Out of Our Misery

Forbes says we’re miserable — more miserable than any other place in the country.

And they’re right.

If that makes you a little uncomfortable, then good: It’s meant to.

The criteria for Forbes’ February online feature, “America’s Most Miserable Cities,” could have been created by a Clevelander who knows our pain: unemployment, taxes, violent crime, corruption of public officials and performance by pro sports teams during the past two years. The only thing missing from the formula was YouTube hits on hastily made tourism videos.

If Forbes hadn’t called us the most miserable city, I would have called for an investigation — that is, if there are any investigators left who aren’t working on the county corruption case.

We were the only city to score in the bottom half of the rankings in all nine categories. That’s tough to argue with.

So don’t. All those whiny pleas about our world-class orchestra, our vast park system, our medical community, our Cavs — all the things Forbes didn’t consider that make this a great place to live — aren’t going to change anything. It just makes us look defensive, pathetic and even more miserable.

We’re tougher than that. We’re better than that.

In the past year, Forbes has said so itself, also naming us one of the best cities for singles (#14) and one of America’s safest cities (#10). That doesn’t include all the other various lists that dubbed us fun (Ritz Cracker FUNomenal Places Study), time savers (#16 by Real Simple) or college-grad friendly (apartments.com).

The truth is Forbes did us a favor. Without a wake-up call now and then, life in our city on the lake, with its easy commutes and low cost of living, makes us all a little too comfortable.

Consider how long we put up with an antiquated form of county government that’s hindered our development as a city and a region.

People have been trying for more than 50 years to get a new charter adopted that would create a more even distribution of power and add checks and balances. But not until the FBI corruption investigation was the pain so great that we were motivated to change.

Cuyahoga County was also one of the first and hardest hit victims of the nation’s foreclosure crisis. Predatory loans were already sowing ruin in Cleveland neighborhoods 10 years ago. But despite early warnings from some local leaders, including Mayor Frank Jackson and county treasurer Jim Rokakis, we didn’t fight back effectively until entire blocks went dark and the poison of bad loans spread throughout the nation’s economy.

In 2009, for the third straight year, Cuyahoga County saw about 14,800 foreclosure cases, and the city demolished more than 1,600 properties, about 20 percent more than the year before.

It even took a 1-11 Browns start last season to prompt the hiring of Mike Holmgren, who has cleaned house quicker than a whole team of Merry Maids.

What I’ve learned from all this is, if you slap us in the face with enough misery, we’ll eventually do something about it.

Positively Cleveland, our convention and visitors bureau, is never more creative and nimble than when staring down an ugly list ranking or a Mike Polk video. Their whattheforbes.com Web site, contest and Happy in CLE+ theme were fun and inspiring.

But that’s the kind of action we need on a regular basis, from more people — not just when someone puts us down.

Of course Forbes has us upset. No one, including me, is happy about the distinction. But, as we’ve show, there is a remedy for our misery: Do something.

Click here to use this year’s City List, which contains almost 750 places to shop, eat and explore, as the antidote for your frustrations. Get out of your comfort zones, and try something new.

There, don’t you feel better already?

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