Mesa is the 19th best-run city in the nation and the best-run in Arizona, according to a WalletHub study.
The personal finance website last week ranked Mesa as far-better run than Phoenix and Tucson, which it ranked 34th and 35th, respectively.
But take the study with a grain or two of salt: They were the only Arizona cities that made the cut for the study.
Moreover, when it comes to some of the individual categories WalletHub factored into its complex formula for determining the best-run governments, Mesa’s ranking fell to the middle of the pack among those cities that were included in its survey.
And some of the cities included in the study are far smaller than Chandler, Tempe and Gilbert.
For example, the best-run city in WalletHub’s eyes is Nampa, Idaho, whose estimated population of 102,000 doesn’t even qualify it as the largest city in that state.
Ditto for Provo, Utah, which holds the number 2 spot on the list and is Utah’s third-largest city, with a population of 107,000.
Digging deeper into the survey, WalletHub ranked Mesa 55th in quality of city services.
“We can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget,” WalletHub states.
It said it used that approach to measure the “operating efficiency” of 150 of the largest U.S. cities “to reveal which among them are managed best.”
“Running a city is a tall order,” the study says. “In addition to representing the residents, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. That often means not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost and whether and how much to raise taxes, among other decisions.”
Mesa’s rankings in the six categories that WalletHub used to evaluate all 150 cities’ quality of their services are: financial stability (72), education (59), health (57), safety (35), economy (51) and “infrastructure and pollution” (136).
Financial stability assessments were based on credit rating and per capita long-term debt while education quality was based on ratings by greatschools.org and graduation rates.
Health was determined by infant mortality rates, life expectancy, hospital beds per capita and quality of the public health system as rated by Medicare.
While safety assessments were based partly on crime statistics and motor vehicle deaths, they also incorporated “share of sheltered homeless persons” and “perception of safety waking alone during daylight/night.”
That last category was based on “perceptions of visitors of numbeo.com.” That website bills itself as “the world’s largest database of user-contributed data of cities and countries worldwide.”
The number of contributors who weighed in at numbeo.com to answer questions about crime: exactly 13.
WalletHub’s evaluation of cities’ health and infrastructure included the most factors among the six categories, ranging from water quality and greenhouse gas emissions per person to bike and walk scores as well as the quality of roads and average commute.
The study’s “walk score,” WalletHub explained, “measures pedestrian friendliness by analyzing population density and road metrics such as block length and intersection density” while the bike score “is calculated by measuring bike infrastructure (lanes, trails, etc.), hills, destinations and road connectivity and the number of bike commuters.”
It’s unclear how bike commuters were counted.
WalletHub also said much of the data analyzed for its rankings came from 21 federal agencies, such as the FBI and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and private institutions.
The study also identified the five best and five worst cities in a variety of categories, including quality of roads, percentage of the population living in poverty, unemployment, crime rate, infant mortality, graduation rates and per capita long-term local government debt.
Mesa made none of the “top 5” lists in those categories.
But it did score the dubious distinction of first place in one of the “worst” categories.
Actually, Mesa tied with the California cities of Los Angeles, Santa Ana and Long Beach for having the dirtiest air while two other cities in that state, Riverside and Bakersfield, had only slightly better scores in that category.
While a deeper dive into WalletHub’s numbers may take a bit of the shine off Mesa’s ranking as the 19th best-run city in the country, residents can take heart they don’t live in Detroit.
That city not only was dead-last among the 150 cities included in the study, but also had some of the lowest scores in five of the six categories used to rank quality of services.