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A livability ranking Pittsburghers can live with

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Steven Adams | Tribune-Review
The Pittsburgh skyline at sunset.
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The rising sun passes behind the Washington Monument early in the morning. (AP Photo/J. David Ake)

The folks at WalletHub finally got it right.

After using 50 key indicators of attractiveness to compare the 62 largest U.S. cities, you see, WalletHub’s analysts just reported that Pittsburgh is the third best city to live in — whereas Washington, D.C., is 31st.

Their findings fly in the face of a handful of other recent livability reports that placed Washington well ahead of “flyover” cities such as Pittsburgh.

In February, for instance, U.S. News & World Report, which bills itself as the “global authority in rankings and consumer advice,” unveiled its “2017 100 Best Places to Live in the USA.” It ranked Washington near the top at No. 4, whereas Pittsburgh was at No. 58.

What a load of bunk.

It’s bunk because Washington isn’t a real city. It’s a giant, smog-filled metro parking lot of a region, propped up by an infusion of my hard-earned tax dollars and lobbying budgets, which fund D.C.’s chief industry: blather and B.S.

You want a real city? Come to Pittsburgh, where real people work in real jobs. Through our brawn and sweat, Pittsburghers mined the coal that fueled this nation and forged the steel that built the country and was central to winning World War II.

Pittsburgh, like dozens of other “flyover” cities,” is superior to Washington across multiple measures.

Take the cost of living. As tax dollars and lobbyist money have flooded Washington, housing costs have soared. If you aren’t making boatloads off government contracts or lobbying dollars, you can’t afford to live there.

But in Pittsburgh, where most people still earn money by working hard to produce something of tangible value, the cost of living is very manageable. You can pick up a nice three-bedroom ranch for under 200 grand — a house that would run you three times that cost in D.C.

Sure, Pittsburgh’s property taxes are among the highest in the nation, relative to our housing values anyhow, but this is a good thing. Our high property taxes and sales tax keep vast amounts of cash within the local region, where it is squandered through patronage and inefficiency. I favor any process that wastes tax dollars at the local level, rather than federal level.

Transportation is a lot more convenient in Pittsburgh. Sure, our roads are bad. In fact, some of our potholes are so large that, after thunderstorms, we’re forced to man them with lifeguards. But have you ever tried getting around in Washington? You can’t pick up a pint of milk at the convenience store without making a Mario Andretti foray onto a six-lane speedway.

We’re told that Washington has lots of wonderful cultural institutions, and that is true. Washington offers the Kennedy Center, the Smithsonian and many other wonderful places. It’s amazing what you can do with billions in donations from philanthropic organizations, as well as “donations” from hardworking taxpayers.

In Pittsburgh, we created our cultural institutions the old-fashioned way. Our philanthropists built fortunes on the back of the working man, then used the money to fund wonderful hospitals, universities, the famous Carnegie library system, and lavish arts centers and clubs, so the elite would have places to go during happy hours.

In any event, as WalletHub’s analysts compared affordability, economic conditions, education and health, safety, and quality of life among U.S. cities, it became clear that mid-sized Pittsburgh has charms that trump those available in D.C.

It’s about time somebody finally got one of these annual best-places-to-live surveys right.

Tom Purcell, a freelance writer, lives in Library. His books include “Misadventures of a 1970s Childhood” and “Wicked Is the Whiskey,” a Sean McClanahan mystery. Visit him on the web at TomPurcell.com. Email him at: [email protected].

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