Bruce Smith / Associated Press

Bruce Smith Associated Press Rainbow Row is one of the charms of Charleston, S.C. A recent survey listed Charleston as the friendliest city in the nation.

Editorial Notebook: Hey, be careful what you call our fair city

Published: Friday, Aug. 2, 2013 - 12:00 am | Page 12A

One of the 10 unfriendliest cities in the United States? An "isolated" state capital?

That's goofy.

You can ding Sacramento for some things, but as someone who has lived in a lot of different places and visited many state capitals, I think these are bum raps.

Just for a little perspective, I moved here from Boston. As a general rule, Sacramentans are nicer than Bostonians, and just as kind as residents of many other cities.

So go figure that somehow Sacramento is No. 10 on Condé Nast Traveler magazine's new list of least friendly cities. In the reader survey, one says the city is "not very impressive or classy or interesting." Ouch.

It could be worse. Anaheim, Los Angeles and Oakland got even lower marks from the magazine's readers. It looks like visitor bureaus around the state have some image fixing to do.

On the other end of the spectrum, Charleston, S.C., was ranked as the nation's friendliest city; four other cities in the South made the top 10. From my many years in North Carolina, I can attest that Southerners do have a certain charm. (Boston, by the way, isn't in either the bottom 10 or top 10).

My time in Boston also raises doubts on another bit of research in the news this week, a study that concludes the more "isolated" a state capital is from big cities, the more corruption there is, in part due to less intense media scrutiny.

That may be true of Albany, N.Y., and Tallahassee, Fla., as the Harvard scholars argue. But they also point to Boston as proof that corruption is lower in capitals that are population centers.

That seems strange since the researchers work just across the Charles River from the State House on Beacon Hill, where there has been all sorts of chicanery.

Reputed mob boss James "Whitey" Bulger, who's now on trial, allegedly got away with murder for years because he was well connected; his younger brother, Billy, was president of the state Senate. In 2011, former House Speaker Salvatore DiMasi was convicted and sentenced to eight years in prison for helping a software company win multimillion-dollar state contracts in exchange for kickbacks. He was the third consecutive speaker to plead guilty to federal charges.

This study was being discussed Tuesday on National Public Radio when Sacramento got dissed. David Greene, co-host of "Morning Edition," claimed that California fit the pattern because Sacramento "is far away from anything."

For one thing, anyone who has taken the short drive to San Francisco lately knows that isn't true. Sacramento is a good-sized city on its own with a rather ample press corps. For another, some of the biggest corruption cases lately have been far away from the state Capitol – in places like Bell. And if you look into the details, the study doesn't cite California as a prime example at all.

It all just goes to show that you have to take these kinds of top 10 lists and studies with a healthy dose of skepticism. But they sure are fun to debate.

© Copyright The Sacramento Bee. All rights reserved.

Read more articles by Foon Rhee



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