The May 11 on-line weekend edition of the Wall Street Journal had a short video at the top of the front page on the best cities for “tech-savvy college graduates.” Even before I clicked on the video, I knew that the likelihood of Tucson being one of the cities was almost nil—but hope springs eternal.
My hopes went up when the video opened by saying that Seattle, Portland and Austin are no longer as attractive as they used to be, because of their high cost of living. My hopes went up even higher when the video went on to say that the top cities have low rents, plentiful jobs, and a thriving social life. After all, Tucson has all of these attributes, particularly with Raytheon Missile systems being in the process of hiring 2,000 more engineers for its large Tucson facility.
Alas, my hopes were dashed when I saw that Tucson was not one of three best cities for tech-savvy graduates. Then things got worse, because two of three cities are not any better than Tucson, in my informed opinion.< The three cities are: Baltimore, Pittsburgh and Salt Lake City. Only Salt Lake City outshines Tucson in some respects. Baltimore has a rate of violent crime that surpasses even Chicago, and its poverty rate of 22% is only two percentage points lower than Tucson’s. Residents who live in the inner city of Baltimore are actually risking their lives. Also, Maryland ranks twelfth-highest of all the states in total tax burden. Pittsburgh’s poverty rate is also 22%, or just two percentage points lower than Tucson’s. Just beyond the shiny Three Rivers area are drug-infested neighborhoods with high addiction rates for opioids and meth. My wife’s niece and her husband and two kids live in a row house in a gentrified neighborhood near downtown, but they tend to stay inside with their guard dog instead of strolling the neighborhood. And when they go out, they use their car instead of walking or using public transportation. My wife and I once thought of moving to a Pittsburgh high rise to be near her family, but we were turned off by the foregoing problems as well as the humid climate and the horrible traffic congestion during rush hour between downtown and the airport. So why did the Wall Street Journal select Baltimore and Pittsburgh over Tucson? Maybe it’s because the Journal doesn’t like Hispanics. You see, Pittsburgh is 2.9% Hispanic, Baltimore is 5.3% Hispanic, and Tucson is 42% Hispanic. Granted, Salt Lake City has a high percentage of Hispanics, but even its percentage is only half of Tucson’s percentage. The Journal apparently doesn’t agree with me that it’s a plus in terms of cultural and culinary diversity and trade with Mexico for Tucson to have such a high percentage of Hispanics. Or maybe the problem is that Tucson stinks at marketing and branding itself compared to the other cities. This a city, after all, that embarrassed itself by shipping a Saguaro cactus to Jeff Bezos when he was trying to pick a location for Amazon’s second headquarters. And it’s a city where the airport is devoid of prominent displays on why Tucson is a great place to do business and the fact that thousands of rocket scientists work at Raytheon. On the other hand, given the political weirdness and anti-growth mentality in Tucson, there would probably be demonstrators in front of a display highlighting local businesses, especially a defense contractor. This self-defeating culture is the real reason that Tucson stays poor and is not a magnet for savvy graduates.