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Maybe no one will want the Sears Tower. “It seems curious to us that the downtown office-building boom continues at breakneck pace,” write Edward Keegan and Paul Krieger in Chicago (January 1989). “Everywhere we look, there’s evidence that people don’t seem to need their offices any more. At least half the phone calls we receive seem to be from someone in a car–and any builder can tell you that cars are cheaper than buildings. Fax machines have eliminated any need for face-to-face meetings downtown, and there are more pleasant ways to do business–at least the desperate urge for more stadium skyboxes would indicate as much.”

A bad taste. According to Greenpeace (January/February 1989), the rock salt used to deice U.S. roads costs $300 million a year–but it causes $15 billion worth of damage in groundwater contamination and road and bridge deterioration.

Stop drooling, developers. “Fort Sheridan is a major recreational open space opportunity,” Chicago’s Open Lands Project pointed out in a January 6 statement. Besides facilities for swimming, golf, softball, football, tennis, archery, and gymnasium sports, the soon-to-be ex-fort’s 200 open acres and one and a quarter miles of lake shoreline are a valuable public asset in the increasingly crowded north suburbs. “Within the area bounded by the Lake/Cook county line north to the Waukegan city limits, and Lake Michigan west to the I-94 tollway there is no major recreational open land.” A Fort Sheridan Park would compare well with Grant Park’s 319 acres and 1.4 shoreline miles.

We’re late in passing on this item from the Chicago-based Christian Century (November 23), but somehow that seems fitting: “Late in its session that ended October 22, Congress voted to declare October ‘National AIDS Awareness Prevention Month.’ A proclamation dedicating October to increased awareness of the deadly disease was signed by President Reagan on October 28. Not until the month had ended, on November 1, was the proclamation made public.”

If you wish that Chicago had a mammoth airport in Lake Michigan, a nuclear-power plant in the Indiana Dunes, or continued “Red Squad” surveillance of dissenters, then you’ll be sorry to hear that one of the key organizations in stopping all three is still around and will celebrate its 20th birthday this spring. Business and Professional People for the Public Interest (BPI) was also involved in the integration-promoting Gautreaux court decision, and in the formation of Project LEAP, Friends of the Parks, and the Citizens Utility Board (BPI Newsletter, December 1988).

Yes, enough is enough. From the American Cancer Society: “More than 320,000 Americans will die prematurely this year of diseases linked to smoking.”

Sound and fury, signifying nothing. “Despite the widespread public perception that a significant buildup of U.S. nuclear forces occurred during the Reagan years, the actual record tells a far different story. In terms of numbers, the nuclear buildup did not happen. In terms of qualitative improvement in weaponry, the outcome is more complicated but there is still no clearcut result,” writes William Arkin in the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (January/February 1989). The U.S. now has 23,000 nuclear warheads, a 3 percent drop from 1980. “Reagan demonstrated that in the area of nuclear weapons policy, public perceptions can be shaped without regard for reality. The public was told of a ‘window of vulnerability’ that could only be closed by spending hundreds of billions of tax dollars. Then the public was informed that the nuclear buildup has been successful and that the country could ‘stand tall’ again, but that the military budget could not be lowered. It did not seem to matter that none of this–except for the amount spent on the military–was based on fact.”

Commnwealth Edison as community organizer. You may have seen one of Com Ed’s personalized fliers now being mailed to electricity customers, warning against “a few extremists” allegedly working for a “city takeover” of electric service, and inviting you to return a postage-paid card calling for a “neighborhood meeting.” Those meetings would be a lot more interesting if those attending had some independent evidence of Edison’s own competence at running nuclear plants, such as Public Citizen’s 1987 Annual Nuclear Power Safety Report. In it, each of Edison’s active reactors made at least one “ten-worst” list. At the LaSalle, Zion, and Dresden power plants, for instance, workers exposed to radiation received an average (respectively) of 0.799, 0.663, and 0.607 rems each–compared to an industry average of 0.390 and a chest X-ray dosage of 0.003 to 0.035 rems.

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