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“Every time I see a group of workers, it seems their wages are falling,” writes local labor lawyer Tom Geoghegan in Illinois Issues (February). “Case one: A big trucking company closed terminals all over the Midwest and started up again under a new name. The company with the new name signed a new contract with the union, then hired entirely different drivers. Entirely. In each terminal, all the old workers are gone. And the new ones have lower wages. Yet the powers-that-be are terrified that labor markets are too tight. Case two: A nationwide warehouse stopped hiring its own drivers and started using labor brokers. The reason? The warehouse doesn’t want to pay pensions. Still, young drivers line up to work with no benefits. Nothing. Who are these guys? They’re white male drivers who have skills and big rigs. But labor markets are tight?”

We’re number one! Or is it number two, three, or four? Local urbanologist Pierre deVise reports the following figures from census estimates and Bureau of Labor Statistics numbers: “Among the nation’s 10 largest metro areas, Chicago ranks first in number of jobs (4,244,200) [New York has 4,236,000]; second, after Atlanta, in job gains since 1990 (535,200); third in population, after New York and Los Angeles; and fourth in population gains since 1990” (from a press release for deVise’s report “Chicago at the Turn of the Millennium,” January).

“Straight kids [who grew up with gay parents] are confused,” says Abigail Garner, quoted by Jennifer Vanasco in the Chicago Free Press (January 19). “We feel pulled to gay culture, but we’re not gay. We can’t separate what is orientation and what is culture and we wind up being rejected both by the straight and gay worlds.” Vanasco writes that Garner “believes that when we say that we’re part of the GLBT community, we don’t really mean ‘community’–we just use the term as shorthand for being gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender people.”

News you won’t hear from welfare reformers. “According to Illinois Department of Human Services (IDHS) records, only 23 percent of [Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, formerly AFDC] case closings from January to November of 1998 were due to increased income,” states an on-line summary of a new study by Work, Welfare and Families and the Chicago Urban League, “Living With Welfare Reform.” “The majority of families who lost welfare benefits during that time had their cases closed for noncompliance or administrative reasons.”

“Interestingly, Chicago’s urban beavers have not created dams,” according to the “River Reporter” (Winter), newsletter of the Friends of the Chicago River. “They seem to have adapted to urban conditions by being secretive.”

The never-ending struggle to enforce good taste. “Watch out what you wish for,” cautions Indianapolis preservationist Kipp Normand in the Indiana Preservationist (January/February). “If sprawl is checked, that would encourage people of means to take control of historic buildings [in central cities]. Instead of building a new house in what was a cornfield, they may demolish historic buildings or turn them into the kind of design monstrosities we see so often in the ‘burbs.”

“Why is the industrial world’s most prosperous nation so afraid of its kids?” asks Salim Muwakkil in In These Times (February 7). Media fear mongering, much of it based on race. By contrast, “the creation of the juvenile court a century ago [in Cook County] was based on the notion that children are not just little adults, but people who comprehend the world–and think and act–differently. Lacking a perspective deepened by experience, they often fail to weigh risks and consequences and are readily influenced by peers. The most significant difference, however, is that they are redeemable and amenable to positive change.” But that view won’t sell papers or boost ratings.

Bad news for social investors. Business Ethics (January/February) lists 16 “socially responsible” equity funds that have been around for five years or more. Of the 16, only 3 have generated returns greater than the stock market average over the last five years (the S&P 500 Index return was 27.5 percent): Citizens Emerging Growth Fund (32 percent), Domini Social Equity Fund (28.2 percent), and Dreyfus Premium Third Century Fund (28 percent).