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The Edge 

Youngstown: We Put the "Recess" in Recession; Slipping Through the Crack; Fuzzy Math

The Edge can understand why places like Boulder, Chapel Hill, and Sante Fe are included in the book America's Top-Rated Smaller Cities. But Youngstown, the burg whose official seal depicts a small stack of unmarked bills in a brown paper bag?

Candace Sleight, a spokeswoman for Grey House Publishing in Connecticut, says the ratings are based on data for taxes, household income, education, recreation, etc. And Youngstown routinely scores high on such lists when it comes to cost of living. Money, for example, ranked it the fourth cheapest place in America to buy a home last year. But statistics, as we know, often don't tell the full story.

Asked if anyone from Grey House actually visited Youngstown, Sleight responded, "Oh golly, I don't believe so." Asked if she was aware that Youngstown might be charitably described as Gary, Indiana's slightly more affluent cousin, she said, "Oh, that's so funny . . ."

Pity the poor Columbus Dispatch stiff who was assigned to write about the first baby born in 2001. It's an annual tradition at many newspapers, providing a cute portrait of the happy mom and blessed child during the slow holiday news time. This year, however, the mother of the first baby in central Ohio just happened to be a crackhead, according to our Cowtown correspondent. When the reporter arrived to interview the beaming mom, she flung her dinner tray in the scribe's direction. Apparently, the seething crackhead theme didn't fit the paper's concept of a tender holiday tale, and the story never appeared . . .

Whispers of intrigue swept through City Hall when it appeared that Mayor White had secretly blown $13 million set aside in Cleveland's rainy day fund. Speculation was that White used the loot to cover up construction overruns on Browns Stadium. However, as with so many things within the trusting, nurturing confines of City Hall, the talk was much ado about nothing.

The mayor's crack accountants simply failed to list the money on a certificate of resources submitted to the county. But that didn't stop Council Finance Chairman Bill Patmon from grumbling. He says the oversight "speaks to the kind of budget things we've been going through since I've been the chairman -- hidden money, neglect to show resources, overestimation of expenses, underestimation of resources . . ."

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