Waynesboro: The best city in Virginia?

waynesboroYou’ve seen the headlines. Waynesboro is the best city to live in Virginia.

The story comes from an online publication, 24/7 Wall St., that, just because I’ve never heard of it, that doesn’t mean anything.

It actually checks out as reputable.

(Its Moz rating is 75/100. It gets good traffic, anyway.)

The story naming Waynesboro the best city in Virginia did the same for each of the 50 states.

The criteria: 24/7 Wall St. created a weighted index of 26 measures that fall into one of four categories: affordability, economy, quality of life, and community.

For more on how they got to where they got: click here.

Don’t get me wrong: I love the idea that I somehow live in the best city in Virginia.

I’d hate, you know, to read a story about the worst cities in each state, and find out that, that’s where I live, yay, me.

But, some problems here.

One, yes, it’s cheap to live here, but we’re also way, way, way down on the list of the other best cities to live in, in terms of median income.

The median household income in Waynesboro is $45,097 a year.

The website presents the best cities in alphabetical order, by state. Look at the page with Waynesboro on it. The next city down, Snoqualmie, Washington, has a median household income of $131,453.

Go back a page: West University Place, Texas, a Houston suburb, has a median household income of $220,868.

Waynesboro lost its industrial base 20 years ago, and it’s not come back, and the jobs have been replaced by jobs in the retail and food-service industries, that pay roughly 60 percent of what the jobs that we lost pay.

Sixty percent of the kids in our schools are on free and reduced lunches.

Yes, we’re 20 miles from Charlottesville, we have nice neighborhoods – I live in one, the Tree Streets.

We have entertainment options – the Wayne Theatre, the Zeus Digital Theaters multiplex.

We supposedly have a higher than typical concentration of museums, according to the 24/7 Wall St. folks, but, no.

Maybe in name, but not in actuality.

(Sorry to those I’m offending there, but, truth.)

We have a low violent crime rate, but we also have a massive meth problem.

There are empty buildings everywhere – the former manufacturing facilities, downtown storefronts, big-box stores that are now shuttered.

Hell, even the photo that 24/7 Wall St. used to illustrate its story, it’s of a building that used to house the Shenandoah Valley Art Center, but, and feel free to correct me on this, but it hasn’t had a use in years, and it’s up the street from the old News Virginian building, also unused, which itself is across the street from a cool house on the corner of Main Street that is also unused.

(I used to rent that place. Costly, and the utility bills were a joke in the winter. Don’t, if you’re thinking about it.)

The South River does cut through the city, providing fishing and boating opportunities. It also floods regularly, and we haven’t figured out a way to convince the taxpayers to fix the stormwater system so that routine rainstorms flood streets and basements.

Our schools are old, and we spit and tape them back together and paint over it all to make it look good, and call that doing right by our kids.

But we are close to the Blue Ridge Parkway, Skyline Drive and Appalachian Trail.

And if you drive down Route 250 and make it to the stoplight at Delphine Avenue and don’t make a U-turn and head back up the mountain fearing for your life, good on you.

We’ve been saying for 20 years that we need to do something to improve our entrance corridors.

One day, we just might do that.

Every city, of course, has its issues. I’m not saying that Waynesboro is any more imperfect than anywhere else.

It’s just, damn, seriously?

What I’m afraid of is, city leaders are going to see this, and say, we’re good.

And, we’re not. Nowhere close.

Most families here struggle week to week to make ends meet. Many lack even basic health insurance. Their kids go to schools that are substandard. They don’t have prospects of finding a good job when they graduate.

Every day brings another headline about a meth investigation, or property crimes associated with meth use and abuse.

If we use this undeserved honorific as an ideal that we need to work hard to actually earn, then, good.

If we sit back on these frivolous laurels, shame.

Column by Chris Graham

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