The wild West? You couldn't get further from it in the East Valley, at least according to Forbes Magazine.
Last month, the national business publication ranked Mesa as the most boring big city in America, and Chandler and Gilbert weren't far behind. The suburbs filled three slots on the magazine's list of the nation's 10 dullest cities.
The distinction doesn't rankle some locals.
"I don't know that anyone's insulted. We're amused that that's the word they chose to describe us. Boring? Please. It's all relative," says Joan Krueger, Gilbert's vice mayor.
Indeed, the magazine didn't take into account any of the cities' cultural or recreational offerings in its ranking. There was no mention of Mesa's gleaming new arts center, Gilbert's top-notch schools or parks and rec programs, or Chandler's world-famous Ostrich Festival or Chihuahua races.
Forbes compiled the list by tallying how often cities were mentioned in 2008 in national print media, such as newspapers the Washington Post, the New York Times, USA Today and the Wall Street Journal; news magazines Time and Newsweek; and business magazines Fortune and Business Week.
"When you look at how they came up with this, it would be the same as if I said we're going to rate magazines by the first letter in their name, and whatever letter they start with is the grade they get. That's how nonsensical this was," says Robert Brinton, director of Mesa's Convention and Visitors Bureau.
The proclamation was even more curious given that some of the same publications Forbes gleaned for headlines had favorable things to say about our cities in 2008: Business Week named Gilbert the best place in Arizona to raise kids, and the town came in at No. 28 on Money magazine's list of the 100 best places to live. Chandler ranked at No. 30 on the same list.
Chandler was also dubbed one of the 100 best communities for young people by America's Promise Alliance, a collaborative championed by former Gen. Colin Powell. The Economist magazine referred to Mesa as the "city of the future" in an article about the city's plans to develop the area near Phoenix-Mesa Gateway Airport.
For Roc Arnett, president of East Valley Partnership, those accolades are far more accurate than Forbes' finding.
"(Forbes) was taking a cheap shot by calling us boring. (The East Valley is) a great place to live with a higher quality of life than many other comparably sized cities," says Arnett.
"If you like a very livable, nice community where the education and income levels are well above average, then boring's not so bad," says the longtime Mesa resident.
The Forbes article conceded that "boring" may not be a bad thing, especially considering that Detroit grabbed a lot of national headlines in December, nearly all of them hinged on dire automobile industry woes.
"If we're not in the newspapers because we don't have a lot of crime and bad news going on, that's a good thing," says Debbie Boatman, who runs the visitors center inside Gilbert Chamber of Commerce.
While each of the communities has a quieter, more conservative image than, say, Scottsdale, they're far from dull, says David Thompson, CEO of Diversified Energy Corp., a Gilbert firm that designs and develops alternative and renewable energy technology. In the 1990s, Thompson had a hard time retaining young, single workers at his then-aerospace company, which was also in Gilbert. There just wasn't enough to do outside of work to keep them happy.
Today, he says, it's an entirely different atmosphere.
He points to the town's historic district, retail centers, restaurants, parks and trail systems as big draws for people looking for a well-rounded life.
"Are we downtown Manhattan? Of course not. But when you start looking around, you see that if you're bored, it's your own fault. If you're looking for extreme night life, yeah, you need to go to Scottsdale, but for the average family, this is a pretty good place to live."
Angela Lillie, 30, moved to Chandler eight months ago after living 10 years in central Phoenix. Living in a so-called boring city doesn't bother her.
"Moving to the suburbs was a change, but I have no problem keeping myself busy. There's plenty to do here. Personally, I don't care what Forbes calls us. It's Forbes. That magazine's kind of boring itself."