GR Magazine Releases Metro Rankings

April 28, 2003
| By Katy Rent |
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GRAND RAPIDS — Grand Rapids Magazine this morning released the data used to compile its Metro Rankings — a statistical portrait of 96 area communities and 29 school districts.

Crowe Chizek assembled the statistical picture by assigning numeric weights to 36 categories for communities and 14 categories for school districts and then computing the final rankings from them.

Grand Rapids Magazine staff chose the categories used in the ranking process.

“We chose the categories based upon what people in the community have told us is important to them,” said Cara Kissling, managing editor of the magazine. “We wanted the categories to be relevant and reflective to and of the people who live here.”

What the magazine staff, who began collecting data in January, found were both things that surprised and comforted.

One report that surprised the staff was the fact that Rockford was the suburb with the highest number of nonviolent crimes. This finding however, must be dissected to reveal that the rate — 214 of every 1,000 residents — means less to pickpockets and more to lawn services.

Kissling said that 252 of Rockford’s nonviolent incidents fall under the category of miscellaneous criminal offense.

“In trying to break down the definition, we discovered that Rockford makes these violations a misdemeanor offense,” said Kissling. “However, these violations could be anything from long grass to barking dogs and clearing snow on sidewalks. It shows mostly that Rockford is concerned with keeping its city looking nice.”

In the city, an area that was added for the first time to the metro rankings, Grand Rapids Public Schools was ranked third out of 29 among districts. Kissling said the school district received the rating because of its high cumulative scores. In one category, that of voter turnout, the district ranked in first place.

Kissling noted that this rating shows very high parental involvement, a positive in the community. In addition, Grand Rapids was also the community that had the greatest number of schools of choice.

“Grand Rapids also has the most schools to choose from, and serves the most students in Kent County, although it is not the largest area in the county,” said Kissling. “We found that it was also the most diverse, with 32.7 percent of the population being non-white.”

These numbers were derived from the 2000 census, and while Kissling noted that working with three-year-old data was not ideal, it was used in order to create consistency.

Another topic the Grand Rapids Magazine staff found surprising was that of environmental contamination.

Each community reported how many contamination sites were located there; however, Kissling said, this doesn’t necessarily mean that one area is worse than another.

“A community may only have two contamination sites but if one is leaking and spreading waste, it is going to be more contaminated than, say, an area that reports having 10 contamination sites,” she said.

Kissling noted that this is just another reason why the numbers should be taken for what they are in every category.

“I think the biggest advantage of this report is that all of the figures and rankings are compiled in one spot. We have simply brought the communities the numbers; now it is up to community members to look at the numbers and see what is important to you,” said Kissling.

“Each member of the magazine staff found something different that surprised or disappointed them or that they found interesting. Having the information in one place allows people to intelligently assess their metro area as well as those around them.”

The data and rankings appear in the May 2003 issue of Grand Rapids Magazine.

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