No orangutanburgers? “Families who visit Brookfield Zoo in Chicago need not eat animals while they enjoy viewing those on display,” reports the Environmental News Network (www.enn.com), touting the zoo’s partnership with Whole Foods Market in creating the vegetarian Eco Cafe. No word yet on the sensibilities of vegetarians who prefer their animals unconfined as well as uneaten.
The state of Illinois “has its own form of credit card that allows it to charge now and pay later,” writes a disapproving state comptroller Daniel Hynes in “Fiscal Focus” (February/March). “Illinois’ charge account is Section 25 of the State Finance Act. Normally, the state must pay the bills for all purchases out of the budget for the year the purchases were made. That way, state agencies can’t buy now and pay later. However, Section 25 makes legitimate exceptions to that rule for certain bills, like medical bills, that are sometimes delayed (while other insurance coverage is reviewed, for example). The problem arises when these exceptions are used improperly to get around budget limitations…. Last year, for example, the Department of Public Aid deferred over $325 million in bills that should have been paid from last year’s budget into the current year’s budget. This practice makes budgeting unreliable because it hides the true cost of an agency’s spending for the year. Moreover, it pushes problems into the future instead of confronting them now.”
When the city banned bikes from Lower Wacker Drive during the reconstruction project, it also in effect banned them from their parking spaces at 35 W. Wacker, writes Steve Buchtel in “Bike Traffic” (April/May), newsletter of the Chicagoland Bicycle Federation. The secure parking facility is now accessible only through the lobby–and the building has a strict policy against allowing bicycles to pass through the lobby. Buchtel finds the situation especially ironic given that “the city needs fewer cars in the Loop right now.”
Will the hardware distributors and other conventioneers appreciate a chance for really good birding? According to the Chicago Department of Environment’s newsletter “Urban Naturalist” (April-June), a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service grant to the city and partnering private organizations will fund the creation of “five acres of shortgrass prairie…at McCormick Place to serve as prime bird habitat and bird sanctuary.”
If senators Durbin and Fitzgerald have their way, Congress will protect east central Illinois landowners from the land claim Miami Indians filed last June, reports Aaron Chambers in Illinois Issues (April). “Under the legislation, all three tribes [the Miami tribe of Oklahoma and two others that may sue, the Ottawa tribe of Oklahoma and the Potawatomi tribe of Kansas] could seek monetary damages–and only monetary damages–in the Court of Claims, which hears suits against the federal government. The federal government would waive its sovereign immunity in the individual cases. To win compensation, the tribes would have the burden of showing they hold title to the land.” No towns or farmers would be displaced under such a measure, while the Indians could still be compensated. Of course, the one thing money can’t buy them is an Illinois location for a casino.
There but for the grace of God… “Last year my husband read in the paper about an old friend who was running a homeless shelter,” writes Catherine O’Connell-Cahill in the newsletter “At Home With Our Faith” (April). “We started visiting once a month…. We brought the kids (our main job), we ate dinner together, we helped with various chores, as did the homeless folks. After one evening, my son commented, ‘You know, Mom, sometimes it’s hard to tell who’s homeless and who’s a volunteer.'”