WaPo columnist Marc Fisher-who I know and have spoken to on many occasions and whose views and writing I very much admire - questions my own priorities for choosing where my family and I live.
In the end, however, it seems Richard Florida chooses where to live more the way many of us do rather than the way he advises in his books: He doesn't necessarily go where the most creative and exciting people are; rather, he goes where he gets the best job. There's not the least bit of shame in that, but Florida's answer to "Who's Your City?" may well be "whoever's making it worth my while."
He's right. I've said on many occasions our decision to leave Washington DC was bittersweet. We loved our house, our neighborhood, our friends and the community. On many levels DC was great "fit" for us. The main reason I moved to Toronto, as I've said many times, is a once in a lifetime opportunity to build a major think tank around place, creativity and prosperity issues. I had to struggle to raise research fund in the states, so the prospect of heading a well-funded research institute at a major university was, for me or just about any body a non-brainer.
In fact, Fisher identifies the very reason I wrote Who's Your City? Finding a community that fits you best involves a series of trade-offs among job and career; relationships and family; community, climate and lifestyle; amenities and interests; life-stage and personality. Yes, I moved for career. But who argue that Toronto is not a great city. In many ways -though not in all ways, and certainly not as a getting-flabby cyclist enduring a cold and snowy winter - it fits us as well or better than DC. It's not a far-off remote out-of-the-way destination.
When Rana and I looked at all the dimensions of the move, and weighed the trade-offs against one another, Toronto won out. But we have nothing but fond memories of DC and I find it one of the greatest places in the world. I am constantly recommending it to our family and friends as a great place for them to live.
In fact, when I decided to move from Pittsburgh several years ago I made a rudimentary spreadsheet (sort of an early template for some of the ideas in Who's Your City?) and guess which two cities came out on top - DC and Toronto, virtually tied. I almost moved to Toronto, actually, at the time.
Fisher also chastises me for our choice of a particular neighborhood.
For reasons that always baffled me, this great bard of urban vibrancy, a latter-day Jane Jacobs (the spiritual grandmother of the smart-growth movement), chose to live in about as anti-urban a city setting as could be had: far from a Metro station, way up on a hill, in a beautiful spot right near Rock Creek Park, well away from any of the amenities he preaches about in his books.to
He and I actually talked about this a great deal. My book says a person's choice of neighborhood is critical and ... well ... very personal. It has to fit your life-stage, life-style, family and personality. It's not a one-size-fits-all thing. Actually our neighborhood is Toronto - Rosedale - is very similar to the one we lived in in DC. It's an older, green neighborhood, a bit closer to the city center, on the ravine - Toronto's answer to Rock Creek Park. Rana and I got married when we lived in DC. I'm 50. We want to have a family. So we wanted to live in a house in a community that's not too congested but near urban amenities, that is near parks and open space where our (future) kids and (current and future) nieces and nephews can play, and where we can walk and cycle. That's our choice and the kind of neighborhood that best fits us. Others like things funkier and more urban. Others prefer more suburban and even more rural.
And that's the real point of Who's Your City? - that each of us has to make that choice, weighing all the possible criteria and considerations, in a way that fits us and our families best. We could not be happier in our new neighborhood, just like we loved our old one as well.