What makes a community livable?

CNNMoney this week issued its annual list of America’s best places to live, and Sharon came in first. Two other Massachusetts towns were also on the list: Westford at No. 11 and Shrewsbury at No. 15.

Call me cynical, but those three communities wouldn’t immediately come to mind if I was asked for the best places to live in the United States. But then the goal of the best-places-to-live-list is not to actually find the best places to live, but to drive traffic to the magazine’s website. In that regard, the list works really well.

I plugged Sharon and Money magazine into Google and out popped more than 29,000 references. It seems like every media outlet across the country has some town on the list in its circulation area, so not surprisingly each outlet eagerly reports the “news” that a town in their area made the list. For a sampling, check here, here, and here.

But look a little closer and the list doesn’t stand up to scrutiny. First off, the survey has an anti-urban bias. It’s automatically assumed that the best places to live are places where the population is between 10,000 and 50,000. For some reason, New York, San Francisco, and Boston can’t compete against Sharon, Westford, and Shrewsbury.

The methodology isn’t consistent from year to year. Every other year the allowable population range seems to change. In 2009 and 2011, the range was 8,500 to 50,000; Milton ranked in the top 10 both of those years. In 2010 and 2012, the range was 50,000 to 300,000; Milton disappeared and Newton took its place in the top 10. In 2013, Milton and Newton both vanished from the list, even though it’s doubtful their “best place” status had changed significantly.

The folks at CNNMoney screen out communities where median income is greater than 200 percent or less than 85 percent of the statewide average and where 95 percent of the residents are of one race. Education and crime stats are thrown into the mix, as are economic and housing factors. There’s also a limit of three towns per state and one per county.

What about night life? What about restaurants? What about professional sports?

                                                                                                                                                                                  –BRUCE MOHL


State Sen. Dan Wolf continues his public appeal to the state Ethics Commission ruling that he must step down or divest his ownership in Cape Air to alleviate a conflict of interest violation. CommonWealth reports the commission wrongly ruled that Wolf must abandon his run for governor, admitting if he steps down as senator, they have no oversight of him as a private citizen.

Broadside’s Joe Battenfeld interviews Somerville Mayor Joe Curtatone about his push for a ballot measure that would bar casinos in Massachusetts.

Governing magazine examines pension reform efforts across the country, including Massachusetts, Connecticut, and Rhode Island.

A Herald editorial says that state Sen. Karen Spilka couldn’t possibly have been blindsided by the tech tax she voted for and is now trying to overturn. The editorial says the congressional hopeful “is either lying” about the tax, “or she wasn’t paying attention” when critics were ripping it.


A judge issues a brief reprieve for a group of Charlestown residents who live on houseboats and are facing eviction from the pier where they tie up their homes.

Sandisfield voters reject medical marijuana dispensaries.

The Wall Street Journal examines the contradictions and tensions woven throughout modern-day South Boston.

Somerville business owners worry about retail gentrification in in the future Green Line terminus of Union Square.

The Cambridge Chronicle looks inside the mechanics of a City Hall workplace discrimination claim.


A brave Jane Richard and her family are back home in Dorchester. Here, via the Dorchester Reporter, is the full statement the family released.

A task force report says UMass Dartmouth, where bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev was a student and where he returned in the days following the attack, effectively carried out its post-bombing response.

The State Police sergeant who created a stir with his unauthorized release of photographs of a bloodied Tsarnaev at the scene of his capture in Watertown has been reassigned to the midnight shift at the Athol barracks.


New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie told a closed-door luncheon at the Republican National Committee’s meeting in Boston yesterday that he’ll “do anything I need to do to win.” His speech got mostly positive reviews except for from a few conservatives, including one who called him “a pompous ass.”

The National Security Agency broke privacy rules thousands of times per year since 2008, according to an internal audit obtained by the Washington Post.

A Department of Defense review of security measures to guard against terrorist attacks at the country’s nuclear plants specifically cites Pilgrim nuclear power plant in Plymouth as vulnerable to an attack from water.

An Arkansas state board suspends all registrations for school employees to carry guns after the attorney general rules that the approvals violated the law, the Arkansas News reports.


Lawrence Mayor William Lantigua brings long-time political ally Isabel Melendez aboard as his campaign manager and says his major accomplishments as mayor include repaving many of the city’s streets, balancing four budgets, ushering in automated garbage collection, and inviting a state takeover of the city’s schools, the Eagle-Tribune reports.

An overhaul of the Boston Redevelopment Authority is in the cards of the administration of several would-be next mayors of Boston.

Support is ramping up among national Republicans to choose moderators and broadcast outlets for their primary debates who will ask questions their candidates want to answer.


The Massachusetts unemployment rate rises to 7.2 percent in July, the highest since September 2011, WBUR reports.

Will traffic gridlock choke Boston’s booming Seaport District?

New York plans to inject cash into its public housing system by constructing market-rate housing on the housing system’s property.

A new Whole Foods in Lynnfield sports a small farm on its rooftop, the Item reports.

Malden native and AIDS Ride founder Dan Pallotta, a lightning rod in the nonprofit field for his penchant for turning a buck off fundraising, gives a controversial TED talk about the role of capitalism in charity instead of vice versa.


Archbishop Williams High School in Braintree is expanding to add 7th and 8th grade next year.

The Berkshire Eagle looks at how one school gets tidied up for the new academic year.


Boston hospital executives did just fine, thank you, in 2011.


A City Journal article debunks concerns about fracking.

Fishermen and scientists catch and tag their first great white shark, dubbed Betsy, in Chatham waters.


Jared Remy, the son of Red Sox broadcaster Jerry Remy, is being held in the murder of his girlfriend, the Globe reports.

The Norfolk District Attorney’s office has determined the fatal shooting in Quincy of a mentally ill New Bedford man by a state trooper two months ago was justified.

Customers of the Lucky 7 arcades in Gloucester and Danvers, shut down by Attorney General Martha Coakley as alleged illegal gambling facilities, grumble that the points they earned can’t be redeemed for prizes, the Gloucester Times reports.

Suffolk DA Dan Conley plans to sit down with Whitey Bulger’s victims.


The author of the classic New York Post headline “Headless Body in Topless Bar,” a 40-year Post veteran, is let go in a round of budget cuts.