Modesto makes Top 10 ... for misery

Feeling down today?

Forbes magazine says you live in the nation's eighth-most-miserable city.

Want to feel a little bit better?

You could be in Stockton, Forbes' second-most miserable city. Detroit is No. 1 on the sucky civic list.

The national business magazine this week published a misery index based on a city's commute times, income tax rates, spending on Environmental Protection Agency Superfund sites, unemployment, violent crimes and weather.

Modesto scored especially poorly because of its unemployment rate, which hit 10 percent in December.

Like Stockton, Modesto has only one Superfund site -- a well contaminated by dry-cleaning chemicals. The EPA is cleaning the well by removing the chemicals. Los Angeles, which is also on the miserable city list, has five Superfund sites.

Modesto's status as the nation's least livable town in last year's edition of Cities Ranked and Rated also influenced its standing in the Forbes list. Bert Sperling, one of the authors of Cities Ranked and Rated, was a source for the magazine's story.

Housing affordability, crime and commute times factored into Sperling's rankings.

Modesto City Councilwoman Kristin Olsen bristled at the Forbes index, saying it provided another reason for the city to pursue anti-blight policies while promoting its arts scene and recruiting employers.

"It's extremely unfortunate and in my opinion factually wrong," she said. "Modesto's a great city, a wonderful community. However, this latest ranking highlights that we must do a better job promoting the positive stories about Modesto and the vibrant quality of life here."

Modesto Chamber of Commerce President Joy Madison called the Forbes index subjective.

"Misery and happiness are in the eye of the beholder and what you decide to make of it," she said. "It's our home and we measure our happiness on more than six criteria."

Bee staff writer Adam Ashton can be reached at aashton@modbee.com or 578-2366.