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Worst-run cities in America

  • Worst-run cities in America

    People move to and from cities for a variety of reasons. Some cities are popular for their economies and job opportunities and some are unpopular because of their levels of crime and pollution. Typically, how a city is run and how it operates determines many of these factors. Some of the worst-run cities, such as Detroit, Mich., and Nashville, Tenn., struggle with high crime rates, low high school graduation rates, and poor economies. Governments and city councils often enact policies and initiatives to counter some of these issues and promote change. However, sometimes it takes years to see any actual progress.

    Stacker analyzed data from WalletHub's 2019's Best- & Worst-Run Cities in America and used the detailed city services ranking, rather than data that included “total budget per capita” to determine the rankings. WalletHub's data was published on July 1, 2019. Full methodology behind WalletHub ranking is available here. Data and statistics surrounding the differences between the best-run cities and the worst-run cities are also found through this data set, including differences in quality of roads, infant mortality rates, percent of the population in poverty, and violent crime.

    The quality of city services is ranked based on each city's average scores in six key categories, which are financial stability, education, health, safety, economy, and infrastructure and pollution. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, and 100 points represent the highest quality of service for each metric. The final score was also out of 100 points. Cities are ranked by their total quality of city service scores. The highest total points for the worst-run cities were 50.98 and the lowest total points on this list were 27.79.

    Read on to see the worst-run cities in the United States.

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  • #50. Dayton, Ohio

    - Overall quality of city services score: 48.55
    - Financial stability rank: #71
    - Education rank: #72
    - Health rank: #126
    - Safety rank: #91
    - Economy rank: #141
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #40

    The nation's first big city to adopt the city-manager form of government, in which a hired technocrat manages city operations and answers to an elected but unpaid council and mayor, Dayton scores low for its stagnant economy and intractable health problems. Dayton's unemployment rate outpaces the national average, and future job growth is also pegged to lag the national average. Heavily invested in manufacturing, a sector on the decline for decades, the city has struggled to reinvent itself and grow jobs in new, non-manufacturing sectors.

  • #49. Rapid City, South Dakota

    - Overall quality of city services score: 48.43
    - Financial stability rank: #95
    - Education rank: #133
    - Health rank: #67
    - Safety rank: #109
    - Economy rank: #38
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #85

    Known as the gateway to Mount Rushmore, Rapid City is earning a new reputation for a growing violent-crime problem. Statewide South Dakota sees less violent and property crime than the national average, but Rapid City bucks that trend with crime rates well above the national average. Per capita, Rapid City sees far more rapes, assaults, and murders than the rest of the country, with a violent crime rate of 640 per 100,000 residents. The national violent crime rate is 383 per 100,000 people.

  • #48. Topeka, Kansas

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.57
    - Financial stability rank: #104
    - Education rank: #79
    - Health rank: #140
    - Safety rank: #86
    - Economy rank: #73
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #58

    The Topeka City Council comprises nine council members and a mayor. The Downtown Business Improvement District aims to improve, maintain, and promote downtown Topeka and local businesses. The initiative is in addition to other programs already in place that focus on business and city development.

  • #47. Albuquerque, New Mexico

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.44
    - Financial stability rank: #63
    - Education rank: #106
    - Health rank: #82
    - Safety rank: #146
    - Economy rank: #96
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #46

    Albuquerque's city council has nine members, a mayor and runs a transparent and open government with the current budget and public records posted right on the city website. The transparency spreads to other aspects of government, such as the police department, and council members say that open communication with the community will strengthen it.

  • #46. Indianapolis, Indiana

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.39
    - Financial stability rank: #19
    - Education rank: #140
    - Health rank: #131
    - Safety rank: #127
    - Economy rank: #90
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #98

    A mission to prevent crime, protect taxpayers, create opportunities for working families, and invest the city's resources back into the community is key for Indianapolis Mayor Joe Hogsett. Besides the mayor, Indianapolis and Marion County are represented by the City-County Council.

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  • #45. Lubbock, Texas

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.27
    - Financial stability rank: #77
    - Education rank: #52
    - Health rank: #72
    - Safety rank: #139
    - Economy rank: #79
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #142

    One of the primary focuses of Lubbock city government is health and safety, which is an area where the city ranks among the lowest compared with other U.S. cities. The police department is seeking to become more open to the public to provide a safer environment for its citizens. The Texas city also is concerned about environmental health, including the enforcement of Texas Food Establishment Rules and local ordinances.

  • #44. Columbia, South Carolina

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.16
    - Financial stability rank: #64
    - Education rank: #130
    - Health rank: #88
    - Safety rank: #122
    - Economy rank: #134
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #54

    Columbia's city council has six council members and a mayor, Steve Benjamin. His mission as mayor is to make Columbia the most talented, educated, and entrepreneurial city in the United States. Columbia ranks as one of the lowest in the education category and fairly low in the economy category, thus the focus on education and business is a move to increase this city's rankings in these areas.

  • #43. Nashville, Tennessee

    - Overall quality of city services score: 47.12
    - Financial stability rank: #111
    - Education rank: #119
    - Health rank: #115
    - Safety rank: #107
    - Economy rank: #63
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #65

    Nashville has one of the highest long-term outstanding debt per capita in the United States, putting this city at a low ranking for financial stability. Mayor David Briley has created policies to better support the community, from the Getting Results by Advancing Degrees program to domestic violence policies within the government and workforce.

  • #42. Kansas City, Missouri

    - Overall quality of city services score: 46.98
    - Financial stability rank: #91
    - Education rank: #38
    - Health rank: #96
    - Safety rank: #144
    - Economy rank: #59
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #114

    With a violent crime rate 129% higher than the national average, Kansas City residents are more likely to be victims of violent crime than in 98% of other U.S. cities. The murder rate is six times the national average and overall violent crime rate hovers about four times the national average. Kansas City also needs to upgrade its aging public infrastructure; a voter-approved bill signed in 2017 commits the city to spend $800 million on repairing sidewalks, roads, bridges, retaining walls, and other engineering projects.

  • #41. Springfield, Massachusetts

    - Overall quality of city services score: 46.88
    - Financial stability rank: #124
    - Education rank: #125
    - Health rank: #99
    - Safety rank: #63
    - Economy rank: #135
    - Infrastructure and pollution rank: #15

    Superintendent Daniel J. Warwick is an experienced educator focused on improving Springfield public schools to better support students and the community. The Springfield City Council comprises 12 council members and a council president. They are primarily focused on community development to better support and propel the community and its economy forward.

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