Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Beating a Dead Horse

A popular pastime of Rochesterians has been to take repeated digs at the city of Rochester.  In fairness, the city has provided reasonable fodder for such digs in the form of low graduation rates, crime-ridden neighborhoods, urban blight, etc.  Implied in the criticism of the city are several questionable conclusions, including:

  • Rochester's problem areas are representative of the region.
  • Rochester's problems are unique.
  • Other regions have magically solved problems of undereducation, poverty, addiction, and crime. 

In response to these suspect conclusions, here are a few points (that have probably appeared many times before on this blog):
  • The city of Rochester represents 19% of the metro area's population.  If we can agree that perhaps half of the city's population is living a reasonable life, the region's issues are concentrated in less than 10% of the metro area.
  • At last check, cities that share Rochester's history seem to share some of Rochester's quandaries.  As examples, Baltimore, New Haven, Hartford, St. Louis, Detroit, Cleveland, and Buffalo are not exactly known for their phenomenal urban school districts.  Nor are these cities crime-free utopias.
  • Better-branded cities can have serious problems.  The cruel reality is that cities are defined by what is occurring in the middle and at the top, understanding that there will always be rough patches at the bottom.  In cities with vibrant downtowns, predicaments are often overshadowed, which is not the same as saying that they do not exist.  For instance:
  1. Chicago: The Magnificent Mile is cool.  Leading the nation with 468 murders in 2015 is not as cool.
  2. Seattle: The home of Amazon is also home to the third most homeless residents of any city in the country.
  3. San Francisco: This model metro area leads the U.S. in most car thefts per capita.
  4. Boston: The mecca of higher education is also a national leader in hate crimes.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016


Vancouver, by all accounts, is one of the world's finest cities.  Despite a mild traffic problem, the Canadian city is often recognized for its livability and quality of life.  Dense urbanity is surrounded by remarkable natural assets, giving the region a total package that is hard to match.  Add in a healthy dose of diversity, numerous transportation options, a vibrant restaurant scene, and a serious art culture, and Vancouver is pretty much on fire.  One might expect that comparing dumpy Rochester to Vancouver is an exercise in futility, but here are just a handful of ways in which our little city proves yet again that it can kind of hang with the elite:

  • The Xerox Rochester International Jazz Festival holds its own against the Vancouver International Jazz Festival.
  • Rochester's rose garden in Maplewood Park (designed by none other than Frederick Law Olmsted) is comparable to Vancouver's rose garden in Stanley Park.
  • Vancouver has a vibrant public market.  So does Rochester.
  • Vancouver boasts a scenic pedestrian/biking trail in Stanley Park.  While the Erie Canalway Trail and the Genesee Riverway Trail may not quite compare, they are surprisingly serious competitors.
  • Vancouver has a Polar Bear Swim, not to be outdone by the Rochester Polar Plunge.
  • Tim Hortons
  • Canadians (Vancouver has a few more, but Rochester holds its own.)
  • While Vancouver's urban density is hard to match, Rochester is no slouch.
  • Vancouver prides itself on limiting urban highways.  Rochester prides itself on embracing and then eliminating urban highways.
  • Vancouver enjoys its beer, as does Rochester.
  • Vancouver has an extremely vibrant port, as does...okay, maybe not.