“Chicago doesn’t have to reinvent the wheel” as it revises its creaky old zoning code, writes Peter Skosey of the Metropolitan Planning Council in its newsletter “Regional Connection” (Winter). “Several cities, from distant San Diego to nearby Elmhurst, have encouraged walkable neighborhoods using special zoning districts around transit/train stations. Other cities have ‘legalized’ the way people live today by zoning for buildings that combine residential and business uses, corner groceries and live/work lofts. Land uses which require lots of space, or bring in lots of cars (like car washes or vast parking lots) can be positioned so as not to break up walkable business districts…. Downtown, meanwhile, the city is awarding density bonuses for amenities it wants (river-edge improvements, sidewalk display windows) instead of things it stopped wanting long ago (shadowy ‘arcades’ along the sides of skyscrapers, empty plazas).”

Can you be too ethical? According to Governing magazine’s report card on state governmental management (http://governing/com/gpp/gp1il. htm), “Illinois has good oversight of its contracting commitments. But a new state procurement code written in 1998 may have gone a bit too far by requiring vendors to disclose financial interests and conflicts of interest. ‘Many vendors feel that the disclosures are… cumbersome and have declined to do business with the state as a result,’ one official reports.”

“We need to change a paradigm in which one side sees only victims and the other side sees only perverts,” argues contrarian Andrew Sullivan in the New Republic (February 12). “The first step is to resist at every opportunity the notion that homosexuals are defined by victimhood. If you look at the agenda of, say, the leading gay lobby, the Human Rights Campaign, you’ll see what I mean. Its priorities are laws that protect gays from hate crimes and employment discrimination…. But the number of hate crimes perpetrated against gay people is relatively puny, and such crimes are already covered under existing criminal law. And it’s ludicrous to look at the gay population and see millions of people who have a hard time finding or keeping a job…. The real harm of these campaigns isn’t just that they add new, largely pointless laws; it’s that they portray homosexuals as downtrodden and weak.”

Fat city? According to a recent report by the American Cancer Society, “Cancer Prevention & Early Detection,” 9.9 percent of Chicago high school girls and 13.6 percent of high school boys are overweight. For girls, the highest rate in the country is 11 percent (Louisiana), the lowest is 2.1 percent (Wyoming). For boys, the highest is 16.6 percent (Mississippi), the lowest 6.5 percent (Utah). D’you suppose a diet magazine for guys would go over big in Mississippi?

“The entrenched gaming industry is stuffing the campaign coffers of state lawmakers,” notes downstate reporter Dominic Jesse in the Illinois Times (January 18-24), and it looks like they have reason to keep on stuffing. In January lawmakers passed a bill granting up to $100,000 in legal assistance for individuals being sued over land titles downstate by the Miami tribe of Oklahoma. “While this bill helps individuals defend themselves in court against the Miami tribe [which claims it was cheated out of 2.6 million acres], it also helps protect existing gambling interests from competition by any upstart tribes.”

And they wonder why ridership is so low. Al Klinger writes in StreetWise (January 29): “From 1980 to 1997, the CTA cut nine bus routes. Whereas in 1980 a typical route covered 112 miles a day, in 1997 it covered only 87. Over the years, this reduction meant the number of miles traveled per bus has declined 35 percent, from 55,000 to 36,000. On busy streets 20 years ago, buses came every four minutes. Now it is 20 to 30 minutes.”