By Harold Henderson

“People have an inordinate fondness for trees,” North Branch Prairie Project volunteer steward Robert Lonsdorf tells the NBPP newsletter Brush Piles (Summer). For educational and restorationist reasons, he’d like to see the Cook County Forest Preserve District cut down a stand of trees just south of Miami Prairie. “The clear-cut would be a little shocking for people, but ecologically it seems to be the right thing to do and follows the original natural communities, as we can interpret them from various records.”

Things Whitewater-bashing Republicans don’t want to know. Mother Jones (July/August) reports that suburban Republican Henry Hyde is “the only congressman being sued by government bank regulators.” He’s under scrutiny for his part in the failure of Clyde Federal, “a smallish Chicago thrift” whose failure cost taxpayers $67 million. Hyde served on its board from 1981 to 1984.

“Diverse communities are rare,” write Loyola sociologist Philip Nyden, the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities’ John Lukehart, and Loyola senior researcher Michael Maly, in a report to the Fannie Mae Foundation on an ongoing study funded by the Department of Housing and Urban Development. “In the minds of most Americans, diverse communities translate into unstable communities–they are seen either as communities where low-income individuals are being displaced by gentrifiers or as communities that are in economic decline.” How then do stable diverse communities keep going? The authors studied 14 of them in nine cities. Chicago’s Uptown, Edgewater, Rogers Park, and Chicago Lawn fit the model of communities made up of many numbers of ethnic and racial groups, including many immigrants, that have developed almost by accident in the last 10 or 20 years. The authors think these communities need to become more organized and more self-conscious–and get help from outside–in order to survive. Among other things, they would like to see people discuss the possibility that “maintaining ethnic and race-based political constituencies undermines efforts to create and sustain diverse communities.”

Maybe modern civilization doesn’t suck after all. Annual U.S. homicide rate: 0.01 percent. Annual murder rate in recent tribal societies: 0.5 percent. Murder rate for prehistoric men–according to evidence found in burial sites dating back 12,000 years: 1 to 45 percent (UIC anthropologist Lawrence Keeley in UIC News, May 22).

“Gays and lesbians are about the only folks you can count on these days to uphold old-fashioned institutions such as marriage and the military,” complains Jon-Henri Damski in Outlines (June). “As someone who came into the movement as a ‘strange deviant,’ and will exit the world and the movement as a deviant stranger (incorrigible to the end), I feel irked and betrayed by this facile new ideology.”

More than 16,000 raccoons headed your way. According to the state Department of Natural Resources, nuisance animal complaints were up 11 percent last year, and “of the 48,889 animals handled by nuisance wildlife control permittees, 33 percent were raccoons.”

Chicago is a different country if you go by car ownership. According to census figures presented by Chicago Area Transportation Study’s Ronald Eash at the Metropolitan Conference on Public Transportation Research June 7, one Chicago household in three owns no car. Outside the city limits the figure is well under 10 percent. At the other extreme, only 25 percent of Chicago households own two or more cars; well over half of suburban households do.

Candidates in minority districts “aren’t getting any bargain” from the current campaign-finance system–or from proposed reforms–writes Burney Simpson in the Chicago Reporter (May). “While they may spend less to get elected, their fund-raising options are significantly more limited. African American and Latino candidates rely heavily on money from political action committees and from small, individual donations,” while white candidates tend to get larger donations from individual contributors. “The leading bill in Congress, which would eliminate PAC contributions, has won strong bipartisan support–from white representatives. But few black and Latino lawmakers are willing to embrace the measure.”

Party of two. The city’s Department of Buildings warns against holding parties on back porches in a recent news release: “Many back porches in Chicago are more than 50 years old and were never intended to be used as gathering places.” On the other hand, “casual activity on a porch involving one or two residents is acceptable.”

The war on the poor. “Between 1989 and 1994, the period during which most of Wisconsin’s welfare reforms were implemented, the percentage of Wisconsin children in poverty rose from 14.9 to 19.2, moving Wisconsin’s national rank from fifth to 12th lowest” (Katherine Sciacchitano, In These Times, May 27).

“This is it. If we can’t accomplish this in Europe, we never will,” says John Fox of the Open Society Institute in the Chicago-based ABA Journal (April), referring to the current attempt to try Bosnian Serb war criminals. “Either we go back to de facto law of the jungle or we press ahead to the next stage of enforcing the writ of international law.”

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