Mayor Daley tells architects what’s what. “Sometimes, when I’ve been shown a housing design for the first time and I see a design that has no green space or looks out onto concrete, then I tell the builders and architects: ‘You live in it.’ They usually respond with: ‘Oh, I live in Highland Park.’ That’s great; but why do you live there? Maybe because there’s green space there? When you look out of your house, do you want to see beautiful greenery or concrete? I don’t want to see concrete. If what you’re building right here in Chicago is so great, tell me: Would you want to live here? It’s as simple as that” (Focus Architecture Chicago, June).

How can welfare reform work if nobody understands it? That’s what Steve Anderson, a University of Illinois professor of social work, started asking ten years ago as a budget analyst in Michigan, one of the early state laboratories for welfare reform. Even as a designated expert, he found the policies and programs difficult to understand and often had to consult other state offices for answers. “And yet,” he recalls, in a recent U. of I. press release, “at the same time, there was considerable academic discussion suggesting that recipients were ‘gaming’ the welfare system. By ‘gaming,’ they meant that recipients knew all the benefits, and were objectively calculating how much it was worth to be on welfare versus how much it was worth to have a low-wage job.” If this economic theory were true, then the right incentives could push people toward work. But after studying 60 women on AFDC in Lansing, Michigan, Anderson believes the theory is off base. Few of the women had “even a basic working knowledge of the range of incentives available to those who worked,” even those considered to be of greatest importance in encouraging work, such as the federal earned-income tax credit. Even though 82 percent of his respondents had worked at some point during the previous three years, only 67 percent had even heard of the credit, only 35 percent had ever applied for it, and only 30 percent had any idea how it worked.

Why parishes should be organized by geographic area, not self-selection, according to Monsignor Philip Murnion in the Chicago-based U.S. Catholic (July): “A self-selecting parish…is by definition more homogeneous in terms of socioeconomic factors, ideology, and level of commitment to faith and church. However much its preaching, teaching, and worship promote catholicity, diversity, and hospitality, its very structure and the fact that people must choose to travel to a particular church not in their local community makes it more exclusive.”

Lindens, birches, maples, and magnolias have thin bark and are especially vulnerable to lawn mowers, “shovels, ‘weed-whackers,’ and out-of-control fertilizer spreaders,” according to Larry Hall, quoted in a recent press release from the suburban-based Hendricksen tree-care service. Tougher-barked oaks, elms, and ashes are less vulnerable, except when they’re young.

Turnabout is fair play. Senate Republicans are pushing a Mandates Information Act, which would establish a new “point of order” stumbling block for bills that would impose costs exceeding $100 million on the private sector, reports the Natural Resources Defense Council’s “Legislative Watch” (June 25). Senator Dick Durbin has offered an amendment that would extend the act’s procedures to riders that weaken protections for health, safety, and the environment, making senators go on record for or against the riders. The NRDC article states, “The Durbin ‘Defense of the Environment’ amendment would ensure Members a separate vote on these riders by creating a point of order against a bill that contains them. While the Durbin amendment failed in Committee by a vote of 6 to 8, with all the Republicans opposing it, Sen. Durbin has pledged to carry this critical fight to the floor.”