Saturday, November 15, 2008

Is Malden The Best Place to Raise a Family?

Article by Eric H.
Recently, BusinessWeek Magazine named Malden as the best place to raise a family in Massachusetts with communities having populations of more than 50,000 people.

This well-intended but controversial article just goes to show that there is a difference between collecting data and actually living in the city -- or seeing first-hand through the years what Malden is really like.

Malden, with a population of around 56,000, is actually not a bad place, but certainly not the community many of us would want to raise a family. This is not to denigrate Malden for its has many virtues like some nice neighborhoods, affordability, proximity to Boston and a good variety of restaurants. The article praised the school system, but the story is different if you look at the stats on GreatSchools.net. There is disparity between the stats and parent/student rankings for Malden on this Web Site, but in our opinion, both need to be taken into account to potentiate finding the best school system for your child. Wouldn't it be better to have both: good stats and parent/students rankings? Better yet, if you have children then make an appointment with a public school rep in Malden to get a first-hand account of what they have to offer.

If, however, you want a better-regarded school system, lower crime, a downtown that is more established and interesting, amenities, affordability, and fewer sketchy neighborhoods, then why not choose Arlington (more pricey, but with some relatively affordable areas), North Attleborough, or Franklin? These towns have smaller populations, but still offer many services (Franklin even has Dean College!) in close-knit, small town settings.

Many of us don't care whether a city or town has a population of 50,000 or more. We would be happy to drop that population 10,000, 20,000 or even more, if it meant that community had similar-type services to Malden. Why relegate your search to a certain number of people in town? Once you're in a town, you're not going to be able to tell the difference between, say, 42,000 and 50,000 people! What you could feel impacted by, however, is that there were 268 violent crimes and 1,418 property in Malden, according to state data from 2006. You could do better in the towns mentioned above in regards to safety. In fact, check out Malden as compared to Arlington in different categories of crime in the Massachusetts Major City Chiefs Violent Crime Review (as well as several other highly populated state communities participating in this study). Again, stats don't mean everything but we feel it would be responsible journalism to point out stats that extend upon the BusinessWeek article.

While we applaud BusinessWeekly Magazine for putting a decent city in the spotlight, we just feel that the morale of this story is that no one town should be singled out as "the best," based largely on stats. While this approach might inform readers on a worthy community, it could also raise false expectations. Personally, I don't like the under performing downtown in Malden and really don't get a warm, fuzzy and safe feeling in certain areas of the city. If you're looking for a place to live, go check out Malden and then places like the aforementioned Arlington, North Attleborough, Franklin, or perhaps Weymouth, Norwood, Plymouth and Melrose. I know for us, we would choose any of those communities over Malden -- not because we're snobs but for the very reason that the term "best" means something different for each person.

Life is not a database. While stats do serve a valuable purpose, we prefer to visit communities and talk with people who know a bit about these towns and cities before forming a judgement. Go to a coffee shop, talk with the police, chat with residents at a town event and create your own research team that centers on asking questions and employing the art of conversation with people who live in a given community. We believe that is the best way to choose a place to live!

Let me know your thoughts, readers!
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