Company loves miseryWritten by Michael Miller | Editor in Chief Emeritus | firstname.lastname@example.org
Michael S. Miller will guest host the Feb. 14 broadcast of “Eye on Toledo” at 6 p.m. on WSPD 1370 AM, on the topic of the Forbes “Most Miserable Cities” list. Call the show at (419) 240-1370 and share your opinion.
While channel surfing a few nights ago, I found a “M*A*S*H” episode that featured Jamie Farr in one of his more interesting subplots. Farr’s character, Cpl. Max Klinger, cleared a circle in the 4077th compound and doused himself with what he said was gasoline, preparing to immolate himself unless Col. Potter agreed to send him home with a Section 8 discharge.
It’s easy to take Farr for granted; he has been consistently gracious to Toledo as the decades have flown by, and his comfortable celebrity status overshadows the amazing impact he had through cameos and minor subplots on “M*A*S*H,” working in the shadows of some of the greatest talents in television history.
Farr’s story parallels Toledo’s history. Competing against bigger, richer cities, Toledo has done well but is often relegated to the background and is under-appreciated despite its consistent contributions.
In the “M*A*S*H” episode, Klinger, soaking in “gasoline” and holding a match, offered these final words: “Scatter my ashes over Toledo.”
Apparently, Forbes Magazine is ready to spread Toledo’s ashes over the Midwest.
Forbes named Toledo No. 12 of 20 U.S. cities on its recent “America’s Most Miserable Cities” list. The magazine said, “A recent economic analysis of the Toledo metro forecast that employment would not return to pre-recession levels until after 2025. Unemployment has averaged 10.6% during the past three years.”
Other Ohio cities cited were Cleveland, No. 10, and Youngstown, No. 14. Detroit charted below Toledo at No. 15.
Last year, the business publication ranked Toledo No. 15. Forbes looked at the 200 largest metro areas in the country, with a minimum population of 249,000. It ranked the cities based on qualifiers such as unemployment, taxes, commute times, violent crimes, weather and how professional sports teams played. Housing prices, foreclosures and convictions of elected officials were other factors.
The first response from a classy Toledo guy like me is to open a window facing the Forbes offices in New York City, thrust a middle finger high in the air and bellow, “#&@% you, Forbes!” with pride and road-rage level anger. But that’s not conducive to an intelligent discussion.
Are we miserable? Certainly our city faces elements of misery, but that’s not the same thing as being miserable as a way of life. Unquestionably, there are major crisis-level problems in Toledo. A declining population. Unemployment. City budget issues. Public school system troubles. A crumbling infrastructure. A dearth of business leaders willing and able to step up. Mediocre leadership at the daily newspaper, the University of Toledo and nearly every facet of political leadership on the state, county, city and school board levels.
But those problems are not unique to Toledo, nor are they as bad here as they are in some areas.
There are undoubtedly many miserable people in Toledo, but it would take a lot of research to determine how much of their state of mind is attributable to Toledo and how much would be part of their life no matter where they live.
I have lived and worked in Washington, D.C., Pittsburgh, San Jose, Calif., South Florida and Southeast Michigan. Each of those cities offers exciting things, but each of them also offers more than a few challenges that could be described as miserable.
Forbes can crunch its subjective factors and declare Toledo a miserable place to live, but having lived and worked here for more than three decades, I strongly refute that designation. Toledoans are far too varied and interesting a group of people to be labeled as sharing any one characteristic. There may be a tendency toward apathy and there is definitely a deficiency of self-esteem, but that has its roots in Midwestern humility, spiked with an inordinate amount of bad-mouthing and negativity from daily media and a series of egomaniacal politicians.
I could assemble an army of people who love this city and spend their days working to make it a better place. I would need two more pages to list all of them and their respective affiliations, but many of them spread their Glass City Gospel in these pages, through stories about their work or through their own words. Rachel Richardson, Robert Russ, Kc Saint John, Jules Webster, Lisa Renee Ward, Michael Drew Shaw, Alan Cohen, Jennifer and John Rockwood, Tom Waniewski, Bill Kitson, Marc Folk, Martini Rox, Sammy Spann, Doni Miller, Tim Yenrick, Tom Pounds, Ed Beczynski, Eric Slough, Warren Woodberry, Chris Kozak, Stacy Jurich, Contessa Porter, Dustin Hostetler, Justin Moor, Ellen Critchley, Jerry Gray … and there are many more.
We could ignore the Forbes report and pretend it has no impact, but I prefer we stand and fight for our reputation and show the nation that while we are not perfect, we certainly are not miserable, and we are not ready to have our ashes scattered to the wind.
Oh, and by the way: “#&@% you, Forbes!”
Michael S. Miller is editor in chief of Toledo Free Press and Toledo Free Press Star. E-mail him at email@example.com.
Tags: Alan Cohen, Bill Kitson, Chris Kozak, Contessa Porter, Doni Miller, Dustin Hostetler, Ed Beczynski, Ellen Critchley, Eric Slough, Forbes, Jennifer and John Rockwood, Jerry Gray, Jules Webster, Justin Moor, Kc Saint John, Lighting The Fuse, Lisa Renee Ward, Marc Folk, Martini Rox, Michael Drew Shaw, Michael S. Miller, Miserable cities, Rachel Richardson, Robert Russ, Sammy Spann, Stacy Jurich, Tim Yenrick, Tom Pounds, Tom Waniewski, Warren Woodberry