Tacoma goes from 'wired' to 'worst': We're
all stressed out
Tacoma News Tribune
You thought you were wired, Tacoma. You thought your name
You thought wrong.
Embrace your new title, bestowed by Sperling's Best Places:
Stress City, U.S.A.
The dubious honor arrived Friday, when Sperling's, a demographic
research firm based in Portland, released its first list of
America's most- and least-stressful cities.
Tacoma outpointed edgy juggernauts such as Miami, New York
and Las Vegas to reach the winner's circle. At the other end
of the spectrum, Albany, N.Y., led the list of America's mellowest
outposts, followed by Harrisburg, Pa., and Orange County,
Calif. According to Bert Sperling, president of Sperling's,
Tacoma's victory hinged on the city's all-around performance
in nine statistical categories - unemployment, suicide, alcoholism,
divorce rates, violent crime, property crime, commute times,
mental health and climate.
"Basically there wasn't one thing that stood out,"
said Sperling, who called himself the "King of Stress"
Friday, as calls from wounded cities poured into his office.
Visitors to Tacoma's Museum of Glass couldn't see the logic
Friday. They included a crowd of home-school students from
Monroe, led by teacher Julie Martinoli.
Hearing of Tacoma's new rating, she turned to the children
gathered around her.
"Have we had a great day or a stressful day?" she
"A great day!" they shouted.
Near the steps leading up from the museum's hot-shop cone,
Federal Way resident and business owner Maggie Buckner snorted
at the stress rating.
"I come to Tacoma because it eases my stress,"
she said, describing walks along Ruston Way and her excitement
at the city's continuing revitalization.
She wanted to know where the ratings came from. When she
learned it was a Portland company, she snorted again.
"There you go," she said, and suggested that Portland
residents don't acknowledge the scent of their emissions.
However, Sperling listed Portland sixth among high-stress
cities, and noted that the Northwest's recent economic struggles
contribute to the ratings.From his vantage point in Portland,
he sees Tacoma making strides toward improvement.
"It's coming back," he said. "The revitalization
efforts that are going on are paying fruit."
Besides, he added, being No. 1 isn't all bad.
"Just because we live in the most-stressful city or
the city that's worst for sleep doesn't necessarily mean that
we are condemned by that - we can all take control of our
own life. One thing that I've found is that every city is
His company performs various city ratings, including Money
magazine's annual list of Best Places to Live in America.
Tacoma's No. 1 rating on the stress list appears on the company's
Web site (www.bestplaces.net), along with a brief explanation:
"Tacoma residents contend with one of the highest divorce
rates in the country, as well as one of the highest unemployment
rates. It's cloudy in Tacoma much of the time, and the suicide
and property crime rates are high. On a brighter note, Tacomans
can feel safe from bodily harm thanks to the low violent crime
Unemployment, crime, commute times and suicide carried the
most weight in the rating system, Sperling said. Cloudy days
and alcohol consumption carried the least. The statistics
came from sources such as the U.S. Census and the FBI.
At Sam & Terry's barber shop on Martin Luther King Jr.
Way, patrons and employees were surprised by the city's rating.
"Naaah," said owner Sam Daniels, 78, who came to
Tacoma in 1958. "I don't think so. I try not to worry
Neeltae Scott, cutting a customer's hair nearby, nodded in
"You got to go to the Midwest to be stressed out,"
he said. "Ain't no stress here."