“While we [Chicago Public Schools] do get some very good teachers, it’s more luck than the result of any kind of focused effort,” says Janet Froetscher of the financial research and advisory committee, an arm of the civic committee of the Commercial Club of Chicago, which hopes to change that. “A lot has happened here in the last couple of years, and it can be very exciting for a teacher here now, but we don’t do a good job of telling anyone why they should teach here, and then we don’t make it easy. If you have to go to every school yourself, or go to Pershing Road and get sent back and forth 20 times, you really have to want to teach in Chicago” (Catalyst, March).

Something for everyone? Neighborhood economic development is full of contradictions, according to Jeremy Nowak, who runs the Delaware Valley Community Reinvestment Fund and spoke recently to the Future Forum in the Loop. “It is a tradition that was defined by the activism of government more than 25 years ago and, alternatively, by the absence of governmental intervention during the past 15 years,” he writes in Economic Development Quarterly (February 1997). “It is a tradition filled with the community control language of 1960s Black nationalism, yet is ideologically malleable enough to appeal to bootstrap capitalist Republicans. Neighborhood development seemingly offers something for everyone, whether you are a real estate investor interested in internal rates of return or a social scientist concerned with citizen participation and the decline of civil society.” The question he asks: Does it offer enough to poor people who want to stop being poor?

Yeah, somebody else committed mail fraud. The New York Times (March 18) speculates on the potential rehabilitation of ex-con ex-congressman Dan Rostenkowski: “Perhaps his renaissance will echo another Chicago makeover, the exoneration of Mrs. O’Leary and her cow while he was in jail.”

“There is no shortage of phone numbers after all–just a shortage of common sense in the phone industry,” says the Citizens Utility Board in “CUB News” (Winter). “CUB analyzed phone number usage data supplied by every phone company operating in Chicago and the suburbs–data the companies didn’t want us to see–and found that only about 40 percent of the nearly 8 million phone numbers available in the 847 area code are actually in use by customers. The rest are being hoarded by the phone industry.”

William Hale (Big Bill) Thompson’s third term as mayor of Chicago (1927-1931) “was steeped in the local and national politics to come,” writes Douglas Bukowski in his new book Big Bill Thompson, Chicago, and the Politics of Image. “His efforts as mayor were nothing short of Daleyesque: public works for the business community; recognition for blacks and ethnic groups; and patronage for the asking (on proof of loyalty). No predecessor in city hall had ever managed all three.” After he was turned out of office at the start of the Great Depression, “Thompson’s fate was to spend the last thirteen years of his life watching Democrats appropriate his formula for success.”

“Hate is…an equal-opportunity agent of harm,” writes Clarence Wood, chairman of the Chicago Commission on Human Relations, in his introduction to the city’s 1997 hate-crimes report. “Black attackers were as likely to victimize whites (42 offendersin 72% of reported cases [where the victim was white]) as white attackers to victimize blacks (43 offendersin 66% of reported cases [where the victim was black]) in racially motivated hate crimes.”

Ha, ha–my side of the lifeboat doesn’t have any water in it! Should the Sierra Club endorse a “reduction in net immigration” to the U.S.? This proposal (member ballots due by mid-April) has reportedly drawn the support of three prominent environmentalists who might have known better: World Watch Institute president Lester Brown, Earth First! founder Dave Foreman, and Harvard biologist E.O. Wilson (In These Times, March 22).

“‘New Age’ spirituality typifies the present religious moment,” according to a reviewer of Steve Bruce’s book Religion in the Modern World: From Cathedrals to Cults, quoted in Martin Marty’s newsletter “Context” (April 1). “In his analogy, New Agers (but also those in search of traditional religious experience) behave like customers at a candy counter. Their desire for a ‘mix of sweets’ suited to personal tastes represents for Bruce ‘the dominant ethos of late capitalism: the world of options, lifestyles, and preferences.'” Sorry, I buy my gods at Wal-Mart.