Best Thing, Worst Thing Project

This is a special project from City Council Chronicles. Every few weeks, Michael Karlik will visit a different city or town across North America. He will talk to people who live and work there and ask them the same two questions about their community:

  1. What is the best thing?
  2. What is the worst thing?

The things can be relatively small, like a good park or a bad intersection. Or they could be broad, like the weather. But they need to be something that other people can agree would be the best thing and the worst thing.

Episode 12: Pittsburgh, PA

October 8, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Pittsburgh had a reputation as a steel-producing city in Western Pennsylvania and now is known more for its robotics, technology, and medicine. It has a population of 300,000 and is defined by hills, rivers, and bridges. In our visit, we watch a high school team assemble robots with visiting Chinese students; attend a picnic in a park; and experience a Baptist church service. We also hear from a poet, a retired educator, a recently-returned young mother, and a “Girl of Steel.”

Episode 11: Toronto, Ontario

September 3, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

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Toronto is the most populous city in Canada and one of the most multicultural places in the world. It was amalgamated in 1998 from several smaller cities and is crisscrossed by streetcars and subways–although those are often a target of Torontonians’ frustrations. We will learn about lawn bowling from a senior citizens’ league, sample the merchandise in a sex shop, and experience a play-by-play of the Great Canadian Butter Tart Battle. Along the way, we will hear from an immigrant, a city councilor, pastry chefs, a musician, and an educator.

Episode 10: Richmond, Virginia

August 6, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: Main Street Station

Richmond is a city of 220,000 people and the capital of Virginia. It was also the capital of the Confederacy and that legacy still lingers. The James River provides recreational opportunities and the Amtrak station provides a connection to Washington, D.C. and beyond. During our visit, we stand in the middle of the water, attend a rally with the mayor, and visit a restaurant that will be gone in a year. We hear from a real estate agent, some college students, a teacher, a tour guide, people who have moved away and returned, and two political watchdogs.

Episode 9: Lake Forest, Illinois

July 9, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: Google Street View

Lake Forest is about 30 miles north of Chicago on the shores of Lake Michigan. With a population of 20,000, Lake Forest is very affluent, very tree-lined, and the home of Lake Forest College, a private liberal arts school. We hear from a city councilwoman about the most important location in the city, go pet some reptiles at an animal house, plant trees with college students, and visit a horse-riding academy for kids with disabilities.

Episode 8: Des Moines, Iowa

June 4, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Source: City of Des Moines

Des Moines–population 210,000–is the capital of Iowa. We hear from several residents about how Des Moines is on fire culturally. First, we visit a free art museum and then talk to a worldly t-shirt mogul with a Trump connection. Afterward, we go behind the scenes at the state capitol. We head into the afternoon with the grand opening of a community center, and end up in a dive bar by nightfall. Plus, you’ll see which attraction in Des Moines completely fascinated me!

Episode 7: Las Cruces, New Mexico

May 7, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Las Cruces is just one hour north of El Paso and the Mexican border in the hot desert of Doña Ana County, New Mexico. The population is 57 percent Latino. In this episode, we will watch a dust storm roll through the city, go on a nature hike in the Organ Mountains, and even get caught up in a medical emergency. We hear from a city councilor, a union president, a Belgian sailor, a classroom of college students, and my grandmother-in-law (who, by the way, makes a special request at the end of the episode).

Episode 6: Colby, Kansas

April 3, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: Google Street View

Colby is technically a city of 5,400 people in the northwest corner of Kansas–but it’s tempting to call this a “small town.” Agriculture is important here, but Colby also has a community college and medical center. In this episode, we tag along to a Rotary Club meeting, participate in a tornado drill, and try not to get blown away by some fierce wind. We hear from a librarian, a hospital executive, a newspaper publisher, a principal, a tax preparer, and a retired city employee.

Episode 5: Vail, Colorado

March 8, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:

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Photo source: Town of Vail

Vail is about 100 miles west of Denver in Eagle County, Colorado. Most people know Vail as home to the most popular ski resort in the country. But there is actually a town of 5,300 people who work at, ski on, or vacation near the resort. The town is fairly new–only 51 years old. It is a fantastic place for people who love the outdoors. But it is fairly remote in the Rocky Mountains. And it is increasingly adversarial for people who work there to also live nearby.  In this episode, we hear from a journalist, an events manager, a school board member, a house cleaner, and a rabbi.

Episode 4: Raymore,  Missouri

February 1, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: City of Raymore

Raymore is 25 miles south of Kansas City in Cass County, Missouri. The population is 20,000. It is largely a bedroom community for people working in the big city or in nearby Kansas. For a long time, Raymore was stagnant–hovering around 500 residents. But starting in the ’70s, the city grew up fast. It is largely white with a higher-than-average median income, and along the main highway are numerous retail and big box stores. Raymore also has had some interesting political twists and turns. In this episode, we hear from a librarian, a marketing analyst, a doctor, and a husband-and-wife pair that runs a newspaper.

Episode 3: Rockville, Maryland

January 11, 2017

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: City of Rockville

Rockville is 16 miles northwest of Washington, D.C. in Montgomery County, Maryland. The population is 64,000. It is the oldest community in this series–first settled around 1750. As the federal government expanded for each world war, the population of Rockville also grew because those workers wanted to live in a closeby suburb. The city is fairly ethnically diverse, with a large number of foreign-born residents. Rockville Town Square is a downtown commercial and retail hub–with an ice skating rink! In this episode, we hear from a political staffer, a scientist, an economic development specialist, and a college student.

Episode 2: Cheyenne, Wyoming

December 6, 2016

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: Greater Cheyenne Chamber of Commerce

Cheyenne is the capital of Wyoming, population 63,000. It is located in the southeast corner of the state just eight miles from the Colorado border. It exists thanks to the builders of the Transcontinental Railroad. Downtown is fairly compact, with the capitol building at the north end and the historic train station at the south. Government buildings are prevalent and some of the historic homes are quite nice. Although it is the largest city in Wyoming, the population has risen slowly and steadily. In this episode, we hear from a business owner, a firearms instructor, two Chamber of Commerce employees, and a former mayoral candidate.

Episode 1: Castle Rock, Colorado

November 9, 2016

This podcast is available on iTunesStitcherPlayer FM and right here:


Photo source: Town of Castle Rock

Castle Rock is a town of 56,000 people located in Douglas County, 30 miles south of Denver. It is named after a distinct rock formation at the north end of the historic downtown. Outside of downtown, there are also several office parks, subdivisions, and the Outlets retail area. Castle Rock’s population is largely wealthy and white. Historically, Douglas County has been rural–home to ranchers. In the last several decades, it has grown dramatically as a Denver suburb. In this episode, we hear from a businesswoman, a pastor, a former Navy SEAL, and the town’s mayor.