News flash. From a recent press release from the city’s Department of Housing: “Most of Chicago’s low and moderate income residents are faced with finite resources.”
The hype: “Sprawling developments do not generate enough taxes to educate the children who live there,” according to “Beyond Sprawl: A Guide to Land Use in the Chicago Region for Reporters and Policy Makers,” published by the Chicago-based nonprofit group Sustain. The facts: “Very few residential developments ‘pay for themselves’ through traditional sources of revenue. …This is true for both sprawling and more efficient forms of development,” according to Once There Were Greenfields, published by the Natural Resources Defense Council.
Urban denial leads to urban renewal. Why don’t the stars turn out to save the remains of Maxwell Street? “The blues greats are the ones who are most likely to think they did it on their own,” Roosevelt University professor Steve Balkin tells Mark Guarino of the Daily Herald (July 13). “If you talk to Buddy Guy, he’ll say he never played (on Maxwell Street) and he’s proud he never played there. I know Buddy Guy visited Maxwell Street, but he’s proud to say he didn’t play there. A lot of the top people don’t like to recognize the humble roots of the music.”
“While scientists are close to deciphering the entire human genetic code, almost no one can decipher a telephone bill,” writes Martin Cohen of the Citizens’ Utility Board in a recent press release. “The ICC ought to mandate standardized billing formats, written in plain language, so consumers can compare prices and services.”
“The grotesque over-coverage of the Kennedy-Bessette deaths is further evidence of the degree to which the media has replaced the church in America,” writes Sam Smith in the “Progressive Review” (July 19). “It picks our gods, tells us for whom and how to mourn, defines our rites of passage, hears confessions, grants absolution, prescribes our creed, and asks for money before the sermon.”
How the numbers lie, according to George Schmidt in Substance (July): “While most schools in Chicago take any student who lives in the school’s attendance area, more than 100 schools are able to select their students, either in whole or in part. Despite this difference, the Chicago school board presents the data from most of the city’s more than 600 elementary schools as if they were all competing in the same way and that therefore the numbers mean something. But when some schools are allowed to ‘cherry pick’ their students…others are forbidden to do so. As a result, some schools can’t ‘fail’ under the current ‘standards’ imposed by the administration of the public schools, while for others success is almost impossible. A sports equivalent would be if one group of major league teams were able to recruit and hire players, while another group had to issue uniforms to anyone who came in the door and field them against the pros.”
“Apparently there was almost no attempt to counter [Benjamin Smith’s] opinions with better informed views,” writes Paul Varnell in Windy City Times (July 15), “so no one, including Smith, learned why he was wrong. Instead there was a march by 500-1,000 people [at Indiana University] to condemn Smith’s ‘hate speech.’ But frankly this seems remarkably anti-intellectual. Denouncing someone’s views does not show why those views are wrong, only that they are unpopular….In addition, according to The New York Times, people ‘kept breaking the windows of his car and his apartment as often as once a week,’ presumably trying to punish him for his beliefs or intimidate him into silence. It would be gratifying to learn that free speech advocates condemned this vigilante harassment and the violation of Smith’s property rights, but there is no record that anyone did.”