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Published: Friday, 3/1/2013 - Updated: 1 year ago

Toledo drops to 11th in Forbes ranking of America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities

BY JON CHAVEZ
BLADE BUSINESS WRITER

Take a bow, Toledo. Your misery has lessened.

In the 2013 rankings by Forbes of America’s 20 Most Miserable Cities, Toledo was deemed less miserable this year than in 2012. The city finished 11th in the annual rankings, down from eighth a year ago. It was 12th two years ago.

Part of the improvement is because of a change in the criteria that Forbes uses for calculating its misery index. In the past, it used 10 factors to rank the top 200 metro areas, although it only names 20 cities to its list.

This year the factors included eight previous categories: violent crime, unemployment rate, foreclosures, income taxes, property taxes, home prices, weather, and commute times. A new category — net migration — was added. Two previous ones, political corruption and how an area’s sports teams fared in the past two years, were dropped.

Kurt Badenhausen, a senior editor at Forbes and the list’s author, said the political corruption category was dropped this year after complaints that the data used for it was not metro-area specific and often included more than one metro area in its data so that corruption in one city could skew the data for another.

“Sports are an important component and cause people a lot of angst and misery, but it also was being ranked across the regions so that the [Cleveland] Browns would apply to all of northern Ohio,” he said. “The truth is, a lot of areas will feed off a certain team even if it’s not in their city.”

Toledo fared well in commute times, placing 11th overall, but its performances in the other categories caused it to make the top 20, Mr. Badenhausen said.

The city was 129th in weather, 158th in violent crime, 140th in unemployment, 149th in foreclosures, 139th in home prices, 139th in income taxes, and 147th in property taxes.

In the new category of net migration, Toledo fared badly, placing 197th out of 200 metro areas. But Mr. Badenhausen said, “A lot of cities in the Midwest and Northeast are struggling with this. You’re seeing a rampant move into the South and the Western states.”

In two other categories, Toledo was hurt by the aftereffects of the last recession that officially ended in 2009 but the repercussions of which were felt into 2010 and beyond. For home prices and unemployment, Forbes looks at an average of the last three years’ worth of data.

In the last year, home prices have started to increase and unemployment, which was well over 12 percent in 2010, currently is 7.6 percent — a full percentage point below the national average thanks to a resurgence in manufacturing.

While Toledo improved its ranking for 2013, it still was the most miserable city in Ohio, according to Forbes. Only two other Ohio cities made the list, Cleveland at No. 17 and Youngstown at No. 20.

Detroit topped the list this year after being No. 2 in 2012. The rest of the top five were Flint, Mich.; Rockford, Ill.; Chicago, and Modesto, Calif.

Mr. Badenhausen said the list remains mainly a conversation piece and not an attempt to offend those on the list. “All these places have plenty of things to offer whether you’re talking about Toledo, New York, or Chicago,” he said.

“People living in these cities no doubt feel that the benefits of living there outweigh the hardships that people must endure,” Mr. Badenhausen said. “But there are problems too. We’re trying to capture the things that people are grumbling about at the water cooler each day.”

Christine Bailey, a spokesman for the Toledo Regional Chamber of Commerce, said such lists that emphasize problems are a huge source of frustration.

“The criteria for these lists are always moving. And it’s focusing on the negative when there are so many positive stories out there,” she said.

For example, Ms. Bailey said said Forbes put Toledo on its miserable cities list, but its criteria doesn’t take into account that the Final Cut Steak & Seafood restaurant at the new Hollywood Casino Toledo just got a four-star rating from Forbes Travel Guide, the only restaurant in Ohio, Michigan, or Indiana to get four stars.

“There are just so many positive stories out there, we think it’s more important to focus on improving the city and talking about the good things out there,” she said.

Contact Jon Chavez at: jchavez@theblade.com or 419-724-6128.



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