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Cities have different ratings, but we’re all in this together (extended play.)

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 of best cities in which to live, bestowed the top honor upon Boulder, Colo. – citing something 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 also noted that the median home price in the Boulder area is $1.32 million. Now, that’s what you call “Rocky Mountain high as –.”

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: 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, we were deluged with rubberneckers and 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.

When I actually began looking for a home, some realtors - possibly burned by tourists - refused to even show me one until I submitted a paycheck stub, work history, W-2, WD-40 and proof that I'd never body-surfed at an AC/DC concert: I assure you they're still waiting, and when I got serious, I didn't use any of those realtors.

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.”

Whew! At least Charlotte realtors will still have their weekends free, and the roads won’t be full of tourists when y’all drive over for A Taste of Waxhaw.

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

The only thing to do in the Triangle, he sniped, was to go out and eat. That, he concluded, explained 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.”

Yep, and housing prices were soon as high as a Boulder bohemian on Friday night.

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.

Charlotte's former mayor, Harvey Gantt, used to tease me about being "salty" toward Charlotte: I was, but only because I thought the city considered itself a sovereign state unto itself. Considering the way the state - nay, the world, has shrunk in the past 30 years, we can't afford such petty rivalries. We need all the allies we can get. Imagine how great our state would become if Charlotte - and all the points in between - and Durham and Raleigh combined forces for good.

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 sticky icky legal, we’ll be No. 1 again.

And Charlotte will leap all the way up to 18.





Meet Barry Saunders

For over 20 years, Barry was a columnist for The News & Observer in Raleigh, NC. He also wrote for other publications, such as the Atlanta Constitution and the Richmond County Daily Journal. Often described as powerfully honest and illustratively funny, Barry's writing is both loved and hated by readers- sometimes simultaneously.  


Want more? Get your own copy of one of Barry's published books featuring reader favorites (and not so favorites) from his years writing columns for The News & Observer. Titled "Do Unto Others...And then Run" and "...And The Horse You Rode In On Saunders!", they're full of guaranteed entertainment. 


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