More than half of Chicago high schoolers attend schools outside their neighborhoods, reports Elizabeth Duffrin in Catalyst (December), and those who stay behind are paying a price. The city’s 12 least popular high schools–Austin, Manley, and Orr high schools on the west side, and Calumet, Bowen, Englewood, Fenger, Harlan, Robeson, South Shore, Tilden, and Phillips on the south side–lost 62 to 77 percent of the students in their attendance areas last year. These schools are often caught in a vicious circle in which the most able and motivated students and faculty leave. “A typical class at South Shore has 28 students; 10 to 12 of them have learning disabilities, and another two or three have behavioral disorders, according to [lead math teacher Betty] Hammond. The learning disabled read on a 4th- to 6th-grade level, and the behavior disordered cause frequent disruptions, she reports. ‘You can’t get through the material that should be covered.'”

Metaphor from, er, hell. Martin Marty quotes an essay by Bowen H. “Buzz” McCoy in “Real Estate Issues” (Summer): “It is difficult to talk openly about ethics in a business, because we have made it difficult to talk about God in a business. This is certainly our densest wall to straddle” (“Context,” January 1).

Profiling the problematic–fish, that is. Notre Dame biologist David Lodge notes that many exotic species don’t upset ecosystems. But the exotics that are disruptive usually have several traits in common, he writes in the “Helm,” newsletter of the Illinois-Indiana Sea Grant College Program (Fall-Winter). “More so than native fish, they adapt to habitat degraded by humans, such as murky waters due to siltation. These fishes are also smaller at maturity and have higher reproduction rates.”

Doing business in Cicero. Why did Armando Gonzalez’s business of rehabilitating old apartment buildings and selling them as condos suddenly run afoul of Cicero regulations that hadn’t been applied to his competitors? In upholding a lower-court decision against the town on December 19, the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals outlined how Gonzalez went wrong: “In 1998, Cook County approached Gonzalez about finding rental space for a new Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) office in Cicero. Gonzalez eventually negotiated a lease with the County for space in one of his buildings. The Town of Cicero, however, needed to approve the lease and Gonzalez was told [town mayor Betty] Loren-Maltese had decided to block the deal. Gonzalez scheduled a meeting with Loren-Maltese at which she acknowledged that this was true. Gonzalez attempted to persuade her to approve the lease, and by the end of the meeting, Loren-Maltese was non-committal. She told Gonzalez to expect a call from Edward Vrdolyak, a former Chicago alderman with no official position in the Town of Cicero. Shortly thereafter, Vrdolyak summoned Gonzalez to his Chicago office. As the two talked, Vrdolyak assured Gonzalez that Loren-Maltese was his ‘friend,’ that she would help him, but that Gonzalez should ‘take care of her.’ Not long after this meeting, Loren-Maltese permitted the lease to go through….Gonzalez, however, apparently did not get the message Vrdolyak was trying to send. Instead of a more valuable show of gratitude, Gonzalez sent Loren-Maltese a bouquet of flowers.”

Tracking the burden of rent. From the Chicago Rehab Network’s third-quarter “Department of Housing Quarterly Analysis”: “‘Rent burdened’ is a standard used by HUD to describe a household which pays more than 30% of its income for rent. In 2 out of every 5 rental units in Chicago, households are rent burdened. In 1 out of every 5 units, renters pay more than half their income for rent.”