Lead sentences we never got past, from Earth Day ’90 Chicago: “Environmental journalists, in an act of upping the anti on scientific literacy, have the unique position of bonding the widest variety of subjects…”

“Young black males make up only 5 percent of the city’s population but are the victims in 34 percent of the murders,” reports Barnaby Dinges in the Chicago Reporter (February 1990). “The yearly murder rate for young black males was 152 for every 100,000 people (between the ages of 14 and 29) between 1987 and 1989. Hispanic males were slain at the rate of 102 per 100,000, six times the 17 per 100,000 rate of whites that age.” Dinges quotes an unsurprised Police Superintendent LeRoy Martin: “Society, not the police department, has been remiss in not addressing the needs and problems of this exploding population group with limited job skills…. Police can only control killings on public ways, and most murders occur in peoples’ homes among friends and family. The root causes of these killings are poverty and drugs.”

Trouble: During the 1980s State Comptroller Roland Burris notes that state spending on higher education rose 72 percent. Real trouble: During the same time, average tuition and fees at state universities rose 270 percent–from $828 in 1980 to $2,222 in 1989 at a state university.

“The most disturbing development among the Washington press corps is a collective amnesia about the purpose of a newspaper–which is to gather news,” writes Molly Ivins in Mother Jones (February/March 1990). The New York Times “sends out reporters to write down the words of powerful people, who frequently lie. The Times then prints the words and has its columnists double-dome them. It serves as a megaphone for official lies and then lets some zippy thinker like Flora Lewis or Abe Rosenthal gum it over for us. No one is out getting the news.”

Don’t you feel a lot less safe as soon as you get to New Buffalo? “March 1 is known as ‘Abolition Day,'” reports Lifelines (January-February 1990), newsletter of the National Coalition to Abolish the Death Penalty. “Around the country, demonstrations, pickets, educational events and a breaking of the fast will mark the 143rd anniversary of the date in 1847 when the state of Michigan became the first English-speaking jurisdiction in the world to abolish capital punishment.”

“Are SRO residents any more ‘disaffiliated’ than yuppies who reside in cramped downtown studio apartments?” asks Roger Kerson, reviewing New Homeless and Old by Charles Hoch of UIC and Robert A. Slayton in Chicago Enterprise (February 1990). “Are they more ‘detached’ than the thousands of financially well-off individuals who try to form significant social attachments through anonymous personal ads? Ironically, as Hoch and Slayton point out, young professionals who set up housekeeping in tiny studio apartments have something in common with SRO residents: they are willing to sacrifice a certain degree of physical comfort in exchange for convenience and location. The difference, of course, is that a yuppie has the cash to pay $500 or $600 a month for a room and a half in a trendy enclave. And yuppies are not likely to have their digs bulldozed in the name of urban renewal.”

They may be rioting during a blizzard, but I want you in here, Bumstead. According to the Management Association of Illinois’ survey of nearly 400 state firms, “only 17.3 % will pay if [an office] employee is unable to get to work because of weather…. Only 5.2 % will pay for time not worked for civil disturbances.”

“Persons with criminal convictions (other than that for minor traffic matters) or a record of multiple arrests should not be appointed as election judges,” the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners recently (!) voted. “However, exceptions can be made where it is determined that the criminal record indicates no apparent threat to persons or property or that the conviction is neither election related or involves any breach of integrity.” Yeah, we have a lot of laws like that.

Caution: To get into the 1990 World Book, says executive editor A. Richard Harmet, “A person must have made a major contribution to his or her field; or, an event or subject must have lasting significance. We often take a wait-and-see attitude.” That’s for sure: among the new entries in this year’s edition of the Chicago-based encyclopedia are Mae West, Alan Jay Lerner, Jack Nicholson, Tom Wolfe, Daniel Ortega, and John Lennon.

Extreme caution, from the Institute of Certified Financial Planners: “As we enter a new decade full of economic and financial uncertainties, only one thing is absolutely certain: we survived the 1980s.”

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