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Monday, June 18, 2018

WHEN WORSE COMES TO WORST

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Why do so many people believe such hype?

Earlier this month, a website (that most folks have not heard of, 24/7 Wall Street) ranked Shreveport as the 21st worst city in the U.S. to live in, just behind Compton, Calif., and Little Rock, Ark. For too many Shreveporters, this seemed plausible, or at least it “sounded about right,” for a city with rampant crime, anemic economic development and a shrinking population.

Never mind that 24/7 Wall Street earns its income from publishing “click-bait” stories that generate massive amounts of income per day by posting low-effort content and that their arbitrary methodologies serve that singular purpose.

Pay no attention, apparently, that these methodologies are contradictory and inconsistent, since “click-bait” sites (that publish ranking lists like this one) typically don’t take the time to explain why they weighted some factors less, such crime or education, over the economy or leisure, just as an example.

Or why they factor our average monthly rainfall into where Shreveport will rank on their “worst” list. Or how high school standardized test scores, or the “rate at which individuals were readmitted to a hospital within 30 days of being discharged,” influence the rating of how undesirable living in Shreveport must be.

Whether it makes sense or not, all of that gets factored into our “worst” ranking.

They have factored in the “30-day, risk-adjusted mortality rates of heart attacks, COPD, heart failure, pneumonia and stroke.” Oh, and the number of ski resorts in the area surrounding the city. That factors in, as well.

You know, these “ranking” or “best of” posts online are largely a work of fiction, aimed to get you to “clicking” and to get them paid by advertisers who really don’t care whether what you’re reading is fact or fiction.

Yes, of course, Shreveport has its issues, but to create a listing of “worst” cities to live in, based only on U.S. Census data from 2016 – when you have not even visited a majority of those cities on your “list” – is ridiculous. Even more ridiculous is that so many of us across the country even bother to pay attention.

What’s most concerning of all, however, is how readily so many Shreveporters are willing to accept the idea that their city is one of the worst cities in which to live. Where’s the push back? Or the “Aw, hell, no”?

Maybe too many Shreveporters believe they belong on such a “worst of” list and don’t deserve (or shouldn’t expect) anything better.

But that’s not good because how we speak to ourselves – how we think of one another – is important. The Bible tells us this also: “For as he thinks in his heart, so is he.” (Proverbs 23:7).

So, why would so many think we’re not deserving of something better than to be on a “worst of” list? Maybe it is a product of our past. The drop in oil prices in the 1980s – and the bankruptcies and foreclosures that followed – didn’t help, of course. Fast forward to the GM plant closing in 2012 and countless manufacturing jobs that have left town. Then there’s the dilapidated streets, higher and higher property taxes, failing schools, rising city debt (even amidst a declining population), plus rising crime and anemic economic development.

So, I get it. Maybe there’s good reason why so many feel undeserving of something better.

And this may also explain why so many tend to be jaded about whether or not Shreveporters will support a venture like the NBA “G-league,” or why we may wonder aloud, “Why in the world the Miss USA competition would choose Shreveport?” Or why we ask people who have moved here, “How did you end up in Shreveport?” This sense of “not deserving better” may be exactly why we keep electing the same character of leaders who got us into this mess in the first place.

And when we don’t feel we deserve better, guess what happens? We elect leaders who treat us as if we don’t deserve better, and who are more interested in “serving” themselves than our community.

It’s often said that people will treat you the way you let them, so appearing on a “worst place to live” list should have set off a firestorm of criticism from Shreveporters – but too many simply read the headline and said, “That sounds about right.”

But it isn’t, and if we’re OK ranking ourselves at the bottom, why in the world would anyone rank us at the top?

Louis R. Avallone is a Shreveport businessman, attorney and author of “Bright Spots, Big Country, What Makes America Great.” He is also a former aide to U.S. Representative Jim McCrery and editor of The Caddo Republican. His columns have appeared regularly in The Forum since 2007. Follow him on Facebook, on Twitter @louisravallone or by e-mail at louisavallone@mac.com, Vertical and on American - 2 12/4/17 Ground Radio at 10:39 101.7FM AM and 710 Page AM, weeknights 1 from 6 - 7 p.m., and streaming live on keelnews.com.

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