WalletHub assesses America’s best- and worst-run cities. Spokane ranks #55; Seattle, #92; Tacoma, #138.

As you know, we’re remain deeply skeptical about the myriad click-bait “best-to-worst” asking schemes. Yet, we’re drawn to them, primarily because the underlying data are often interesting. So, with that confession out of the way, we point to WalletHub’s 2017 Best- and Worst-Run Cities in America rankings. WalletHub acknowledges the challenges facing urban leaders.

The governments of large cities, especially, can be more complex and difficult to manage than entire countries. In addition to representing the residents they serve, local leaders must balance the public’s diverse interests with the city’s limited resources. Consequently, not everyone’s needs can or will be met. Leaders must carefully consider which services are most essential, which agencies’ budgets to cut or boost, whether and how high to raise taxes, among other important decisions that affect the daily lives of city dwellers.

But how do we measure the effectiveness of local leadership? One way is by determining a city’s operating efficiency. In other words, we can learn how well city officials manage and spend public funds by comparing the quality of services residents receive against the city’s total budget.

Washington’s three largest metros do not fare well. Spokane comes in at No. 55; Seattle, ranks No. 92; and Tacoma is No. 138 out of 150 cities ranked. 

Here’s how WalletHub describes the assessment.

In order to determine the best- and worst-run cities in America, WalletHub’s analysts compared 150 of the most populated cities across six key categories: 1) Financial Stability, 2) Education, 3) Health, 4) Safety, 5) Economy and 6) Infrastructure & Pollution.

We evaluated those dimensions using 33 relevant metrics, which are listed below with their corresponding weights. Each metric was graded on a 100-point scale, with a score of 100 representing the highest quality of service.

Next, we calculated an overall “Quality of City Services” score for each city based on its weighted average across all the metrics. Finally, for each city, we divided the Quality of City Services score by the “Total Budget per Capita” (dollar amount) in order to construct a “Score per Dollar Spent” index — displayed as “Overall Rank” in the Main Findings table above — which we then used to rank-order the cities in our sample.

The report is nicely transparent, providing data sources and weights. And, certainly, “best run” doesn’t necessarily mean best place. The top five cities, in order, are: Nampa, ID; Provo, UT; Boise, ID; Missoula, MT; and Lexington-Fayette, KY. That might lead you to conclude the metrics tend to reward relatively homogenous, smaller communities. And, we think you’d be right.

Enjoy and discuss.