Forbes Names Rockford 3rd Most Miserable City

By: Lauren Kravets, Whitney Martin Email
By: Lauren Kravets, Whitney Martin Email

UPDATE: ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- Rockford has once again made the list of Forbes' Most Miserable Cities. This year, we're number three, right behind Detroit and Flint Michigan. Forbes cites a 30-year decline in the manufacturing industry, high unemployment, and even higher property tax rates as reasons for the ranking. We talked to the man behind the article who explains why they use the term "miserable".

"We look at 9 metrics that we deem challenges to people’s lives. You know, these are the things people complain about around the water cooler. Obviously there are millions of people that live in these cities who determine the benefits outweigh the hardship."

With the April election approaching, one mayoral candidate in the Forest City is using our new title as part of his campaign platform. Michael Kleen is the republican candidate running for mayor. He says it's time for Rockford to get off the most 'Miserable City' list. Last year we were number nine. Forbes uses ten factors to determine the ranking, including violent crime, unemployment, political corruption (former governor George Ryan, an example) and high taxes, all things the forest city has seen its fair share of. Kleen says the city has been focusing on economic development projects, but he says we need to look at the basics first.

“What we need to do as a city is get back to our core mission which is to take care of crime, fix the streets and make it easier and less expensive for people to do business in Rockford,” said Kleen.

Kleen also says getting rid of unsuccessful TIF districts may help because those tax dollars could then go back to school districts, which could mean lower property taxes. We did reach out to democratic candidate Jim Hughes who did not return my calls. Incumbent mayor Larry Morrissey says he will address the issue during Monday night's city council meeting.
However, not all Rockfordians are taking our new title so seriously.

"If people don’t like Rockford I don't want them to be my friend.” I think they are crazy" " Rockford isn't miserable. It's a nice place".

Even the smallest voices from Maud Johnson Elementary School are weighing on some of Rockford’s biggest issues, the future of our city.

It's a reaction that's come from a lot of people who say they aren't going to let the Forbes ranking define our city as miserable.
Jarrod Hennis owns Rockford Art Deli downtown. The company designs and sells t-shirts, which Hennis says was created after the city was ranked 9th most miserable in 2012.

"We worked with the number 9 shirt it was more of an awareness to show we were in a bad situation,” said Hennis.
Daniel Hopkins is also trying to rid the national title. He and his brother created Exhilarate Rockford, a website where people can post nice comments about where they live.

Hopkins says he too wasn't thrilled about where we rank nationally. "The article brought up some real problems we have, things they mentioned the first time but I think we are addressing those problems and there are a lot of things about the city that's great,” said Hopkins.

Reaction from 23 News Anchor Mike Garrigan

My reaction to this latest slam against Rockford is who really cares what Forbes thinks. They really aren't honestly trying to figure out the most miserable cities, and if so they would actually visit these cities and not just regurgitate computer generated data.

The computer may say that we have high unemployment, but unless you visit here you don't know that we have recently had huge employment wins at Chrysler and Woodward and that one of the most promising industries of the future, aerospace, is one of Rockford's greatest strengths. The computer may say we have high property taxes. but it doesn't say that most of those taxes were approved by voters in an effort to make our schools and roads better. The computer may tear apart our schools, but unless you're here you don't realize the commitment the new district 205 leadership is making through bold initiatives like Alignment Rockford and career academies in an effort to turn a long time Forest City negative into a positive.

So my advice, laugh off the Forbes ranking but be serious when it comes to highlighting our city's positives. Be honest about what needs to be improved while actually working towards making it better. It's not pity or whining that bring results, only action.


ROCKFORD (WIFR) -- The Forest City has moved up six spots and now ranks as America's Third Most Miserable City according to Forbes Magazine.

The high unemployment and property tax rates didn't help Rockford's ranking. All nine of the most miserable cities are in Illinois, Michigan and California. Rockford finished just behind Detroit and Flint Michigan and just ahead of Chicago.


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