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So Pine Bluff Isn’t New York. So What?

March 8, 1986

PINE BLUFF, Ark. (AP) _ The lifestyle here is different from that of New York and Philadelphia, right enough, but who’s to say that hunting and fishing aren’t as good as dining out and concert-going and such?

Not the folks at Rand-McNally’s ″Places Rated Almanac,″ sniffs the mayor of Pine Bluff.

″I can talk about my child,″ says Mayor Carolyn Robinson, speaking of her city. ″But I don’t like anyone else talking about my child.″

The almanac rated 329 American cities in 1985. Pine Bluff was 328th, one better than Yuba City, Calif. Pittsburgh was No. 1.

Mrs. Robinson says the ratings were tilted in favor of large urban areas. Her city in south-central Arkansas has about 60,000 people.

″Places Rated Almanac″ evaluated cities’ climate, housing, health, crime, transportation, education, the arts, recreation and economic outlook.

″Does Philadelphia or New York have hunting and fishing right at hand, you know, within a few short blocks?″ the mayor asked recently.

″We just have a different lifestyle here and who’s to say that our lifestyle is not as appealing as the lifestyle in New York? It’s according to what you want.″

Rand McNally spokeswoman Joyce Hodel, meanwhile, says the company is making no apologies for the ranking.

″People from Yuba City called up and said, ‘Hey, you guys are right in some respects,’ and it was an opportunity for them to get all kinds of wonderful publicity and tell everyone of their fair city,″ she said.

″People from Pittsburgh will tell us we’re crazy and others tell us, ’Hey, you’re right, this is a great city.‴

Where do hunting and fishing fit into ratings?

″I imagine they would fit into recreation, but I don’t know that that was a criterion,″ Ms. Hodel said.

Should it be?

″I don’t know.″

Mrs. Robinson said she’s willing to sue if any future edition subjects Pine Bluff to such scorn, and some city leaders who think Pine Bluff was damaged by the rating formed a group called Pine Bluff 2000 to polish the city’s image.

Pat Lile, the group’s executive director, says Rand McNally’s rating system produces ″inconsistencies and rankings which, at times, fly in the face of common sense.″

Irksome to her is that Buffalo, N.Y., with 90 inches of snow a year, was 111th in climate. Seattle, ″with only 57 clear days a year,″ was 12th. Pine Bluff in the warm, sunny South was 261st.

Mrs. Lile said the rating didn’t consider unusual features. ″They don’t have a computer tabulation that shows that we have one of the few major inland ports. How can you purport to measure transportation if you don’t even mention that a city has a port and give it some points for it?

″We are within 40 minutes of a major airport in Little Rock, but got no credit for it in their system although in Dallas it takes more than 40 minutes to get to the Dallas airport,″ she said.

″Some cities get points for things they have because they had a head start - they’ve just been around a lot longer than Pine Bluff. That’s like blaming an 18-month-old for not being potty-trained,″ Mrs. Lile said.

Ms. Hodel says cities are ranked 1 through 329 ″because there is no better way to do it.″ Being 329th doesn’t mean being 329 times worse than No. 1, she said. But, ″Yes, yes, according to the figures, No. 1 would be the best.″

329th?

″The worst.″

In what sense worst?

″An over-all sense.″

Mrs. Robinson, meanwhile, says there are unmeasurable things that make Pine Bluff a great place to live - such things as good neighbors, friendly citizens and churches that produce kindness and compassion.

And, says the mayor, such things as during last year’s evacuation of several thousand people because of a train derailment: There was no looting - ″none, not one stick.″

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