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April 10, 2013

One of the events at the Tom Tom Festival will be a debate on the question “Where’s Charlottesville Going? Austin VS Aspen VS Arlington?”

I am not sure why the options are limited to places beginning with the letter A. Should we consider dropping our C and H to leap on to the A list? Or is that the organizers just looked over a list of locales for possible models, and were too damn lazy to go beyond the first page or two. Even then they might have lit upon some more appropriate places, like Asheville or Amherst.

Let’s look at the facts:

Charlottesville, VA
A college town of 43,000. The center of a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) of 207,000.

Austin, TX
A state capital of 820,000. The center of an MSA of 1,716,000.

Aspen, CO
A ski resort town of 6,658. Not part of an MSA, it is the seat of Pitkin County, pop. 17,000.

Arlington, VA
A county of 221,000 (in only 26 sq. mi.). Part of an MSA of 5,700,000 centered on the capital of the USA.

Given that the most important fact about any community is its population, a quick glance at these figures shows that Charlottesville is not anything like these other places. It never will be anything like these other places. A state university does not make it Austin. A few tourists and flashes of wealth does not make it Aspen. A little bad traffic with Virginia license plates does not make it Arlington. If you want to see possible models for Charlottesville’s future you will have to look elsewhere.

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