My family is in the process of figuring out where it wants to live, and moving there. At the moment we are concentrating on Portland Oregon and Pittsburgh Pennsylvania. We currently live on the western border of Decatur, Georgia in unincorporated DeKalb County, on the eastern edge of prestigious Druid Hills about a 1/4 mile from the border of the city of Atlanta. We have no family or friends in Pittsburgh or Portland - though we have family and friends with family and friends in either Pittsburgh or Portland. So we keep being asked - why move there, and in fact why move at all. Hopefully this will capture some of that.
I was born in the Bronx, raised in New Jersey and ended up in Albany, Georgia in the middle of my junior year in high school. I applied to a number of colleges (got accepted into Carnegie-Mellon for Psychology but turned down for Computer Science) and ended up going to the cheapest and closest of all, Georgia Tech - which also got me out of Albany. I've lived in the Atlanta area since 1983.
Phil was born in Albany, Georgia and left it at age 19 to join me in Atlanta. So she has lived in Georgia her entire life - something she'd like to change.
The kids were born at DeKalb Medical Center just outside Decatur, Georgia and have lived in the Atlanta area their whole lives.
We like where we live. It is an urban forest filled with highly educated individuals, many connected to Emory University, and is about the most liberal place in the state. With the Friends down the road as a catalyst, the area filled with "War is not the answer signs", in response to the planned attack on Iraq. And with Kerry signs all throughout 2004 and bumper stickers still. Many families with different last names in the school. Same-Sex couples with families on our block and in the school. Old houses, the planetarium and nearby science museum. The cool nearby neighborhoods of Lake Claire, Candler Park, Little Five Points, Virginia-Highlands. The family oriented activities of Decatur square, just next door. And Decatur is experiencing a building boom which is creating even more shops under attractive 3-5 story condo buildings. Its got a bit of a parking problem during the day. But its an easy bike ride away and there is a bike path just outside our neighborhood that goes right into Decatur. In fact the bike path is currently something like 13 miles long stretching from Stone Mountain to downtown Atlanta. And there are plans to connect it to the Silver Comet trail which runs 40 miles from Smyrna to the Alabama border. And we are an easy walking distance from a Marta rail station.
The schools we are in are pretty good, which is why we moved there. The elementary school has especially strong parental involvement and support. But on a national scale the schools are not all that impressive. And the district itself, DeKalb County school system is huge and varied - mostly filled with schools you'd move away from to avoid. Decatur city schools next door are under extreme monetary pressure, which have cut into quality and have cut into people willing to use the schools.
And then there is everywhere else. Republican. Conservative. Religious. Churches literally everywhere. Anti-Abortion, Anti-Gay Rights, Anti-Rights period. Anti-intellectual.
So for us perfection would look like our neighborhood on a larger scale, but with great schools. And still close to museums (especially science, history, technology) and theatre. But with less religious focus. And with great book stores. And older well-build houses preferably in brick or stone but little or no subdivisions. Not flat, preferably keeping the rolling feel of Atlanta. And not that far from the sound of trains. And close to varied shopping, but not just malls. And cheap enough housing that our pretty solid equity stake could be used to lower our monthly payments and allow us to do a reasonable amount of renovating.
I then went to the Cities Ranked and Rated 2004 book and started building spreadsheets. I first had to place each of the candidate cities in their proper metropolitan area.
I struck places with bad air or bad water or high crime or lousy schools or a bad health rating (all according to Places Rated).
I struck places with sprawl and low elevation seashore (global warming).
I struck all places that didn't have additional colleges to go along with the listed college.
I did not strike a place for having a difficult climate or for being expensive - figuring most places with these problems would be struck for other reasons.
The big surprise was Oregon. It just wouldn't go away.
Corvallis was struck down because it only had the one college. And Eugene and Corvallis had not enough software jobs listed on monster.
And that left Portland and Pittsburgh. And about 10 other places that were either colder or more expensive or less attractive in some fashion.
Remember of course that the selection process was arbitrary, but it was our process. and it is still in a state of flux - which is why we are taking trips to Portland and Pittsburgh and a side trip to Niagra Falls - and who knows where else...
Still plausible but less likely:
|Ann Arbor, MI||Cold|
|Boston, MA||Too Expensive|
|Eugene-Springfield, OR||Software Jobs|
|Santa Barbara, CAArbitrary|
|Atlanta, GA||Red State|
|Austin, TX||Red State|
|Baltimore, MD||Crime Rate, Urban Sprawl, Air Quality|
|Binghamton, NY||Isolation, Climate, Quality of Life|
|Bloomington, IN||Red State|
|Champaign-Urbana, IL||Only one 4yr college|
|Charlottesville, VA||Red State|
|Chicago, IL||High Violent Crime|
|Cleveland, OH||Red State|
|Columbus, OH||Red State|
|Corvallis, OR||Only one 4yr college|
|Des Moines, IA||Red State|
|Gainesville, FL||Red State|
|Houston, TX||Red State|
|Indianapolis, IN||Red State|
|Iowa City, IA||Red State|
|Knoxville, TN||Red State|
|Lansing-East Lansing, MI||Climate, Quality of Life|
|Nashville, TN||Red State|
|Nassau-Suffix, NY||Sea Level|
|New Haven, CT||Cost of Living, Quality of Life|
|Los Angeles, CA||Air Quality, High Violent Crime, Least Literate|
|New York, NY||Sprawl|
|Oakland, CA||Cost of Living, Health, Transportation|
|Philadelphia, PA||Bad Air|
|Raleigh-Durham, NC||Red State|
|Roanoke, VA||Red State|
|Sacramento, CA||Bad Air|
|Saint Louis, MO||Red State|
|Salt Lake City, UT||Red State|
|San Diego, CA||Cost of Living, Health|
|San Jose, CA||Jobs, Cost of Living, Health|
|Santa Cruz, CA||Jobs, Cost of Living, Health|
|Springfield, MA||Violent Crime|
|State College, PA||Bad Air|
|Syracuse, NY||Climate, Quality of Life|
|Trenton, NJ||Bad Water|
|Tucson, AZ||Red State|
|Wilmington-Newark, DE||Education, Quality of Life|
On the surface Toronto and Vancouver both look pretty interesting. But if we have trouble with the distance to Portland and Seattle, and the climate of Pittsburgh - how could we possibly deal with moving further north and further away?
Perhaps after this move and after the kids get through high school, we'll feel differently. It would seem fairly easy to move from Portland to Vancouver or from Pittsburgh to Toronto...