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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Spokane, A Reader’s Digest Kind Of Town

FROM FOR THE RECORD (Wednesday, March 19, 1997): Correction Spokane is among the cities featured in the new book “50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family,” but the cities are not ranked 1 to 50. A story in Tuesday’s Spokesman-Review incorrectly reported otherwise.

No sour grapes, Seattle. Don’t pout, Portland.

Just because it’s finally Spokane’s turn to shine in one of those fickle national “livability” surveys that you big boys seem to take turns winning.

According to the April issue of Reader’s Digest magazine, the Lilac City is the eighth-best place in America to raise a family. (For the record, Portland ranked 42nd and Seattle didn’t even make the top-50 cut.)

Reader’s Digest, working with the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research, asked more than 1,000 parents to rate 13 features the magazine deemed congenial to raising a family. Most important to the parents were a low crime rate, good schools, quality health care and a clean environment. At the bottom of their priority list were proximity to a major city, private schools and warm, sunny weather.

The magazine then matched those weighted criteria against statistics from 301 metropolitan areas and came up with its winners.

Sheboygan, Wis., finished first. The town of 51,000 got especially high marks for affordability and extracurricular school activities.

Bremerton - described by Reader’s Digest senior editor Dan Levine as having “views of almost paralyzing beauty” - finished fourth.

Levine visited Bremerton; Fort Collins, Colo.; and Spokane to “put a face on the statistics,” he explained from his Washington, D.C., office Tuesday.

During his three-day December stay in Spokane, Levine dropped by NorthTown shopping mall, dined at Patsy Clark’s and chatted up fans attending a wrestling match at Shadle Park High School.

What impressed him most were local parks and cultural activities - the symphony, minor-league sports and big-name concerts. “Spokane felt like a small town,” said Levine, “yet it had all the amenities of a much larger city.”

At first glance, Levine’s timing could have been better. He arrived just weeks after last fall’s ice storm ravaged the urban forest and knocked out power to thousands of homes.

“But the storm was an example of your community spirit,” he said. “Everyone I talked to told stories about how people pulled together during the crisis.”

One image Levine took home with him was artist Ken Spiering’s popular Red Wagon sculpture in Riverfront Park. “That giant Radio Flyer represented what the city is all about in terms of raising a family,” mused Levine. “Having a city that’s friendly for both parents and kids seemed important to Spokane.”

Reader’s Digest isn’t the only publication singing Spokane’s praise. The just-released book “50 Fabulous Places to Raise Your Family” by Melissa Giovagnoli (Career Press, $18.99) rates Spokane 49th nationally.

Spokane earned high marks for strong values, a good economy, wonderful weather and plenty of recreational opportunities. But we lost ground for poor air quality, a high sales tax and our isolation.

Oh well, it could be worse - Seattle and Portland aren’t even in the book.

, DataTimes

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