Lake County ranks ninth as a ‘miserable city’ by Forbes
BY DAN MORAN firstname.lastname@example.org February 22, 2013 7:34PM
A pedestrian battles with the snow and cold wind making her way down Lewis Ave. in Waukegan. | Sun-Times Media
2) Flint, Mich.
5) Modesto, Calif.
6) Vallejo, Calif.
7) Warren, Mich.
8) Stockton, Calif.
9) Lake County
10) New York City
Updated: April 24, 2013 2:24AM
Jamie O’Meara was among those issuing a universal reaction upon learning that Lake County had been named No. 9 on Forbes.com’s 2013 ranking of the nation’s “Most Miserable Cities.”
“Um ... Lake County is not a city?” the Waukegan Main Street president wrote on Facebook Friday morning, shortly after word spread that the 1,368-square-mile county was the only non-municipal entry on a list that ranked Detroit as the most miserable city in the U.S. and Chicago at No. 4.
“They don’t even know what a city is,” O’Meara said with a laugh Friday afternoon, elaborating on her social media comments. “I heard the story on the news (Friday) morning about Chicago being No. 4, and I thought people are going to be upset about that — it’s like family, we can say it, you can’t — and then when I saw that Lake County was on the list, I was confused.”
Echoing the thought was Maureen Riedy, president of the Lake County Illinois Convention & Visitors Bureau, who said, “I don’t know why they’re lumping Lake County in with cities” — and proceeded to defend her home turf.
“From a tourism standpoint, we promote Lake County as a vibrant county that has rich assets,” said Riedy, noting that tourism is again expected to be a billion-dollar industry north of Lake-Cook Road. “The word ‘miserable’ is completely misleading. ... I don’t take it very seriously.”
According to Forbes, the annual list weighs nine factors for “the 200 largest metro areas in the U.S.” including violent crime, unemployment, foreclosures, income and property taxes, home prices, commute times and weather. If Lake County were a metro area unto itself, its population of 706,222 would place it somewhere in the mid-70s between North Port-Bradenton–Sarasota, Fla., and the five counties in and around Knoxville, Tenn.
Arguably, most observers would throw Lake into the five-county Chicago area, while some regional definitions lump it with the 14 counties that stretch from Racine in Wisconsin to Porter in Indiana. When it comes to the city of Chicago alone, Forbes’ grim assessment knocked its commutes, which were reported as averaging 31 minutes, along with its “plummeting home prices” and high foreclosure rates.
The evaluation of Lake County started with the seemingly contradictory statement that “the Chicago suburb is one of the richest counties” in the U.S. as measured by per capita income. But, it added, “home prices are down 29 percent over the past five years” in the “suburb.”
While the county had its defenders on social media, there was also agreement: “I love Lake Co. but our property taxes are out of this world!”
“Too much of a ‘small town’ mentality. Wish I could move.”
“Maybe they tried to drive through Grayslake.”
Perhaps piling on even more, Forbes put Rockford — about 60 miles west of the Lake County border — at No. 3 on the misery scale. Other cities included Flint, Mich. (No. 2), Modesto, Calif. (5), Vallejo, Calif. (6), the Detroit suburb of Warren, Mich. (7) and Stockton, Calif. (8). Rounding out the list was The Big Apple itself, New York, N.Y.
One drawback that further blurred the distinction between Chicago and Lake County was their “lousy weather,” another observation that drew a chuckle from O’Meara, who said: “We who live here look at traffic and weather as character building.”
“Yes, it’s the Midwest, we have weather,” she added. “I’m always perplexed when people complain about the cold — have you checked what state we live in?”