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By Harold Henderson

“The most unconsciously uncool region in the city of Chicago” is how Adam Langer describes East Rogers Park in his new book The Madness of Art: A Guide to Living and Working in Chicago. “You’ll see the occasional ‘fro, lots of sandals (the brown worn leather kind), lots of cut-off shorts, lots of acoustic guitars, lots of New Age jewelry, and lots of folks in sparse apartments with big, droopy pot plants and excessive record album collections. That is to say, it’s still 1974 around here.”

Most clinically interesting reason for objecting to a rural bicycle trail, from a letter to the Michigan City, Indiana, News-Dispatch (April 13): “City people do not understand why we [rural dwellers] get upset when our privacy is invaded. My definition of having enough privacy on my property is to be able to run naked, screaming at the top of my lungs, and not bother or be noticed by my neighbors, and my neighbors are able to do the same thing without bothering me.” Gee–don’t they have medications for that nowadays?

“I was getting stopped by police so much that I used to compute the time of my stop into my travel time,” Chicago’s Salim Muwakkil tells Michael Fletcher of the Washington Post National Weekly (April 8-14). “Out of 10 trips, I would say that I would be stopped at least five times.” Adds Fletcher, “Muwakkil thinks he was being stopped for what he sardonically calls DWB–driving while black.” Now he has a strategy: “He rents a bland-colored Taurus rather than a flashy Mustang, strictly obeys the speed limit and definitely does not don his black beret.”

In peril on Chicago Avenue. Micah Marty in Context (April 15): “I recall the experience of a friend who was walking on Chicago Avenue near Moody Bible Institute and heard a group of Moody students behind her. ‘I saved a man’s soul right here last Thursday night,’ one of the students told the others as they passed in front of a nightclub. ‘He came out that door and I helped him find the Lord right here on the sidewalk.’ One of the other students asked what motivated him to make the effort at that particular time and place, and he responded that the Spirit must have moved him but added, ‘Of course, I also did it for extra credit in Dr. A.’s Personal Evangelism class.'”

Things Democrats don’t want to know. “The most startling feature of schools, distinguishing them from more successful institutions in our economy, is that rewards are only vaguely associated with performance, if at all,” writes economist Eric Hanushek in the National Research Council publication Improving the Performance of America’s Schools, trying to explain why he has found no relation between dollars spent and educational results. “A teacher who produces exceptionally large gains in her students’ performance generally sees little difference in compensation, career advancement, job status, or general recognition when compared with a teacher who produces exceptionally small gains. A superintendent who provides similar student achievement to that in the past but at lower cost is unlikely to get rewarded. With few incentives to obtain improved performance, it should not be surprising to find that resources are not systematically used in a fashion that improves performance.”

Department of things that never quite seem to be irrelevant. According to the Chicago-based Student Lawyer (April), two economists have found that “attractiveness increases a male lawyer’s chances of early partnership. But good looks set female lawyers back on the partnership track.”

Lest reading too many Ray Coffey columns makes us forget. Percentage of the $19.2 million in waste, fraud, and mismanagement in Chicago Public Schools attributed to school system employees in the Inspector General’s Second Annual Report: 99.8. Percentage blamed on local school council members: 0.2.

Who said city planning isn’t a hereditary job? One generation gets to undo what the previous generation did. From the Metropolitan Planning Council’s recommendations on redeveloping Cabrini-Green: “Restore the city’s street grid system and blend this area back into the larger community….The reintroduction of through-streets, if carefully planned and managed, will not only reunite Cabrini to surrounding neighborhoods, but will also improve security and restore the identity of the area.”

“The free market is better for gays than democracy,” argues Paul Varnell in Windy City Times (April 11). “In the economic marketplace, when you cast your ‘dollar vote’ for the product you want, you get the product you want. That is, you win no matter what other people do with their dollar votes, and your approval registers economically with the firm whose product you bought. In the political marketplace, you get what you want only if half of all the other voters already agree with you. If you voted for a losing side, you get nothing. And your candidate gets no reward for making outreach to you. In fact, he may be being penalized. In short, the economic marketplace fosters a pluralism of values and a plurality of results–i.e., a variety of ways of living. In the political marketplace, the winner’s values are imposed on the losers….Which of these better benefits minorities like gays seems clear.”

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Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): illustration/Carl Kock.