Which city has the most fragmented government? Not Chicago. In American Metropolitics: The New Suburban Reality Minnesota state senator and polymath Myron Orfield tabulates census data to show that the metropolitan area with the most county, municipality, and township governments per 100,000 residents is Pittsburgh, with 17.7. Chicago places ninth, with only 6.6. Least fragmented, by this measurement, are San Diego (0.7) and Los Angeles and Phoenix (both 1.2).
Things you can’t do by the numbers. Writing in Commonweal (June 15), Margery Frisbie recalls that the late Monsignor John Egan–revered for “enfranchising lay people, women, blacks, Jews, Muslims, the poor, and the homeless”–almost didn’t qualify for the priesthood because Greek and Latin were too hard for him at Quigley Preparatory Seminary. “Egan, you didn’t quite make it,” Father George Beemsterboer told him. “But I’m shading your grades a few points because we need priests who are kind more than we need priests who know Latin.”
Climate forecasting models for Illinois “tend to agree on some things, such as the likelihood of hotter and drier summers,” writes James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Issues (April). “They disagree about nearly everything else. The degree of uncertainty in climate forecasts is significant. Estimates of future Illinois corn yields reported in 1997 by the U.S. EPA, for example, ranged from hardly any change to declines of up to a third. Soybean yields under the same projections could drop by 24 percent (soybeans don’t like heat) or increase by 13 percent (they like extra rain and carbon dioxide). A more recent analysis that took into account more factors suggests soybean yields may nearly double.”
Why Republicans and Libertarians are in trouble, long term. In the August 5-12 issue of the New Republic, John Judis and Ruy Texeira analyze why professionals (who make up about one-fifth of all voters) have turned toward Democrats: “While corporate managers are trained to gauge their success through profit and loss, professionals are trained to see theirs as primarily, or at least equally, linked to the quality of the service or idea they produce. Writers want their books or articles to win literary prizes; teachers want their pupils to learn; doctors and nurses want their patients to be cured. But as the ranks of professionals have grown, they have increasingly become subject to control from large institutions–media conglomerates, insurance companies, etc.–that have imposed what they see as alien profit-and-loss standards onto their work. As a result, many professionals have come to draw a sharp distinction between their priorities and those of the market.”
Time travel. Marlin Bowles of the Morton Arboretum, quoted in Chicago Wilderness (Summer): “Wolf Road Prairie is the one place where you can look at a line drawn by the Public Land Survey people in the 1820s and then go there and still see the same prairie-timber boundary that they saw. That gives me goose bumps.”
“What have we accomplished, if things are as bad as ever?” asks Milton Moskowitz, who quit a job in advertising 35 years ago to publish a newsletter on the social responsibilities of business. “It appears that much of the corporate social responsibility movement has dealt in peripheral matters, in language, in mechanical social screens. Behind the scenes, the dirty work went on as usual” (Business Ethics, May-August).
In a sentence. Suburban Lisle attorney Eric Singer writes in the August issue of “Focus,” newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the American Institute of Architects: “If your design requires flawless execution, you are asking for trouble.”