Daley giveth, and Daley taketh away. From the Network Builder (Fall): “Affordable housing units Chicago’s Department of Housing helped finance in 1994 and 1995: 5,205….Housing units Chicago’s Department of Buildings demolished in 1994 and 1995: 7,491.”

An amazingly articulate body of water. “The River, of course, is our customer,” writes Laurene von Klan in the “River Reporter,” newsletter of Friends of the Chicago River (Winter). “But what does the river want?…Often the River makes its needs clear–it floats some trash up to the surface, reminding us that while the river has gotten a lot cleaner, we still have more work to do. Banks stripped bare of vegetation by high waters are symptoms of the impervious shell of concrete that has grown over the region….It asks us to change the way that we use water in our homes and businesses. It asks that we actively think about it, and enjoy it. It asks us to respect it as a living thing.”

“When the board gave schools the option of going private with maintenance this year, Gladstone [Elementary School, on the near west side] didn’t think twice. ‘Why? We weren’t clean,’ says [principal Gary] Moriello. ‘It was as simple as that.'” The school contracted with Hugo’s Cleaning Service. “All of the Hugo workers hired in August proved unsatisfactory, but they were easy to remove,” writes Elizabeth Duffrin in Catalyst (December). “‘Unlike board employees where it can take forever and a day, I can just say, get rid of him. Done, gone. Just like that,’ says Moriello.”

The public’s interests. Trends in U.S. public opinion, according to the General Social Survey conducted by the University of Chicago’s National Opinion Research Center (University of Chicago Chronicle, October 24). Percentage of urban residents who favored more welfare spending in 1990: 35. In 1996: 19. Percentage supporting more education spending in 1972: 40. In 1996: 74. Percentage supporting more spending on the environment, 1989: 75 (all-time high). In 1996: 63. Percentage of all surveyed who said homosexuality is “always wrong,” 1991: 76. In 1996: 61.

Yeah, but the Druids didn’t have to work in theirs. On March 20, notes an Adler Planetarium press release, visitors will be able to participate in “our seasonal sunset ceremony, witnessing the Sun setting against Chicago’s megalithic skyscrapers in the style of Stonehenge.”

“There are, in fact, very few historic landscapes of any size in Illinois,” writes Theodore Hild, chief of the state Historic Preservation Agency’s Preservation Services Division, in Historic Illinois (December). “This diminution of the landscape’s integrity is perfectly natural. Think of Illinois as a food factory. Then think of the rural landscape as the infrastructure supporting it. Changes have occurred in our landscape so that the food factory could be updated like any other industry.”

Naive kid from city visits suburb for first time. Jacob Borshard (writing in F Newsmagazine, December) steps off the Metra train in Lake Forest: “I struggle to distinguish the street from the sidewalk. They’re both so clean that I can’t tell the difference between the two.”

Travel writers who need a vacation, from the newsletter “Traveling Healthy”: “According to Greek mythology, Icarus’s flight was not going well; his back was cold. He went higher to warm up, but his waxed wings melted and he fell into the sea. The quandary of back comfort and air travel continues.”

What Illinois elections are about, according to James Merriner in Illinois Issues (November): “To simplify crudely: If Republicans control the legislature, the Illinois State Medical Society, which poured cash into the two GOP leaders’ PACs, gets its payoff in the form of limits on malpractice suits. If Democrats control the legislature, the Illinois Trial Lawyers, which poured cash into the two Democratic leaders’ PACs, gets its payoff in the form of rejection of these limits.”

“The census of 1990 reveals that the United States is not a nation in decline,” writes University of Michigan sociologist Reynolds Farley in his new book The New American Reality: Who We Are, How We Got Here, Where We Are Going. “The most important indicators show that we are a healthier, better educated, richer nation than we were a quarter-century ago and a nation that provides more nearly equal opportunities to a larger share of the population.” Most tellingly, he notes, “Babies, both white and black, were twice as likely to die before their first birthday in 1970 as in 1994.” Why are so many people anxious, then? “Fears about decline are based upon the fact that, despite growth and change, disparities between socioeconomic classes and between blacks and whites are not decreasing….The middle class is certainly not in danger of extinction but, unlike the decades before 1973, it is not growing. The middle class must work longer and harder to maintain its status, and it is increasingly difficult for families to move up from poverty.”