The promise, and the crossed fingers. “The right of displaced [CHA resident] families to return to the mixed-income developments [that will replace most public housing] is guaranteed in a contract signed Oct. 17 by the CHA and the Central Advisory Council, a group of elected tenant leaders,” writes Brian Rogal in the Chicago Reporter (November/December). “The Relocation Rights Contract, hammered out after often-contentious negotiations, covers the approximately 15,500 families living in public housing as of Oct. 1, 1999, as long as they were in compliance with their leases. But under a Feb. 5 agreement with the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the CHA can impose stricter standards with HUD approval. Such new standards could require that residents be employed or enrolled in job-training programs.” At Ida B. Wells Homes and Madden Park Homes, where 1,300 families now live, the plan for mixed-income housing on the site includes only 750 units of public housing. “The agency is counting on hundreds of the 1,300 families choosing Section 8, [CHA chief of development John] Roberson said.”

“Though Chicago sometimes makes political history by producing the first of this and the first of that, it is much harder to produce the second of this and the second of that,” writes Robert Davis in Illinois Issues (January). His examples of firsts: Harold Washington, Miriam Santos, Jane Byrne, and Carol Moseley-Braun.

The continuing crisis in meteorology. Headline on a recent Penn State University press release: “Improved rain predictions could improve flood forecasting.”

Will high-speed rail kill Amtrak? That’s what W. David Randall, president of the Illinois Association of Railroad Passengers, worries will happen (“Railgram,” December). “When the MWRRI [Midwest Regional Rail Initiative] becomes a reality, I am concerned that the political support for the long-haul trains by the 13 Midwest states will diminish and that there won’t be enough national interest in Congress to support the existing network let alone expansion.”

“The cost of being viable in Illinois keeps going up,” writes University of Illinois political scientist Kent Redfield in his new book, Money Counts: How Dollars Dominate Illinois Politics and What We Can Do About It. “Running a credible campaign against an incumbent takes at least $150,000 for a seat in the Illinois House of Representatives. In 1998, eight challengers in House races spent more than $300,000 each and still lost to incumbent members.”

The best public libraries in the Chicago area, according to Hennen’s nationwide American Public Library Ratings index published in American Libraries (November): Naperville, Palatine, Elmhurst, Wheaton, Downers Grove, and Porter County, Indiana. The ratings are based on both inputs (such as expenditures per capita) and outputs (such as lowest cost per circulation and visits per capita). The only urban libraries earning comparable scores were in Denver and Columbus, Ohio.

Who will tell the Libertarians about Richard M. Nixon? Jeff Taylor writes in the on-line newsletter “Reason Express” (January 23): “Clinton’s determination to ‘just win’ ushered in the era of the permanent political campaign, where all parties, interests, and particulars wage constant war against sometimes imaginary enemies, the better to distract everyone from the business at hand.”

“Black editors, politicians, and religious leaders had long advised black workers to cast their lot with capital in the labor conflicts that often wracked the industrializing nation,” writes Eric Arnesen, a historian at the University of Illinois at Chicago, in his new book, Brotherhoods of Color: Black Railroad Workers and the Struggle for Equality, describing one obstacle in the way of A. Philip Randolph’s fledgling Brotherhood of Sleeping Car Porters in the 1920s. “Black leaders condemned trade unions for their exclusion of minorities, their propensity toward engaging in violent strikes, and their deleterious effect upon the American economy….In Chicago, for instance, most African-American churches in the mid-1920s closed their doors to Randolph and his union and urged their parishioners to demonstrate loyalty to the company that they said was loyal to the race.”