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Buffalo's image took another slide this month with a national women's magazine giving it an in-the-cellar rating for quality of life.

In the February issue of Ladies Home Journal, Buffalo placed 181st among 200 of the nation's largest cities ranked for their attractiveness to women. In a similar survey a year ago, the city was 146th.

Based on what women said matters most to them in urban living, the magazine had consulting firms examine census data and statistics from a variety of sources to measure such things as crime rates, air quality, availability of health care and child care, unemployment, per capita income, commuting time and even how the weather affects good and bad hair days.

Last year the editors tried to measure cities' romantic quotient. We didn't get any valentines then either.

In the current report, the Queen City failed to reach the top 10 in any category. However, neighboring Rochester, with an overall ranking of 116, was third among cities with the best child care.

The journal's 1999 survey of readers showed that what women value in cities are low crime rates, enjoyable quality of life, good schools, good-paying jobs, quality child care and opportunities for women in local government -- in that order.

If you're thinking of moving, Wilmington, Del., has the best child care in the Journal ranking and Charleston, W.Va., the worst; Fargo, N.D., has the shortest commute (despite all that snow?) and the morning trip takes longest in Yonkers; Washington, D.C., offers the best job opportunities, but stay clear of Huntsville, Ala.; Durham, N.C., is the easiest place to keep healthy, but you'll find far fewer services in Abilene, Texas; you'll make more money in Alexandria, Va., but you'll have to spend more in Anchorage, Alaska.

If you don't like crowds, avoid Las Vegas, seen as one of tomorrow's boom towns. You might prefer Elizabeth, N.J., with its declining population. But Buffalo's got that.

President Clinton's pay equity initiatives announced this week got a mixed reaction from women.

The president proposes giving the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission $10 million to train staff who will help employers comply with the Equal Pay Act. The administration also is asking for $17 million for the Department of Labor for training programs that move women into non-traditional jobs, an employment sector in which pay equity advocates see an opportunity to upgrade women's earnings. In addition, the president is pushing for passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act.

The package is the same as one proposed last year, except the sticker price is up a few million.

Business and Professional Women/USA said the proposals don't go far enough to eliminate a gender wage gap that has women's earnings lagging about 25 percent behind men's. The latest figures show women earning 74 cents for every dollar men earn. If the women are black, the figure drops to 63 cents, and if they are Hispanic it's 53 cents.

BPW wants a law that requires equal pay for workers in jobs of equivalent value, a concept that works in some public sector jobs but remains controversial in the private sector. Canada's pay equity law requires public and private employers to equalize pay for equivalent jobs.

The National Committee on Pay Equity, in which women's groups are aligned with labor unions, religious groups and civil rights advocates, applauded the proposals.

In praising President Clinton, Susan Bianchi-Sand, the coalition's executive director, said it is a "critical time" to fight for the Fair Pay Act, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex, and the Paycheck Fairness Act, which forbids employers from penalizing employees who share salary information.

Artists are being invited to submit works for an exhibit titled "Urban Girls" to be shown in El Museo Francisco Oller y Diego Rivera. The Allen Street studio that features work by Latino and African-American artists is holding the exhibit in conjunction with a University at Buffalo conference on urban girls April 14-16 in Adam's Mark Hotel.

Curators Sara Kelner of Diverse Works, Houston, Texas, and Craig Centrie of El Museo Gallery are looking for art that captures images of women's roles in the past and the future and explores the impact of race and class on women's lives. The exhibit will open with a reception for conference participants April 13. Public viewing will begin April 14. Contact Centrie or Holly Szafranski, 884-9693.

Everywoman Opportunity Center is taking nominations for its Award of Excellence to be presented at the 16th annual awards dinner May 4 in Radisson Hotel. Women who have been path-finders, risk-takers and role models will be recognized. Deadline for nominations is Feb. 15. Call 847-1120.

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