What's the best neighborhood in Madison? The worst?
Andrew Statz, Madison's fiscal efficiency auditor, won't hazard a guess. But he's been compiling lists of statistics on city neighborhoods as part of Madison's Neighborhood Indicators program.
Statz says the city is looking to measure crime, health, economic vitality, housing, schools, transportation and community involvement. The city is looking at 45 indicators, all existing data, available in a format that allows for side-by-side comparisons at www.planning.wisc.edu/madison/snapshot.html.
The city has already posted data on five neighborhoods (Bram's Addition, Burr Oaks, Heritage Heights, Orchard Ridge and Waunona Broadway-Lakepoint), but plans to add the rest by early July.
"Some people think a neighborhood with big old trees is a healthy neighborhood. I think that's true," Statz says. "But it's not part of the knowledge we're trying to get at."
The idea, borrowed from other cities, is to compile meaningful neighborhood statistics. Most people think of crime, but the city's neighborhood liaison, Joel Plant, says, "What we're really aiming for is quality of life."
City officials hope the stats will tell them when a neighborhood is in distress or needs help. "We may have some neighborhoods that are suffering silently, that aren't politically connected," Statz says.
But Madison will avoid ranking the neighborhoods, as did Charlotte, N.C. "Congratulations, you live in the worst neighborhood in town," Statz says of that approach. "How do you determine that? And what does it tell you?"