Strong mayors with significant powers may be able to get things done - pass legislation, get shovels in the ground - but democratic governance is a complex, and consequently slower, process. Effective local government is not just about balancing the books, providing services, or building infrastructure (mega)projects. It is about empowering citizens and validating their voices. Stronger city councils or local governments with expanded public participation in local planning and decision-making might appear ponderous or unable to get things off the ground - but that can often reflect the realities of the process of democratic government in practice. Another issue that will become increasingly important in this context is the capacity of local government to cooperate and collaborate on the challenges facing American cities in the 21st century. Issues of poverty, race, and precarity are increasingly suburbanized in the United States and the threats of climate change do not respect municipal boundaries. Local city governments will need to look beyond their immediate parochial self-interest to tackle antiquated infrastructures, aging populations, water politics, and sustainable energy provision (to name but a few challenges) by adjusting their perspective to the regional scale.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

The task at hand is not to reduce racial tensions, but to recognize and begin to address the causes of these tensions themselves. Policymakers and city leaders must listen to the concerns raised by movements like Black Lives Matters. They will not have the powers or capabilities to address the structural, systematic racism that shapes life in the American city, but by listening and validating the experience of everyday discrimination and white privilege, they can help foster strategies and actions that will be effective because they are developed in partnership with marginalized and racialized communities.
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Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn
Assistant Professor of Public Policy, Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey
[Adam Okulicz-Kozaryn]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

Really many, I have a book on this, but I’d say, perhaps surprisingly, that the city itself is a major problem -- it is fundamentally an unnatural habitat for human species, it is like an aquarium for a fish--we have not evolved to live in small spaces made of concrete, steel, and glass in the ocean of asphalt and other artificial materials, and more to your question and current situation -- cities become more and more unnatural, larger, and with taller buildings and less nature and more dense; further to your question -- this increasing density leads to unaffordability, so in short these are the major current problems: unaffordability, congestion, and lack of nature.

Why are some cities better run than others?

Again, in short, the smaller the better; and more compact, with better public transportation are better; per running cities: surely some are run better than others, but this is really not my research area, I’d just say that for me better run are those with less bureaucracy, more online services, more data driven, and more responsive to citizens.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Push for open records and open data, many cities opened up their data, e.g. https://www.opendataphilly.org

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

Many ways, one is to make multi-racial teams: councils, police, etc. -- if people of different races work as a team, then they are less prejudiced; also education is important, including history: some of the worst things humans have done were caused by an idea that one group is intrinsically better than the other: Nazi v Jews, British v American Indians, and many more.

If we don't know history, we're bound to live it again.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

Not sure, I’d say subjective wellbeing or satisfaction of citizens is among the top 5, so we should survey residents and ask them how satisfied they are with all sorts of things including their lives, and cities where people have happy lives are the best cities.
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Bruce Berg
Professor of Political Science, Fordham University
[Bruce Berg]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

If you are referring to large U.S. cities, there are four issues that cities in the U.S. are grappling with today. First, the perennial issue for cities is tax base and financing. How can cities raise sufficient revenue to deliver services to their residents while remaining equitable and not negatively affecting business? This problem has been exacerbated by the continuing decline in federal aid to cities. The second issue is diversity. How do cities deliver services to an increasingly diverse group of residents both in terms of race and ethnicity as well as socio-economic status? A third and related issue is equality. How do cities address growing income inequality? For the last several decades, U.S. cities have become centers of inequality with the very rich and very poor living in close proximity. Finally, cities, especially coastal cities, have to address climate change. This includes the need to adapt to climate change as well as the need to continue to mitigate climate change causal factors such as energy use.

Why are some cities better run than others?

Answering this question depends on what you need by "better run." If you are referring to cities being able to deliver services effectively then the primary factors are a professional municipal bureaucracy and sufficient funding. This would include a municipal bureaucracy that is based on merit rather than patronage, policies and procedures that ensure sound business practices and political accountability in the delivery of services. There is no consensus in answering this question. For instance, some would argue that a unionized municipal workforce produces ossified procedures that inhibit the effective delivery of services. Others would argue that a unionized municipal bureaucracy gives the chief executive (mayor) another way (collective bargaining) in which to move the municipal bureaucracy in the desired direction.

What can citizens do to increase the transparency and accountability of local government?

Participate! Participation in municipal elections and politics in general is significantly lower than participation in national politics (which is already low).

Are some forms of city government -- e.g., strong Mayor versus a strong city council -- moreeffective than others?

This is an issue on which many scholars of urban government disagree. Different forms of government maximize different values. For instance a strong mayor form of government would emphasize policy making and responding to public problems citywide. A strong city council model would emphasize representative government which might inhibit responding to citywide problems. It would place more emphasis on what individual neighborhoods/communities need as opposed to what is good for the entire city.

How can local policymakers reduce racial tensions in the wake of recent movements?

They need to be proactive in giving diverse groups a say and a stake in the governmental process, and they need to deliver services in a way that responds to the needs and values of diverse communities. Note that this question suggests that a more representative government structure probably serves to reduce tension more than a highly centralized, less representative structure. But one could also argue that effective municipal leaders is also a critical factor here. The political system needs to reach out to diverse communities rather than waiting for problems to arise.

In evaluating how well a city is run, what are the top 5 indicators?

In no specific order:
1. How progressive are the city's methods of raising revenue? Is the city raising revenue through progressive taxation as opposed to regressive taxes and user fees?
2. How much of a housing crisis exists in the city? Is housing available for all income groups? How much of a homeless crisis is there in the city and how is the city dealing with it?
3. Is the city's population employed? Although national economic trends dictate unemployment, what is the city doing to respond to unemployment? Part of this issue also should deal with the city's relationship with small business, a major contributor to economic health and employment in most cities.
4. What is the city doing to promote the health and education of its population? This would include crime, traffic issues and public health policy. Cities need a healthy workforce. And of course, how is the school system?
5. What is the state of city infrastructure? This includes roads, bridges, tunnels and mass transit. It would also include schools, hospitals, internet availability across the city, and parks and public spaces. These are factors that make a city conducive for economic development and an attractive place to live.
Back to All Experts<https://wallethub.com/edu/best-run-cities/22869/>
Constance A. Mixon
Director, Urban Studies Program, Associate Professor, Political Science, Elmhurst College
[Constance A. Mixon]

In your opinion, what are the most important issues facing US cities today?

The United States is a majority urban nation, with many of our cities and metropolitan areas sharing common challenges. Cities in the Twenty-First Century are still coping with the aftereffects of deindustrialization, devolution, and the economic recession of 2008. As cities and their metropolitan regions are home to our most intractable social and economic challenges, the responsibilities and activities falling under the umbrella of urban policy continue to evolve. Today, cities find themselves not just providing basic services to their residents and dealing with issues of land use, but also taking policy action on issues like immigration, poverty, housing, education, public health, crime, unemployment, labor, and the environment.

Some of the important challenges facing U.S. cities today include:
· Declining social contract and support of the public good
· Persistent and entrench
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Hi Mike. This was quite interesting. On the plus side, at least San
Francisco ranks tops in lowest infant mortality rate, though probably that
has something to do with it being too expensive to raise kids here. On the
minus side, San Francisco ranked worst in highest long-term debt
outstanding per capita and lowest quality of roads. At least San Francisco
ranked overall better than Detroit!

Thanks!
Aubrey