“Squatting–that is, people who are living in vacant units or hallways illegally–is a significant problem in Wells,” writes Susan Popkin of the Urban Institute in a report on the Chicago Housing Authority’s Ida B. Wells housing development. “During a period of two weeks in early spring 2003, our interviewers counted 388 squatters (294 adults and 94 children) living in Wells….Unlike many homeless people who tend to move around from night to night, squatters at Wells have lived in the development for a long time. More than a quarter (28 percent) have lived in Wells for more than a year, and more than half (57 percent) of the squatters we interviewed sleep in Wells seven nights a week….When we asked what they will do when Wells is demolished, about a third (32 percent) reported they ‘didn’t know,’ and 28 percent said they planned to move to another CHA building…. Currently, the housing market and the emergency shelter system are ill equipped to handle the needs of these at-risk residents. If the problems are ignored, the city risks enormous increases in the homeless population as Wells and CHA’s other developments are demolished.”

Please donate to “Taxpayers Helping Themselves.” According to a November report, “Vehicle Donations,” the federal General Accounting Office examined 54 vehicle donations to charity and found that in two-thirds of the cases, “charities received 5 percent or less of the value donors claimed as deductions on their tax return.” One reason was that the vehicles were “being sold at auctions at wholesale prices, and proceeds being reduced by vehicle processing and fundraising costs.”

Sorry, all business owners speaking at tonight’s hearing must wear dunce caps. University of Illinois law professor Eric Freyfogle writes in his new book The Land We Share: Private Property and the Common Good: “For government to succeed, Thomas Jefferson believed, people had to rise above self-interest and reflect on the good of the whole. Some citizens, of course, were better able to do this than others. But participants who showed up to promote their economic interests in an issue were prima facie ill-suited to participate. Comments by such ‘stakeholder groups’ are not public comments; they express private interests that may or may not overlap with the good of the whole, and they should be labeled as such….Why should a homebuilders’ association get away with the claim that it is the voice of prospective homeowners? At a gathering called to consider a plan limiting development, how different would the sense of the public be if ‘the public’ excluded developers, homebuilders, and landowners poised to sell their lands at great gain?”

Another angle on the oppression of Pullman porters. “Being a porter had positive features,” writes Loyola University historian Susan Eleanor Hirsch in her new book, After the Strike: A Century of Labor Struggle at Pullman. “It allowed black men to travel freely throughout the United States, protected from white hostility by their uniforms, at a time when their physical safety might otherwise have been in jeopardy. Furthermore, tip income could be considerable, and many men traded the certainty of a low daily wage at unskilled labor for the possibility of higher earnings.” Moreover, in 1937 the porters’ union became the first black union to sign a contract with a major corporation.

Lest we forget downstate. According to the Illinois Poverty Summit’s 2004 “Report on Illinois Poverty: An Analysis of Rural Poverty,” 13.49 percent of Cook County residents live below the poverty line, compared to 14.45 percent in southern Illinois (including 25 percent in Pulaski County and 26 percent in Alexander County). Similarly, 63.45 percent of Cook County residents are in the labor force, compared to 59.08 percent in southern Illinois.

In a sentence. John Norberg is quoted in Reason (December) saying, “The big challenge in the Arab Muslim countries is to bypass the injunction to theocracy and to confine Islam to private life.”