Saturday, September 05, 2015

I called this place ‘America’s worst place to live.’ Then I went there.

By Christopher Ingraham September 3, WashPost

I drove up to the Red Lake County, Minn., courthouse not knowing exactly what to expect. This was, after all, the seat of the county that I had just a few days ago proclaimed, in a story, the "absolute worst place to live in America." Residents had been outraged. A county commissioner told the state's largest newspaper I could kiss his butt. Would I be arrested? Beat? Flogged with a hotdish?

But what greeted me instead last week was pure spectacle. A drum line from nearby Lafayette High School performed a routine on the courthouse steps. Officials and county residents, beaming and full of civic pride, lined up to shake my hand and welcome me to their home. And a gaggle of local press was there, cameras rolling, to cover it all.

As a reporter, I'm used to folks disagreeing with me, especially when covering contentious topics like guns, gay marriage and drug policy. But until I wrote about the U.S. Department of Agriculture's natural amenities index -- which rates and ranks counties on measures of scenery and climate -- I had never been disagreed with so much.

And so politely.

Minnesota, you see, ended up looking less-than-great in the USDA's ranking. And the state's Red Lake County, five hours northwest of Minneapolis in the flat fertile basin of the Red River valley, came in dead-last in the nation. The summers are hot, the winters are cold, and there aren't any actual lakes in the county -- all of which contribute to a low score by the USDA's criteria.

(More here.)

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