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Worst? Not by a long shot

By Tony Clark

There’s an old saying that goes something like, “I can talk about my family all I want, but you better not say a word about them.”

That thought immediately crossed my mind when I read the May 14 post on USA Today’s website, “These are the worst cities to live in, state by state.” Nothing more than typical Internet clickbait, it was a list compiled by the website 24/7 Wall Street based on various statistical indicators that would deem a city unlivable.

Spoiler alert: if you haven’t already heard, Franklin was named Virginia’s worst city to live in.

To make matters worse, WAVY 10, Hampton Roads’ NBC affiliate, sent a reporter to town that day to do a story on the ranking. To some people he spoke with on his visit, the reporter cited a “slow news day” as their reason for picking up the story. Slow news day, indeed. Clearly, there was a lull that morning in the multiple murders and bank robberies that take place daily in Hampton Roads’ “better” cities.

Local reaction to the website story and television piece was strong and swift. According to the informal poll on our website and a number of comments made on social media, the vast majority agree that, while Franklin has its share of issues — as does any other community we can think of — Franklin’s appearance on the list is total nonsense. And I agree. You can’t measure a town’s worth by statistical data, even had it all been accurate. A town’s worth is measured by the spirit of the people that live there. That being the case, Franklin isn’t the worst. Not by a long shot.

Again, we’re not perfect. Yes, there have been floods and business closings and crime, things that to varying degrees all communities deal with. But there are also new businesses that have come to town and significant investment in the community by those who were already here. Business and community leaders have worked tirelessly to find ways to make Franklin a better version of itself. Educators have fought valiantly to rebuild Franklin’s once-crumbling school system.

We have not, and will not, go gently into that good night.

This is still a good reminder that we do have things we need to work on. Our schools need to be better still. Despite heroic work by an undersized police department, crime is present. Blight remains an unsolved problem. All of these issues are obstacles to significant economic growth. We know what needs to be fixed. We just need to get busy fixing.

To those who know and love Franklin, keep the faith. Keep striving to make this community one that we can all be proud of. Don’t let those who sit at a computer in some far away land dictate the worth of this city when they don’t begin to know the whole story. They don’t know us. We do.

To those that complain about how bad they think things are, I ask you this: What efforts have you made to make this city a better place to work and live? Are you a part of the problem, or a part of a solution? Do you merely sit on the sidelines and lament our troubles, or have you been willing to put your money or your muscle where your mouth is?

We’re not perfect, not by a long shot, but neither is Franklin the worst place in Virginia to live. Those of us who choose to live and work here know better. Those who judge us from afar do not.

Tony Clark is the publisher of The Tidewater News. Contact him at 562-3187 or tony.clark@tidewaternews.com.