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Eden Prairie or Columbia/Ellicott City? You be the judge

Yesterday I wrote about Money Magazine’s list of its best small cities to live. Eden Prairie, Minn., edged out Ellicott City/Columbia for first place thanks to attributes like “gently rolling hills,” “plenty of outer beauty” and other idyllic, Midwestern traits of the type long chronicled by writers like Garrison Keillor.

But consider:

1. The magazine says one of the headlining reasons the Minnesota town wins is because it has “a dynamite economy.”  But then it turns around and says not only does Ellicott City/Columbia have a jobless rate “just as enviable as Eden Prairie’s,” but it is an “economic powerhouse.”  I’m not sure how dynamite compares quantitatively with a powerhouse, but by Money Magazine’s standards, the difference is apparently a measly .1 percent.  Come on.  Negligible at best.

2. Ellicott City and Columbia’s primary employers are those of the future –- technology, intelligence, nerd stuff.  Stuff that requires advanced degrees and people who actually, not figuratively, are rocket scientists.  Eden Prairie’s big jobs, according to the magazine, are trucking, manufacturing hearing aids, and football.  Really?

3. Ellicott City/Columbia is diverse.  Eden Prairie, like much of Minnesota is not.  Money Magazine even gives a nod to the 17 percent black and 14 percent Asian population of the former, while delicately not mentioning minorities in the latter piece (though there’s a nice photo of two white kids and a dog).

4. Our sales tax is lower.

5. We have more restaurants, bars, and museums in the area –- more than five times as many as Eden Prairie for the last category.  They win for the number of movie theaters, but that’s just anti-social.

6. And finally, our average low temperature in January is a chilly 22.7 degrees; theirs is an Arctic 3.7.  We may have swampy summers, but no one likes a Midwest winter.

Not even you, Money Magazine.