Get a clue, Forbes

I like the Midwest, but I’ve been around the block once or twice.

I’ve lived in Washington D.C. and Boston. I’ve run on beaches from California to Maine.

I’ve traveled to Russia, France, England, Peru and Bolivia. I’ve taken business trips to New York, San Francisco, Los Angeles, Miami, Chicago, Seattle, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, Detroit, Philadelphia and most of the other great cities of America.

When I’m at work, I constantly read news web sites around the country. My own news stories have appeared in the Boston Globe, USA Today, Chicago Tribune, Miami Herald, Seattle Times and 20 or 30 other major papers.

So I think I’m on pretty solid ground when I say this: I know a good city when I see it. And Cleveland is a wonderful city — to work in, live in, run in, raise a family in.

For more than 40 years, I lived in Cleveland or in nearby Akron. The region offers so much that I’m almost embarrassed to write this defensive-sounding post.

But when Forbes magazine, in this week’s issue, calls Cleveland “America’s Most Miserable City,” my hackles go up.

I apologize to no one for being one of the biggest cheerleaders of Ohio, even though I’ve lived in Indiana for the past 4 1/2 years. I’m pretty sure that I’m the only person in our neighborhood with Ohio license plates on the garage wall and two framed photos of the Cleveland lakefront on our living room wall.

I’m not, for a minute, pretending that Cleveland is a world-class city. It’s not. There are only so many of those.

But this is what Cleveland is: a terrific, middle-sized city, with a real personality, with real history, with real neighborhoods, a real economy and a real future.

And here is what it definitely isn’t: a miserable city. Or America’s Most Miserable City.

As a longtime Buckeye and a journalist for the past 26 years, I know a lame, ranking story when I read it. Forbes, this really was a sloppy, half-baked idea, poorly thought out, probably designed to generate buzz and web traffic and get your magazine’s name in headlines.

But it really doesn’t tell the story. It doesn’t come close. You need to raise your game.

Forbes said it compared and measured such things as unemployment rates, taxes, commute times, violent crime, weather, Superfund pollution sites, public corruption and how pro sports teams fared over the past two years.

The top 10 list included Memphis, Detroit, and even New York and Chicago. Yeah, New York is on the most miserable list, if that tells you something.

So as a service to journalism, let me suggest that Forbes look at a few other things: walkability (sidewalks, mixed-use neighborhoods), recreation (a Great Lake, along with the only national park in the Midwest), cultural diversity (scores of ethnicities, with their foods, churches, restaurants, neighborhoods), arts and culture (ever hear of the Cleveland Orchestra, Playhouse Square, the Cleveland Art Museum, the Cleveland Film Festival, the Rock Hall, and a few other institutions?), beautiful architecuture in almost every town, world-class hospitals and medical research, and on and on.

Sure, winters aren’t fun in Cleveland. But every region has its bad weather. Here’s what you won’t find in Cleveland: earthquakes, mudslides, hurricanes or water shortages.

Sure, Cleveland has challenges with its schools and crime. What big city doesn’t? Every city has its plusses and minuses.

But Cleveland? The plusses outweigh its minuses by a huge margin.

Yeah, I wish the Indians or the Browns could get into the post-season. But let me say this. I’ve watched Indianapolis get excited when the Colts played in the Super Bowl twice in the last four years. It was a thrill. But a week or two later, we all forgot about it and got back to our real lives.

Cleveland is a real city, filled with people living wonderful lives, and struggling, and laughing, and crying, just as they do everywhere.

It’s a real city that’s wonderful to visit. And even more wonderful to live in.

I have no doubt that Cleveland and Akron (which ranked No. 12 in Forbes’ “misery list”) have plenty to be proud of. I still jump at every chance I get to go to Northeast Ohio. That’s usually six or seven times a year. 

So what does this have to do with running? Why am I blowing off so much steam on my running blog?

Here’s why. Cleveland Marathon, you are now on my schedule (May 16). So is the Fool’s 25K in nearby Peninsula (March 28). Today, I signed up for both races.

And I’m already registered for the Buckeye Trail 50K in July. I can’t wait to sign up for the Akron Marathon this fall and maybe the Towpath Marathon, too.

Politicians and economists like to say people vote with their feet.

So I’ll let my feet do the walking. And the running. And the voting. All over Northeast Ohio.

Screw you, Forbes. I’m planting a Buckeye tree in my front yard this spring.

(Click here to return to the home page.)

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14 Responses to “Get a clue, Forbes”

  1. Lazy, sloppy, cliche journalism at Forbes. The result is that Cleveland remains a well kept secret. Great post, John.

  2. Dan Pecchia Says:

    Well said. Let the naysayers naysay. We Ohioans will continue to appreciate the short lines and flourish here under the radar.

  3. Tim Fitzpatrick Says:

    Amen John

  4. Mike Cooper Says:

    EXCELLENT, excellent article- thanks for the insightful comments.

  5. A few months ago I met a native New Yorker who had moved to Cleveland within the past year. She was savvy, young, hip and in love with her new city. The thing she liked most surprised me: the warmth of the people here. I suppose that’s a trait common to the Midwest, not just Cleveland, but it’s one I don’t see mentioned often in these questionable livability rankings.

  6. Lisa Abraham Says:

    Amen! You also forgot to mention the world class health care in Cleveland and the fact that some of the finest in the food world right now call Cleveland their home. And while we’re at it, Forbes having Akron, Youngstown and Canton on the top 20 list is just piling on and completely out of touch with what life is like in northeast Ohio.

  7. I haven’t been to Cleveland for a dozen years, and that makes me sad. Your post wants me to buy a ticket and spend a weekend there, just to spite Forbes. And your picture (of the Cuyahoga National Recreation Area?) practically makes me want to weep. We don’t have fall colors like that in Idaho.

  8. Dr. J LanYe' Says:

    Bless you!!!!!
    Beautifully said about Cleveland!!!
    I have lived throughout the USA, Canada and Austria.
    Never, however, have I ever felt so much passion for a city as I do for Cleveland.
    I love the layout, the ease of travel, the parks, University Circle, the Metro Parks Zoo, the beautiful big homes with great yards, Lake Erie sunsets and the arts.
    I longed for Cleveland when I lived in Toronto because I hated those ugly homes in the narrow, crowded neighborhoods just outside the downtown with cars parked in the front tiny so-called yards. The people were NOT friendly and the food was terrible!!
    I moved back to Ohio three months ago–Port Clinton (tremendous Lake Erie coastal and island resort region)–and it feels so good to embrace my beloved state and be fairly close to Cleveland.
    I feel like an ambassador for northern Ohio.
    People of Cleveland, Youngstown, Akron and Canton, please don’t wallow in negativity!!!! Believe in the numerous positives and build on that!!
    Stay tuned, for I’m planning something really big for lovely northern Ohio….something other parts of the USA will envy.

  9. Oh cry Cleveland a river…well one that doesn’t catches on fire. Cleveland is truly, the mistake on the lake.

  10. Greg Harper Says:

    Well put John! I’ve lived in Washington DC ( ya wanna talk about a city with problems) for over 20 years but still in my heart feel that Cleveland and Ohio are home. Thanks for the great post.

  11. Nadine A. Bendycki Says:

    Thanks for your blogpost about what is GOOD about living in NE Ohio. I have not lived anywhere else; however, I never hesitate to point out to people that there are far worse towns in which to become ill. People come to NE Ohio from all over the world, to receive world class care at The Clinic and UH. Our orchestra is one of the best in the world and the collection of culture in University Circle is unmatched almost anywhere. It is a good place to raise children. I often tell people I can be downtown in 25 minutes or out in Amish country in 45 minutes. As for Forbes’ use of statistics to come up with their Misery Index, I am reminded of a quote I heard somewhere: Not everything that can be counted matters and what matters cannot always be counted. Thanks, again!

  12. Let’s not forget the remarkable film resource, the Cedar-Lee Theater. Where else, between NYC and Los Angeles, can you see such a wide range of outstanding foreign, indepedent and otherwise not-mass-market movies, in a single complex? If you want more, there’s the Cleveland Cinematheque, which almost daily offers an unbelievable range of important movies from around the world, from the early years of the 20th century to right now. Literally hundreds of films a year.

  13. Sure Cleveland has a great scene for visiting hipsters, foodies, and runners- but the economic situation for those of us who have to live here all year is dire. Jobs are leaving Cleveland almost as fast as people, and the ones that stay in town don’t pay. Stop by and visit- eat at one of our world class restaurants that restidents can’t afford, have a nice run, then go on home to a city that still has employment.

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