“When [Henry Chandler] Cowles’ [University of Chicago] dissertation was published in 1899, it attracted national and international attention to the area at a time when many believed the [Indiana] dunes to be a wilderness wasteland full of sand and mosquitoes, ideal for industrial development and sand mining,” writes Kim Holsen in “Singing Sands Almanac” (Spring). The Indiana Dunes are full of sand and mosquitoes, but Cowles pointed out other, subtler attributes. “Many were, and still are, surprised to learn the dunes are actually a melting pot of flora and fauna brought here by the glaciers and existing among the convergence of several major biotic zones.”

Taxes? No problem, according to “Illinois Tax Facts” (February), published by the Taxpayers’ Federation of Illinois. From 1987 to 1996, state tax receipts have risen pretty much in lockstep with state personal income, about 6 percent per year. If you count state and local taxes together, in 1995 Illinois averaged $111.67 in taxes per $1,000 of personal income. That’s up from $105.12 per $1,000 in 1986, but it still puts Illinois in 35th place among the states, below the national average ($116.94), the midwest average ($116.52), and the industrial-states average ($119.93).

“Until now the mayor’s school leadership team has paid scant attention to upgrading teachers’ skills,” writes Linda Lenz in Catalyst (February). “Two years ago, the Reform Board approved a $150,000 contract with a prominent consulting firm to make recommendations for a more effective staff development program. The administration put the results on a shelf, refusing to make them public.”

We can fix that. The Illinois Association of School Boards’ “Newsbulletin” (February 25) reports that a survey of teens aged 13 to 17 found that only 41 percent knew what the three branches of government were, but 59 percent could name the Three Stooges. Well, why don’t we rename the executive branch “Moe,” the judicial branch “Larry,” and the legislative branch “Curly”?

Finish your medicine. Tuberculosis in Chicago is down significantly since the number of new cases peaked in 1993, at 798; last year only 470 new cases were reported, and only three of them involved strains that were resistant to multiple drugs, according to a recent press release from the Department of Public Health. Credit goes to the department’s adoption of a labor-intensive “directly observed therapy,” under which “public health nurses and other health workers visit TB patients regularly at their homes, worksites, clinics, shelters and other places to observe them taking their medications,” according to the director of the program, William Paul.

“If the Illinois Constitution guarantees political stability during a change of governors, the bureaucracy guarantees administrative stability,” according to James Krohe Jr. in Illinois Issues (February). “The bureaucracy’s famous dead weight, so frustrating to a new director itching to do more than pick out the new carpet in the office, is the source of much of its value to the public. It acts as a flywheel whose sheer weight stabilizes the gyrations of policy and politics from one administration to the next. Because of its inherent stability, a new governor can risk placing an indifferent manager–usually a politico–in charge of many agencies. (The departments of Revenue and Transportation are two of several in Illinois whose strong middle management teams enable them to survive directors who are less than the best.)…A new director may think of himself as the CEO of a large organization, in short, but in most cases he is more like a colonial administrator whom the natives are obliged to obey but not respect.”

“The sport-utility vehicle, the icon of the Clinton era, is much like the president himself–too large, a guzzler of fuel, intent on immediate gratification and a significant obstacle to stopping the deterioration of the global environment,” writes James North, reviewing Mark Hertsgaard’s Earth Odyssey in In These Times (March 21).