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San Francisco named second-worst-run metropolis in US by WalletHub

LATEST June 30, 1:20 pm San Francisco officials have responded unfavorably to a recent WalletHub study that listed San Francisco as the second-worst-run city in the nation, determined by the city’s operating budget relative to the quality of services it provides.

Gloria Chan, a spokesperson for the city’s Office of Economic and Workforce Development, brought a key concern to the study’s creators: “San Francisco is both a city and a county, and its budget reflects this including the per capita.”

San Francisco Controller Ben Rosenfield and Chief Economist Ted Egan also brought this concern to WalletHub, noting that “San Francisco is one of among the most consolidated governments in the country,” encapsulating services that are relied on by large chunks of the Bay Area at large .

“Comparing the relative budget and debt of all of these functions to stand-alone cities like Nampa and almost all others on your list is just a false comparison, unless you were to add to their budgets their share of their county’s budget for health services they rely on, the regional transit district that runs their buses, and the utility that provides their residents with water, sewer, and power,” Rosenfield and Egan wrote in a letter to the company.

Despite San Francisco ranking relatively high for city services, the city was penalized by WalletHub’s decision to measure a city’s GDP per capita “because the cost of government and residents’ ability to pay for public services both vary widely across the country.” Large cities, by virtue of serving more people, are punished in this list.

Further, Rosenfield argues, “very few of the of 38 indicators that make up ‘Quality of City Services’ are under a given city’s control.” That includes everything from county hospitals to school districts.

All this is to say: San Francisco officials are deeply unhappy with this list, not just because it is bad PR for the city, but because the methodology of the list punishes large urban metropoles.

“We think the study both fails to capture why San Francisco has a large budget, and more generally is biased to make small cities in low-cost areas look good, no matter how well-run they are,” Rosenfield and Egan write.

June 29, 11:20 am Two Bay Area cities ranked poorly in a recent study by WalletHub that examined the operating efficiency of 150 US cities and identified which are run well and which are not. The personal finance website looked at metrics related to a city’s operating budget and the quality of the services it provides — everything from public school to transit — to quantify who’s at the top of the list and who’s at the bottom.

San Francisco came in at No. 149, making it the second-worst-run city in the country, according to WalletHub’s metrics. Only our nation’s capital, Washington, DC, was worse.

“San Francisco ranked particularly poorly when it comes to long-term debt outstanding per capita, where it was second to last,” WalletHub analyst Jill Gonzalez wrote in an email to SFGATE. “It also has the lowest quality of roads in the country — 18 times worse than No. 1 Jacksonville. The city did, however, rank better when it comes to its health and education numbers.”

The study scored each city by measuring the per capita operating budget against the quality of 38 services spread across six categories: financial stability, education, health, safety, economy and infrastructure and pollution. The city’s credit rating by Moody’s and the outstanding long-term debt per capita were considered under financial stability. Public school ratings and the high school graduation rate fell under education, and infant mortality rate, average life expectancy and quality of the public hospital system were among several factors weighed in the health category.

The violent and property crime rates, as well as motor vehicle fatalities per capita, were among those factors considered in safety, and under the economy category there was a long list of metrics including unemployment rate, median household income and share of population living in poverty . Finally, quality of roads, bike and transit score and air pollution were among more than a dozen metrics included in the infrastructure and pollution category.

San Francisco scored well in many of the metrics, including its credit rating, walk and bike score, school system quality, infant mortality rate, public hospital system, unemployment rate, job growth, transit access, water quality and parkland.

“The city is able to offer its residents high quality services, but its budget is the second largest, which is what dragged it down,” WalletHub spokesperson Diana Polk said. “SF is spending more money than other cities to offer its services.”

San Francisco’s operating budget per capita is $17,829. By comparison Washington, DC’s is $21,252, Oakland’s $11,567, and Nampa, Idaho’s $2,414. WalletHub pulled its operating budget data from the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy.

Oakland was No. 143 on the WalletHub list, the eighth worst. Eight other California cities ranked in the bottom 100: No. 129, Los Angeles; Long Beach, no. 126; Riverside, no. 121; Fresno, no. 116; Sacramento, no. 115; Modesto, no. 111; Anaheim, no. 105; and Stockton, no. 102

Huntington Beach in Southern California was the best-run city in the Golden State, ranking 21st with high scores in education, health and safety. Fremont was the best-performing city in the Bay Area at No. 76

A general trend in the findings was that the country’s largest cities, such as New York and Chicago, ranked poorly while smaller cities like Nampa, Idaho, came out on top.

Of the 150 cities WalletHub analyzed, these 10 ranked as the worst-run:

1) Washington, D.C
2) San Francisco
3) New York
4) Chattanooga, Tenn.
5) Cleveland
6) Detroit
7) Flint, Mich.
8) Oakland, Calif.
9) Hartford, Conn.
10) Gulfport, Miss.

Of the 150 cities WalletHub analyzed, these 10 ranked as the best-run:

1) Nampa, Idaho
2) Boise, Idaho
3) Fort Wayne, Ind.
4) Nashua, NH
5) Lexington-Fayette, Ky.
6) Lincoln, Neb.
7) Las Cruces, NM
8) Oklahoma City, Oklahoma.
9) Missoula, Mont.
10) Durham, NC

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