Best Town in America?

tosh provoThe top story about Provo this week, on Facebook, Twitter, and everywhere else, is that our city advanced to the fourth round of Outside magazine’s “Best Towns Tournament.”

What did our community have to do to win this place?  

We all had to get very enthused about winning the contest, and vote for ourselves, convince our friends and neighbors to vote for us, too, and beat out  other communities whose residents were voting for themselves. But as a community, we did not have to meet any qualifications, standards, measures, or accomplishments. Not one. We just had to have a population that could be convinced to go online and  click a button.

What an accomplishment.

The contest has lit up the social networks of Provo residents. People are contacting distant relatives and asking them to vote, they’re borrowing devices in order to vote again, they’re emailing, tweeting, and messaging every single person they know enjoining them to participate. The press has written multiple stories about our amazing success at  online voting, and government officials have created  photo ops encouraging the populace to “vote often.” It is, quite literally, a frenzy of public activity !

What do we get if we win the “Best Town” prize, besides a mention in “Outdoors” magazine and bragging rights?

According to Mayor John Curtis, this contest that requires nothing and wins us nothing,  “is really meaningful.”

Curtis says, ” Why wouldn’t we want to be voted ‘America’s Best Town?’ A prosperous Provo means an increase in property values, the ability to bring strong families into our neighborhoods, and it helps attract quality businesses…This sort of notoriety brings people to our downtown restaurants, gives motivation to book our Convention Center, and offers one more reason to invest in our city and the companies in it.”

And, says Curtis, ” this contest is impacting our morale in a positive way…We like to feel good about ourselves, and when others validate that Provo is a great city, that makes us feel better about the place we call home.”

The Daily Herald, our community newspaper, has done several stories about the contest, which have been picked up by national news services.

The Herald says, “For many people, their only impression of Provo will be what they hear in the national news. Being ranked a top town by a prestigious magazine is a big deal and impacts decisions about investment not only locally, but all across the United States.”

Well, then.

Not mentioned anywhere in all this PR hullaballou is that the city’s $200 million dollar budget is up for approval next week, with a hefty salary increase for the mayor.

The $150 million dollar Bus Rapid Transit system  is still on the table, too, as is the $108 million dollar school bond.

Also on the agenda is the city’s failure to meet federal clean water standards for our storm water; retrofitting our storm water system to treat rain run-off will cost another fortune. And the  annexation for future development  of  some of the last open space left on the foothills.

But, hey, we can all feel really good about ourselves.  We know how to push buttons!  And talk each other into pushing buttons. And get everybody so involved in pushing buttons that nobody even notices anything else.

Provo — with a pleasant bit of nonsense, the attention of an entire community can be diverted!

We really ARE the best town in America!


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