Alabama wellbeing falters in latest poll

The state ranked low on CNBC’s latest scorecard for states.

By Spencer Main
News Producer

Lynyrd Skynyrd might have to change the title of its most popular song. In an annual report, CNBC rated Alabama as the worst state to live in across America.

The study collected economic, health and environmental factors when conducting research.

In a response to the ranking, Tuscaloosa Mayor Walt Maddox urged the state to find solutions. With a potential run for governor in the shadows, Maddox questioned the current direction and wellbeing of Alabama.

“Alabama ranked worst state to live in,” Maddox said via Twitter. “We can do better. It’s time to make Alabama proud again.”

Tuscaloosa City Councilman Kip Tyner was surprised by the recent findings and was quick to disagree.

“I think that’s hogwash,” Tyner said. “I mean when you look at quality of life issues, I don’t think we can be beat for a city our size.”

Tyner said he thinks locals are most troubled by the growth in apartments across Tuscaloosa. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, less than half of the housing across town is owner-occupied. The national rate is 64 percent and Tuscaloosa is roughly 25 percent less.

“You know zoning is a big issue,” Tyner said. “I think if you went on the street and asked people what Tuscaloosa’s biggest problem is they’d say its apartments.”

After the approval of short-term rentals in Tuscaloosa, Tyner said it didn’t take long for citizens to provide feedback.

“They are upset that they were left out. That it wasn’t city-wide,” Tyner said. “I just met with somebody today in my district that has been apparently doing it but the thing about it is it’s still illegal.”

Tyner described the new developments as a pilot program. After recording public feedback, Tyner is encouraged by the potential for expansion of the ordinance, potentially opening the door for short-term rentals across the city. He said outcries from citizens will fast-track expansion of the ordinance.

Emily Terry, a junior at the University of Alabama, said she’s noticed a severe decline in living conditions and accessibility to necessities in the last 10 years. When Terry guessed the poverty rate of Tuscaloosa, she estimated it was around 10 percent.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the city of Tuscaloosa has a poverty rate of 25 percent. The state poverty rate is 18.5 percent and the national average is 13.5 percent.

Terry was surprised by the high poverty rate but wasn’t shocked by Alabama’s ranking in the CNBC poll.

“I would say we’re definitely in the top 15,” Terry said. “People who are from the state will not claim that.”

Corruption, tradition and lack of recognition stood out to Terry as the qualities of living needing the most improvement across Alabama.

If elected as mayor of Tuscaloosa or governor of Alabama, Terry said she’d focus on advocating for simple solutions to fundamental issues.

“I would definitely do what I could to bring in some of the national solutions down to the state,” Terry said.