Citizens irked by ‘worst places to live’ ranking

Published 4:00 am Wednesday, June 17, 2015

An Internet article proclaiming Atmore to be the fifth worst place to live in Alabama has drawn the ire of Mayor Jim Staff and countless other citizens.

The article, which was posted initially on the website with the headline “These Are the 10 Worst Places to Live in Alabama,” spread like wildfire on Atmore citizens’ social media websites like Facebook and Twitter.

The list’s author, Nick Johnson of Durham, N.C., wrote that the list was based on a variety of statistical data, including population density (the website considered a lower density to be bad), unemployment rate, adjusted median income, housing vacancy rate, education, long commute times, high crime and weather. Gadsden was ranked No. 1, and Atmore was No. 5.

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The website also featured a photograph from Google Earth of a dilapidated building on East Ridgeley Street. Oddly, the story listed Atmore as a “suburb” of Mobile.

“I’m sure you’ve heard about this article,” Atmore Mayor Jim Staff told members of the Rotary Club on Tuesday. “I just don’t know what to say about it. I guess the thing that made me the happiest was that so many folks here were mad about it.

“One year you’re on a good list, and the next year you’re on a bad list. You just can’t pay attention to that stuff.”

Some citizens pointed out that any scientific investigation of a city is flawed.

“What gets me is that they don’t have anything in there about the civic pride and all the good things that people do for our community,” Kathy Holland said. “Numbers don’t show that.”

Debbie Rowell said that she was frustrated that someone miles away from Alabama could make a list with no accountability.

“I’d sure like to be able to talk to them about it,” Rowell said, drawing a laugh from other club members.