Report labels Franklin as ‘worst city in Virginia’

Published 12:25 am Saturday, May 18, 2019


The city got an unexpected punch to its reputation earlier this week when USA Today listed Franklin as “the worst city to live in Virginia.” Reportedly, the information originally comes from 24/7 Wall St. — a self-described corporation that publishes online financial news and opinions — which looked at factors such as employment, property values, crime and proximity to services for its criteria.

On its website,, the description states that the articles are just the opinions of the writers. In this case, analyst Samuel Stebbins, who stated that the news service made an index of 25 measures in four categories that were used to identify the worst cities of each state. Places with populations less than 8,000 were not included in the analysis. The categories were affordability, community, economy and quality of life.

The article describes Franklin:

• Population: 8,334

• Median home value: $186,100 (state $255,800)

• Poverty rate: 16.6 percent (state 11.2 percent)

• Violent crimes per 100,000 people: 364 (state 208)

“An estimated 9.3 percent of workers in Franklin, Virginia, are out of a job, the highest unemployment rate of any city in the state and more than double the 4.1 percent national unemployment rate. The area’s weak job market may partially explain the population decline in Franklin. Over the last five years, the number of people living in the city fell by 2.3 percent.

“Crime can detract from the overall quality of life in any city, and property crimes — like burglary and motor vehicle theft — are relatively common in Franklin. Franklin’s property crime rate of 5,636 incidents per 100,000 in 2017 is nearly the highest of any city in the state and well above the U.S. property crime rate of 2,362 per 100,000.”

It’s a statement that several residents quickly disputed, starting with City of Franklin Mayor Frank Rabil. He said he was “disappointed, if not shocked” by the article, and thinks that the analysis was based on what he called “stale data.”

For example, the mayor noted that the story listed the city unemployment rate at 9.3 percent. Rabil said that at one time the level was more than 12 percent after International Paper closed in 2009. But, he thinks that it’s now more likely 4.3 percent.

As for the crime rate, the mayor noted that was based on incidents per 100,000, and wonders if the analysts re-calibrated for the city’s population.

“I think a responsible journalist would have checked [those numbers],” said Rabil, who added that the writer has been contacted and invited to visit Franklin.

“We have to accentuate the positive things,” he continued. “We have had two Start Up campaigns that brought in six new businesses, and we’re going to have our third Start Up campaign by the end of May. The Downtown Franklin Association received national recognition. Repair Tech, an existing business, is investing $1 million-plus in its move [to Pretlow Industrial Park]. Paul D. Camp Community College is working to identify the skills that businesses need locally. I applaud them. All of our schools are fully accredited.

“There are a lot of positives.”

The mayor acknowledged that the city has to address legitimate concerns, but is “moving forward” to address them.

In response to a request for comment, City Manager Amanda Jarratt emailed: “The March 2019 unemployment rate in the City of Franklin is 4.3 percent … I shared with WAVY TV 10 that this was unfortunate press for the City of Franklin and that it appears the information it was based on is a bit skewed and dated. The City of Franklin has made effective positive change over the last few years and will continue to move in the right direction. The City of Franklin has overcome a devastating flood, and the loss of a major employer over the last twenty years and has come back even stronger. Our downtown area is thriving, new businesses are moving into the community and the leadership of Franklin City Council is moving the City in the right direction. I am positive about the future of the City of Franklin. Like all communities we have our challenges but we are proactively trying to address them and make the City area better for all of our citizens.”

A few other people randomly chosen shared their thoughts:

• Angelia Cobb said, “Everything is not bad in Franklin. But wherever you go, there will be problems. Life is what you make of it.”

• Paige Cobb, who lives in Branchville, said she prefers living in country, but if she had to be in Franklin, she’d be fine with it. Cobb also pointed out that the city’s crime rate has dropped considerably in the past five years.

• Angela Buckingham said she’s worked all her life in Franklin, and enjoys the people who are “friendly customers.”