“It brought you in the showroom, didn’t it? Be it right or wrong, that’s the way everybody does it,” said Ralph Schneider, sales manager at Evanston Nissan, about the Sentra his dealership advertised for $4,495. Ah, but the fine print in the the ad’s footnote explains that that’s the price only “after your $2,000 trade-in or cash down payment.” By the time all other charges are tacked on, the car costs $7,721. This was only one of many advertising oddities found by Sean Aday, Joseph Audi, Amalia Rioja, and Elaine Walker in their investigation of car-price scams published in the Headline Club News (June 1990), the newsletter of the Chicago chapter of the Society of Professional Journalists. What a coincidence that this naming-names investigation was published in a monthly of limited circulation rather than in the Sun-Times, which takes in at least $18 million a year in car ads, or the Tribune, which won’t say how much it takes in, though it’s probably more.

“The myth of Albany Park is that everyone, without regard to race, nationality, or ethnicity, is welcome to live there, and able to participate in community life,” says Paul Friesema of Northwestern University’s Center for Urban Affairs and Policy Research in Urban Affairs News (Spring 1990). “But that is clearly untrue. Participation is neither equal nor open, and power is in the hands of a few.” Political machines, for example, supposedly offer important social stepping-stones for new ethnic groups. But Friesema, who volunteered for the 40th Ward Democratic organization as part of his research, found the party made no serious efforts to bring new immigrants into the political life of the ward. Despite the ward’s ethnic diversity–African American, Assyrian, Colombian, Filipino, German, Hmong, Mexican, Puerto Rican, Salvadoran, and more–“the party organization is virtually all white.”

“Why are Chicago architects producing designs that appear to be taken from the era of the Chicago Tribune competition?” asks Wojciech Lesnikowski in Inland Architect (May/June 1990). “The biggest design triumphs seem to be associated with building size. . . . Consider also the individual residences designed to evoke 19th-century sentimentality, churches which have forgotten the wonderful tradition of spatial and structural experimentation, . . . public buildings designed in the ‘Fin de Siecle’ mentality. . . . Of course it is absurd to put the entire blame on architects. . . . After all, architecture is a mirror that reflects the socio-political tendencies of the time. The last two decades in this country saw an increase of unbelievable political and cultural conservatism which failed to encourage creative or intellectual experimentation or conceptual risk-taking. The last two decades were largely preoccupied with rude profit motives based on proven formulas, while foreign leaders were busy with conceptual thinking.”

Crime that pays. “Fly dumpers fall into two categories,” writes Barnaby Dinges in the Chicago Reporter (June 1990): “Small-time operators whom the city occasionally nabs and big-load pros who scout out target areas, dump repeatedly at night and rarely get caught. A loaded semitrailer-truck can carry up to 20 tons of rubble and a driver can make $600 by illegally dumping the waste, rather than using a licensed waste facility. The driver also saves time and gas because the five landfills in Chicago are located on the outskirts of the city.”

Teaching law school is different, jokes award-winning U. of C. professor Philip Kurland (University of Chicago Chronicle, May 24): “Where you try to develop a sense of skepticism in the undergraduates, with the law school students you’ve already got a bunch of skeptics, and you’re developing them into cynics.”

“The so-called Tax Accountability Amendment would only further shift that tax burden onto local government and not lead to any reduction in taxes,” explains the IVI-IPO Action Bulletin (June 1990). If (as the proposed amendment says) a three-fifths majority of state legislators is required to pass any income-tax hike, then “local governments will be forced to continue to raise their property taxes just to maintain current services. In addition, the amendment would also increase the need for pork-barrel politics where the governor trades support for many unnecessary projects to win a reluctant legislator’s vote for particular tax increases.” Despite that dismal prospect, the all-too-similar candidates for Illinois governor, Jim Edgar and Neil Hartigan, have both endorsed this “dream baby of far-right politicos.”

Dept. of ringing endorsements. From IVI-IPO activist David Slavsky at the group’s Monday-night endorsement session: “Neil Hartigan is not David Orr, but he’d be a pretty good governor.”

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