Rallying Against "Most Miserable City" Rankings

Posted by Tim Mikulski, Feb 24, 2012 2 comments

Tim Mikulski

Earlier this month, Forbes released another one of its ranking lists, which I assume are only created in order to gain attention and web traffic---"America's Most Miserable Cities."

This list is one that tends to pick on the same communities that have been forced into our heads as places you don't want to live, work, go to school, etc., yet, there are residents doing all of these things in each and every one of them.

As someone who used to work in Camden, NJ, one of those cities that is constantly appearing on Forbes' similar "America's Most Dangerous Cities" list, I understand what that label can do to the residents of a community that already can't seem to catch a break.

Which leads me to the fact that Forbes declared Miami #1 on the "America's Most Miserable Cities" list. Never mind the fact the author of the main post is their sports business writer, but the fact that such a vibrant city, known for its arts and culture is #1 on that list is a bit surprising.

Well, here is the criteria they used: "We looked at 10 factors for the 200 largest metro areas and divisions in the U.S. Some are serious, like violent crime, unemployment rates, foreclosures, taxes (income and property), home prices, and political corruption. Other factors we included are less weighty, like commute times, weather, and how the area’s pro sports teams did. While sports, commuting, and weather can be considered trivial by many, they can be the determining factor in the level of misery for a significant number of people."

Very scientific.

But there's more---a number of the cities on this list also appear on the "most dangerous" list, too. Talk about kicking a community when it's down.

The rest of the "miserable" list includes Detroit, Flint (MI), West Palm Beach (FL), Sacramento, Chicago, Fort Lauderdale, Rockford (IL), Warren (MI), Stockton (CA), Cleveland, Lansing (MI), Akron, Merced (CA), Memphis, Bakersfield (CA), Vallejo (CA), Modesto (CA), and Gary (IN).

But, kudos to the arts community in Toledo for utilizing a previously-scheduled city council hearing to address their city's appearance on the list:

"Leaders of Toledo's biggest cultural institutions Wednesday had a resounding message for Forbes magazine: Toledo is not a miserable city.

Top executives for the Toledo Museum of Art, Toledo Zoo, Toledo Symphony Orchestra, and Arts Commission gathered at a council hearing to highlight their organizations' achievements, plans, and beneficial impact on the community. Together, they outlined dozens of projects, partnerships, educational initiatives and cultural events, presenting a picture of Toledo that contradicts a recently released ranking of the city by Forbes as the nation's eighth most miserable place to live.

From zoo-led programs for schools to traveling orchestra performances to international art conferences, Toledo's cultural offerings provide both entertainment and economic stimulus to the region, the speakers said.

'I wish we had a whole audience of people here who every day say there is nothing to do in Toledo,' Councilman Mike Craig said after listening to the fact-filled presentations, which lasted about two hours. 'You just presented about 200 to 300 events that you can [attend] in Toledo,' many for free or at low cost.

Councilman Rob Ludeman, who arranged for the hearing, said he did so before learning about the Forbes ranking, which the magazine released Friday. However, he and other councilmen seized on the information as evidence that Toledo is far from depressing.

Mr. Ludeman also stressed that the institutions inject millions of dollars and provide hundreds of jobs for the local economy.

'We didn't even hit all the arts," he said, adding ballet to the list of the city's cultural offerings. 'Economic development is...not just business or government-driven. It's driven by other entities like the arts, sports, and education.'"

I hope that every one of the 20 cities on the miserable list responds the way Toledo or Grand Rapids did last year when a similar list was published.

But, sometimes it takes just one citizen (from Stockton, CA, in this case) with one video to fight back:

Ultimately, I just hope Forbes and other outlets stop judging communities negatively on some made-up criteria and start helping them rise up without it needing to be in reaction to being knocked down in the first place.

2 responses for Rallying Against "Most Miserable City" Rankings


February 25, 2012 at 11:05 pm

Thanks, Greg. I was looking for your video and didn't have time to reach out to you to get it linked in the post!

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Mr. Greg Fiedler says
February 24, 2012 at 3:34 pm

Thank you Tim. I think you are going to get a good response from this blog post.

I am the President and CEO of the Greater Flint Arts Council in Flint, Michigan, a community that has made the Forbes list for many years running. The truth is we are neither more or less desirable than any other city in the country. We have all the things "great" cities have (things never mentioned in Forbes) and we have all the things "dangerous" cities have. General Motors was founded in Flint, Michigan. There was a lot of wealth accumulated here. The families who benefited from the auto industry left a legacy here that is unparalleled in communities our size anywhere in the country. We have a beautiful cultural campus which includes the main library, the second largest art museum and school in Michigan, the second largest symphony and school in Michigan, two history museums, four theaters, a banquet center,a planetarium and the Charles Stewart Mott Estate. We have four major colleges and Universities and the State of Michigan school for the hearing and site impaired. We have one of the top three arts councils in Michigan. Our city center renovation is booming and has created new housing for 1,000 students and 1,000 more residents. Please view our festival video for a more complete picture of how our strong collaboration skills are being used in Flint where we support the arts to transform our community. Just paste this link into your browser: http://youtu.be/50O9L8furtM

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