Riverside Sets the Record Straight

Tuesday, December 18th, 2012

As the largest city in a metropolitan statistical area (MSA), Riverside will always be listed first in its official name (Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA) based on the naming policies established in federal guidelines.  While that may benefit the community in building name recognition, it can be a disservice to the progress, innovation and efforts of our residents, businesses, schools and civic leaders when media irresponsibly uses only “Riverside” when describing unflattering statistics of the MSA that are not accurate for the city itself.

In response to the latest occurrence in which Forbes cited “Riverside” as one of the dirtiest cities in America based on metro area data, City officials decided it was time to educate the media on the inaccurate perceptions that their misleading naming creates for Riverside and many other forward-thinking cities in similar situations. The following is the letter that was sent to the author of the December 11, 2012 article, Christopher Helman.

While our job is never done, Riverside is and should be proud of the local, national and global best-practices in environmental sustainability that have been successfully developed and enhanced by our community.

Dear Mr. Helman,

The following is in response to your online article “The 10 dirtiest cities in America” posted on Tuesday, Dec 11, 2012.  In that piece, Riverside, California was listed in the Top 10.  Unfortunately, your article reflects the City of Riverside as “dirtier” than other cities and neglects to clearly identify the distinction between an individual city and a metropolitan statistical area.  It is our position that the City of Riverside stands out as an exception and is leading the way in environmental stewardship and sustainability.

As is stated in the body of the article, Forbes’ research is based on Sperling’s Index which ranks “metro areas” also known as metropolitan statistical areas (MSAs) — in our case the Riverside-San Bernardino-Ontario MSA (pop. 4.2 million).  Unfortunately, Forbes has mislead the reader in the headline by using the word “city” as the identifier.  The reality is that few readers know that MSA or “metro area” data lumps multiple cities and often times more than one County into the mix.  Compounding the matter, Forbes’ list in the article shortens the MSA reference to read Riverside, Calif and that, combined with the article headline, leads the reader to assume that the “City” of Riverside alone is the receiver of the undesirable prize.  It is unfortunate that Riverside (and other forward thinking cities) get the “black eye” for the occasional less-than-flattering statistics associated with the MSA.

In response, we would like to highlight that the City of Riverside is an environmental leader – having adopted numerous policies to improve the environment and has received numerous recognitions for the same.  In 2009 Riverside was designated as the first-ever Emerald City awarded by the California Department of Conservation to recognize sustainable green initiatives and Riverside’s commitment to helping the State achieve State environmental priorities.  Riverside was also named 2012’s Most Intelligent Community in the World by Intelligent Communities Forum.

Riverside Public Utility has received multiple awards, including the 2011 Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies (AMWA) Platinum Award for Utility Excellence, which recognizes the extraordinary performance of water agencies to create a sustainable utility producing ample supplies of clean, safe drinking water.  The City also received the Clean Air Award Among Leaders  Combating Southland Air Pollution for the City of Riverside “Grease to Gas to Power” Project, was named the #1 Green Fleet in America and the list goes on.  View our City award page for more located at www.riversideca.gov/awards.asp.  Additionally, the City recycles 69% of its waste – nearly 20% more than the state mandate.

Riverside leaders recognize the importance of sustainability and as a result have placed environmental issues at the forefront of Riverside’s federal and state legislative agendas.  Riverside is actively working with representatives in Sacramento and Washington DC to tell our story and to help improve the environment and promote public health in our region.


We hope Forbes will recognize the frustration high-performing cities like Riverside experience when lumped together with MSA data that doesn’t reflect our efforts and achievements to improve the quality of life for our residents.