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CHICAGO (CBS) — It just wouldn’t be February without Forbes Magazine yet again slapping Chicago with the distinction of a place on the Most Miserable Cities list.
This year, Chicago is coming in at No. 6 on the list, for essentially the same reasons Forbes places the city on the list year after year after year.
“The Windy City is a cultural and financial center, but its residents must endure gridlock traffic, high property taxes and brutal winters. Commute times to work average 31 minutes, eighth worst in the U.S.,” Forbes says.
To make the point in its online slideshow, Forbes includes a Getty Images archival image of a long line of cars stalled and buried in the snow on Lake Shore Drive, just after the 21.2-inch blizzard socked the city on Feb. 1-2 of last year. Never mind, of course, that there isn’t a single flake of snow on the ground in Chicago right now.
Of course, it could be worse. While the purported misery in Chicago was illustrated with a weather picture, most of the other cities were represented in the Forbes photo slideshow with scenes of dejected people standing in line for job fairs, foreclosed houses, or people being arrested or hauled to court in handcuffs.
And of course, there were other cities where Forbes thinks the situation is far worse. Ranking more miserable than Chicago, from fifth place to first, were:
• No. 5: Sacramento, Calif., where the main woe seems to be that the Kings – the lone pro-sports team in the city – are poised to move south to Anaheim.
• No. 4: West Palm Beach, Fla., where home prices are down 60 percent, and where Jose Rodriguez, the mayor of nearby Boynton Beach, was recently suspended from office for allegedly using his position to stop a child abuse probe involving his wife’s daughter.
• No. 3: Flint, Mich., where 775 abandoned homes were torn down between October 2010 and October 2011, and the State of Michigan had to appoint an emergency manager to take over budget and operations last year.
• No. 2: Detroit, where schools have been closing and police officers have been laid off in an effort to avoid bankruptcy, and home3s are down to a median price of a mere $38,000.
• No. 1: Miami, where 47 percent of homeowners are underwater on their mortgages, and 364,000 properties have gone into foreclosure since 2008.
Rounding out the top 10 on the list after Chicago are Fort Lauderdale, Fla., at No. 7; Toledo, Ohio, at No. 8; Rockford, Ill., and No. 9; and Warren, Mich., at No. 10, In case you’re wondering, Chicago’s northwesterly neighbor Rockford made the list for having the fifth highest property tax rates in the country in 2010.
But some other cities that make the list perennially seem to be faring better. Stockton, Calif., came in at No. 11 due to stabilizing housing prices, after ranking as the most miserable city of all last year. Cleveland came in at No. 12, after being named the worst of all in 2010.
Last year, Chicago came in at No. 7. The rationale for last year’s list revolved around the sales tax – which by then had been lowered from 10.25 percent to 9.75 percent following a campaign promise by Cook County Board President Toni Preckwinkle – and the Cubs, who were “miserable” for having a $140 million payroll and more than a century without a World Series victory. The comparatively recent victories by other Chicago teams, such as the White Sox’ World Series victory a mere six years earlier, were overlooked.
Chicago came in at No. 10 in 2010, when Forbes rubbed in the fact that the city lost its bid for the 2016 Olympics in the first round despite a plea from President Barack Obama.
Chicago fared most poorly of all in 2009, coming in at No. 3. Forbes cited “lousy weather,” long commutes, high unemployment, the sales tax, and high rates of public corruption as reason enough to conclude that only Stockton, Calif.; and Memphis were more miserable.
When Chicago made the list in 2009, Chicagoans told CBS 2 Chief Correspondent Jay Levine they didn’t feel miserable at all. But Forbes Associate Editor Kurt Badenhausen explained the Most Miserable Cities lists weren’t compiled by polling the residents, but by “looking at the factors they have to deal with on a daily basis.”
While few likely take best and worst city lists very seriously, such lists have had the power to make some cities’ residents quite angry in years past. Just ask the residents of the perennial “miserable city” of Flint.
In 1987, Money Magazine ranked Flint the worst place to live in America, placing that city at rock bottom among 300 municipalities nationwide. In a scene famously shown in Michael Moore’s documentary “Roger and Me,” Flint residents responded by burning Money Magazine at a public rally.