It’s true: Mesa has a reputation for being somewhat of a boring bedroom community. But a report released Monday might change people’s minds about the fast-growing city with a small-town feel — and plenty of golf courses nearby.
Money magazine announced that Mesa ranked third on its list of “Best Big Cities” in the U.S., following No. 1 Colorado Springs, Colo., and No. 2 Austin, Texas. It was one of several East Valley cities to make the cut in the financial magazine’s 2006 list of the top 100 cities in which to live.
The magazine ranked Gilbert as the 16th best city of any size, and Scottsdale came in seventh. Although Mesa ranked higher among cities with a population of 300,000 or more, it came in at 93rd when all city sizes were considered.
Clear skies, plenty of recreational opportunities and rising home values were common attributes for all of the Valley cities on this year’s list, yet each of them had a unique personality that helped it stand out.
Mesa, for instance, was favored because it’s a relatively affordable place to live.
Scottsdale has a lot of golf courses and other recreational opportunities.
Gilbert has seen exceptional job growth, and its residents are among the highest earners in the Valley.
Some Mesa politicians and employees said the recognition was validation that they were doing a good job after a controversial May 16 property tax election left a lot of people with a negative perception of the city and its local government.
“That’s what we’ve been saying — we think Mesa is a great community,” Mesa’s Vice Mayor Claudia Walters said. “We’ve spent a couple years talking about the challenges we face, and it’s been very difficult. I have tried to emphasize the positive messages.”
Gilbert’s status also backed up the feelings of some local politicians, who often compare the city’s per capita income and the quality of education to Scottsdale.
In fact, Gilbert, a newcomer to the list, followed closely on the heels of swanky Scottsdale.
“It’s a tremendous honor,” said Gilbert Mayor Steve Berman, who vowed that Gilbert will surpass Scottsdale next year as the town grows. “It’s humbling and flattering. It’s certainly something we’ll brag about.”
Every year, the magazine selects the best places to live based upon a number of categories, including ease of living, crime rates, education, leisure and culture, weather, health and transportation.
It began its search looking at cities with populations over 50,000 and then screened out places with low education scores, high crime rates and “absurdly” high housing costs, according to CNNMoney.com.
Mesa, therefore, ranked higher than New York City and San Diego.
“The cost of living is very reasonable,” Walters said.
But while most people were happy to hear they made the magazine’s list this year, Mesa Councilman Tom Rawles emphasized that the list is a reflection on the people in the community — not Mesa’s city government. The areas where Mesa excels, he said, are areas with little government intervention.
“I think it’s a reflection of a good, solid community,” Rawles said.
For information about the survey, go to www.money.cnn.com.
- Tribune writer Beth Lucas contributed to this report.