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Silver Threads: Louisiana's 'worst' title doesn't weigh the intangibles

Bettye Anding

Bettye Anding

Tuesday morning’s The New Orleans Advocate brought the news in a page 3 story under the top-of-the-page headline “Louisiana ranked as worst state in U.S.”

Tell that to the locals and tourists already out on the streets, munching po-boys and waiting for Zulu and Rex, the St. Aug band, Pete Fountain’s Half-Fast Marching Club, the 610 Stompers. And glimpses of the Mardi Gras Indians.Ah, well … nothing’s ever all good or all bad, is it?

Ah, well … nothing’s ever all good or all bad, is it?

The Advocate story reported that “U.S. News & World Report, noted for annual education, health care and other consumer-focused rankings, launched its inaugural 'Best States' list on Tuesday as part of a new data-driven interactive platform designed to provide insight into how states stack up on various issues.”

Our state got low marks, ranking 50th or only one or two points higher, on crime and corrections, opportunity, education, economy and government, health care and infrastructure. And you’ll understand why if you’ve been wounded in a shootout, been sent to prison, had to travel to Texas for health care, are having trouble enrolling your child in a good school, or crashed into a pothole on one of our worn-out streets.

But quality of life can also be measured by intangibles, and we have plenty of those. A woman who moved here from one of “the “best states in the U.S.”  once told me she wanted to be able to dance in the streets until she was 90 with nobody raising an eyebrow. A young doctor doing a fellowship at my eye clinic said he hoped to remain in New Orleans because “people walk around wearing costumes a lot. I like that.” Apparently you can’t do that in Massachusetts, Minnesota, New Hampshire, North Dakota and Washington.

But I also remember a televised remark from another woman, one who was relocated after her home was destroyed by Katrina: “I’m glad to be in a place without a bar or a chicken shack on every corner.”

By the standards of U.S. News & World Report, Louisiana — like Mississippi, Alabama, Arkansas and New Mexico — certainly isn’t an ideal place to live. Many of us are poor, which right there is the reason for some of the good things we lack. We don’t have the money to make everything better. But we’re trying, and we’re rich in other ways: We’re caring, courteous and usually charming and very talented people, with whom it’s a pleasure to share a home.

Commenting on the USN&WR report through The Advocate, our governor’s spokesman, Richard Carbo, had this to say: “… the methodology used in this report to take a quick score of every state doesn’t come close to capturing the best parts of making a life here in Louisiana.”

Amen. I guess what aggravated me most about Tuesday’s story was the use of the words “worst state” in the headline. But I found out after reading the article that they didn’t use the w-word in the text of the report, just ranking the states from “best” on down.

I don’t think anybody doing Mardi Gras in New Orleans read it anyhow. Ours isn't called the “city that care forgot” for nothing.

Bettye Anding is a former editor of the Living section of The Times Picayune, for which she wrote “Silver Threads” until her retirement. Email comments to her at bta7735@icloud.com.