The Charlotte Observer

Cheer up, Charlotte! Raleigh Durham rank has drawbacks

- BY BARRY SAUNDERS Editorial board member Barry Saunders is founder of theSaunder­

Yeah, y’all finally beat us, but it took two of you to do it.

That’s what I can imagine some of my most rabid Charlottea­n friends saying after learning that Raleigh and Durham were rated as the second best city in America in which to live.

U.S. News & World Report, in its annual ranking, bestowed the top honor upon Boulder, Colo. – citing something it called its “high Quality of Life, Job Market and Desirabili­ty scores.”

Me? I rate a city’s desirabili­ty by how far you have to drive to get a good BBQ sammitch.

The magazine extolled Raleigh and Durham for their “research/technology roots and collegiate rivalries” and described many of their residents as “young, friendly, diverse and educated.”

Cheer up, Charlottea­ns, though: I’m sure y’all have some young, friendly, diverse and educated people, too.

Besides, being ranked near the top isn’t as glamorous as it looks from 120 miles away. Years ago, when Money magazine rated the Triangle as the best place to live, it brought out the rubberneck­ers and the haters. Triangle realtors complained that people who had no intention of actually moving here would come and commandeer their entire weekend being shown homes they were never going to buy.

Michelle Stanback, a Durham-based realtor with Berkshire Hathaway Home Services, said recently that the glowing reviews for the area are great but also “a mixed blessing for realtors and residents. Our industry is already facing a challenge. People are coming in with cash, paying over the list price. It’s a struggle for people who live here because they can’t afford to move or buy.”

So you see, Charlotte realtors will still have their weekends free, and the roads won’t be full of tourists when y’all drive over for the annual “A Taste of Waxhaw.”

Being highly ranked on these lists also makes your city a target, bringing out the haters. After Money recognized the Triangle, GQ magazine sent a reporter to find out what all the fuss was about, and he wasn’t impressed.

The only thing to do in the Triangle, he sniped, was to go out and eat. That explained, he also wrote, why everyone here is so fat.

If Charlottea­ns are smart, they’ll take a page from Durham’s 1990s-era playbook. Back when CNN was beaming the city’s raucous school board meetings to the world and presenting Durham as a textbook example of civic dysfunctio­n, some Durhamites reveled in the mispercept­ion: we knew the city was a gem, but the notoriety kept housing demand and prices down.

And while some saw dysfunctio­n in parents being lifted and carried out of the school board meetings by police, we saw passion.

Who wouldn’t want to live in a place where parents were willing to go to jail to ensure their children had access to a good education?

As Stanback, the realtor who sold me my first house 28 years ago, noted “everyone used to say Durham is a bad place, then they found out what we already knew: that it’s a great place to live.”

And housing prices were soon as high as a Boulder bohemian.

Former Northampto­n County St. Rep. Melvin Creecy, fed up with what he considered the Queen City’s representa­tives’ penchant for high-hatting the rest of the state, once bellowed“Charlotte ain’t mecca. Charlotte ain’t Jerusalem. It’s just a big ol’ city on the South Carolina line.”

Charlotte, of course, is more than that, and it is unimaginab­le that there are 19 better places in America to live.

Still, for anyone wondering why Raleigh and Durham and Charlotte trailed Boulder, just remember this: Colorado residents have been able to smoke pot legally since 2012.

You know what that means, right?

Yep: We’re actually number one among places where it’s not legal to fire up a fatty, and once our legislatur­e makes that legal, we’ll be No. 1 again.

And Charlotte will leap all the way up to 18.

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