Picking the Perfect City in The Relocating Game

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Picking the Perfect City in The Relocating Game

Next American City’s Jeffrey Hill is leaving Philadelphia, but not before a tiring search for a new city that, in a matter of a few weeks, turned him into a stockpile of statistics on the nuances of America. Hill reveals some hints and secrets on playing the relocation game.

After an exhausting month of job interviews, apartment shopping, insurance hunting and some of the most extensive research I’ve ever completed in my adult life, I am moving out of state. Deciding where to settle was difficult considering I’ve never lived outside of my home state of New Jersey for longer than a few months and all of my options presented a balance of pros and cons.

We all have preconceived agendas when planning to relocate. We all want to be somewhere specific. When reality sets in and the job offers wither what few choices we can reasonably afford down to one (or two if you’re lucky – damn this economy), you have to do some homework. There are subtleties about a city that are often overlooked by enthusiastic, invincible youth and these often prove to be the difference between exciting changes and long-term nightmares.

Even though I was initially excited at the prospect of life in John Steinbeck’s California dream, air quality was one of the reasons I decided not to move to Bakersfield. Having the third worst air quality in the United States according to The American Lung Association, Bakersfield just didn’t seem like the right fit for someone with allergies. And for someone who tends to be attracted to the left side of politics, moving to the eighth most conservative city in the U.S. would have probably kept me indoors. Or, maybe the average maximum summer temperature of 98 degrees.

Bachelor number 1, it’s a cold September night and I’m getting the chills, how would you keep us warm?

I don’t like to pounce on cities and that’s not what we do here at NAC anyway… There’s a lot of promise for Bakersfield. Schwarzenegger wants to build a high-speed rail line through California that would put Bakersfield within an hour commute of 8 major cities! The problem is, there’s no money and the project wouldn’t be completed until 2030. That’s only if everything goes according to Arnold’s plan – which it won’t.

City-data.com’s forums are a great way to gauge how locals view their city. I was a bit disheartened by a series of Bakersfield posts with subjects like – “don’t move here, for the love of God,” or “this place is a real shithole.” Considering how much Bakersfield residents actually love their God, I had to take these warnings seriously. A part of me was actually motivated by the hatespeak. I thought to myself – ‘Maybe the reason Bakersfield is in such bad shape is because their citizens are so apathetic. Maybe I can make a difference.’ My Next American City experience reminds me that negative press creates negative space and that cities like Detroit and New Orleans pay the price for quick and easy condemnations from the media. But then, thanks to the miracle of Flash technology, I noticed I would be working a few blocks away from Crip country, as one of the country’s largest most dangerous crime organizations has a stronghold in the city.

Sorry, Bakersfield. I wish you the best and even though you have some lovely parks and natural reserves, I have too many blue work shirts and NAC never taught me how to handle a pistol. To be fair, the crime rate in Bakersfield has been lowering over the last few years and a new generation of youth is trying to bring diversity out into the open. I also enjoy Paperback Writer, the Bakersfield literature, music and news blog. Hopefully, things will turn around in the next few years.

City-data.com also offers data and statistics on almost everything imaginable. If you have children, statistics on safety and education may be important or perhaps the cost of living, like food prices, sales and property tax – which brings me to bachelor number 2 in the search of my new blind-date home, Washington D.C.

-Bachelor number 2, I like a city that’s not afraid to express its feelings. How would you tell me you love me?

A job offer on the outskirts of D.C. would potentially place me in two of the richest counties in America: Fairfax and Montgomery. A nightmare in terms of finding reasonable rent, D.C. also tops most data lists (Yes, here I am citing lists. Yes, Forbes, I am a hypocrite) when it comes to health, activities, fitness and energy. And how many free museums are there in D.C.? Will I have something to do everyday?

Another great online resource is Salary.com, where you can compare the salary you’ll earn in one location versus another. Also, use your potential state’s income tax calculator to determine how much will be taken out of your paycheck and how much you’ll be putting towards your car insurance a week. Being from a state where auto insurance rates are often just as expensive as rent per month, I was able to determine that if I were to make the same salary in Maryland as I was while living in New Jersey, my quality of living would improve thanks to the State of Maryland’s personal finance website.

I was fortunate enough to have a wild card in the bunch – an adventurous third choice, like Ross Perot in the ’92 elections – Juneau, Alaska. First of all, the job I was offered in The Frontier State was the least exciting of the three. And what’s deal with the city only being accessible by ferry? I would get a nice little financial bonus from the state government for moving there and the demographics of the most male-populated state per female ratio has started to even out a little. That’s good, because I like balance.

-Bachelor number 3, if I was an ice cream cone, what flavor would I be and how would you eat me?

While the pictures certainly do justice to Juneau’s beautiful landscape, talking to people who have been there revealed certain aspects of the climate I would’ve never guessed – torrential rainfall and lots of bugs. I though bugs hated the cold, but then again, I erroneously pegged Juneau as a winter wonderland. It’s quite moderate in temperature, resembling a slightly cooler Seattle with a slightly lower suicide rate and a little less sun. Why is the suicide rate important? Hey man, that could be you! Juneau also has no mass transit and I’m not buying a car anytime soon.

But the idea of Juneau is romantic. It’s so far away… and such a risk because of the distance. With the odds stacked against it, Juneau reinforces its role as a third party candidate, and I don’t want to risk 8 years of hell on that vote.

So after weighing all of my options and taking everything into consideration – I selected bachelor number 2, Washington D.C., as my blind date and future home. It turns out, I found a nice little place for a nice little price and discovered that I have a nice little group of co-workers and relocated friends in the area. I hope it works out and even though I’ll deeply miss South Jersey and Philadelphia, I’m looking forward to a change.

But I swear, if the Phillies win the World Series on the year I move away, I’ll turn into a Nationals fan.

Okay, maybe not.

Tags: philadelphiawashington dcdetroitaustin

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