San Francisco Rails Against Study After Being Called 'Worst-Run City'

San Francisco city is defending itself after being branded as the "worst-run city" by a WalletHub study that rated the city based on multiple indicators.

City Controller Ben Rosenfield and Chief Economist Ted Egan said that the findings of the study were flawed, KRON 4 reported on Thursday.

The city was ranked 149 out of the list of 150 "best-run cities" with Washington, D.C., ranked last place on the list. Oakland, in 143 place, was rated the second-worst California city on the list.

The WalletHub rankings, which were published on June 21, were based on financial stability, education, health, safety and crime, economy, and infrastructure and pollution, according to the website. The study ranked Idaho's Boise and Nampa cities as the top two best-run cities on the list.

San Francisco called 'worst-run city'
San Francisco city has defended itself after being branded as the "worst-run city" by a WalletHub study that rated the city based on multiple indicators. Pictured above is the Oakland Bay Bridge in San Francisco. Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

"You've chosen to define a well-run city as one that has high scores for what you term 'Quality of City Services,' relative to the size of its budget. The implication is that in well-run cities, residents get high-quality services and don't have to pay too much for them. Fair enough," Rosenfield and Egan have stated. "But very few of the of 38 indicators that make up "Quality of City Services" are under a given city's control."

They also argued that city governments themselves don't manage country hospitals or operate school districts. Also, poverty rates and life expectancy are beyond city governments' control.

"It's also inappropriate to benchmark public services against per-capita budget because the cost of government and residents' ability to pay for public services both vary widely across the country," said Egan and Rosenfield.

However, a spokesperson for WalletHub told Newsweek in an email that "the premise of this report is that it is a city's administration that needs to ensure sustainable development that allows for its citizens to have a good quality of life, earning opportunities and a healthy environment."

"Granted, cities' administrations cannot fully control those outcomes directly, but they can definitely influence them in a large measure. After all, if the administration of a city is not responsible and cannot control poverty rates or life expectancy (either directly or indirectly), then who can?" the spokesperson added.

San Francisco was among the five cities branded with long-term debt outstanding per capita, according to the WalletHub study. The other cities were New York; Atlanta; Nashville, Tennessee; and the District of Columbia.

"Regarding debt, at the end of the day, people living in a certain city are the ones who will contribute to paying it off. The taxes they pay will be used to reimburse outstanding debt. High ratings highlight the ability of a city administration to collect taxes and repay its debt," the WalletHub spokesperson explained.

However, Rosenfield and Egan argued that "local government budget as a percentage of county GDP would have been a far better measure."

"In 2020, San Francisco's GDP per capita was nearly 8 times the per capita GDP of Canyon County, Idaho: home to Nampa, the top city on your list.… That fact alone should cause people to question any index that puts San Francisco near the bottom and Nampa at the top, but at the very least it highlights the problem created by your choice of metric," they added.

They also pointed out that the study shouldn't have referred to San Francisco as just a city in the first place because it is a consolidated city and county that functions with more responsibilities that other cities don't often bear.

"San Francisco is among the most consolidated governments in the country—a city, a county, a transit agency, an airport, a port, and a utility district serving large swaths of the Bay Area," Rosenfield and Egan stated.

They continued: "Comparing the relative budget and debt of all of these functions to stand-alone cities like Nampa and almost all others on your list is just a false comparison, unless you were to add to their budgets their share of their county's budget for health services they rely on, the regional transit district that runs their buses, and the utility that provides their residents with water, sewer, and power."

"This does not sound like a description of one of the worst-run cities in the country," Rosenfield and Egan concluded.

Newsweek reached out to WalletHub media office for comment.

Update 7/1/22, 11 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from WalletHub media spokesperson.