As a former resident of downtown Billings, I feel like I've always had my finger on the pulse of our fine little city.

Long-term residents have told me that the area around my former Montana Avenue apartment, which was located just steps from the St. Vincent DePaul Mission, used to be skid row. It's since been cleaned up to a degree and is now home to several fine dining restaurants, brew pubs and the arts.

Despite the homeless problem, it has still flourished and there's a congenial, if not slightly uneasy, rapport between residents and the indigent.

Despite the recent increase in meth use in the Magic City and the crime associated with it, Billings, according to BestPlaces.net, is the eighth most secure small town in the United States. It just proves that despite our city's new challenges there has still been a lot of progress made as compared to 10 years ago.