“OK, yer under arrest . . . um, wanna bottle?” As part of a federally funded “Drug Use Forecasting” project in Cook County, says an Illinois Criminal Justice Information Authority release, “people arrested for various crimes are asked to voluntarily submit to an interview and urinalysis for the purpose of measuring drug use among suspected offenders.” We predict an amazingly low rate of drug use among those who volunteer.

You can have merit selection, or you can have Irish selection. Listen in on Chicago Lawyer’s (April 1988) postmortem on the March Democratic primary for circuit court judge nominations: “Non-slated Denise Margaret O’Malley, who was rated not qualified by the [Chicago Council of Lawyers] and not recommended by the [Chicago Bar Association], came treacherously close to defeating slated Michael Brennan Getty, who was rated qualified by the council and highly qualified by the CBA. Four years ago, Getty was slated under the name L. Michael Getty and received the same bar ratings he received this time. However, he lost to non-slated Daniel J. Kelley, who was rated poorly by the bar associations. That disappointment is no doubt why Getty got on the ballot this time with an Irish-sounding middle name. Had he not done so, he could easily have lost to O’Malley, who finished only slightly more than 3 percentage points behind him.”

Welcome to the Dark Ages. The way to clean up the environment is not to tack “pollution-control” devices onto polluting technologies, argues Barry Commoner (Harper’s, May 1988)–it’s to redesign the entire technology. But instead of retooling the auto industry to make cars that do not produce nitrogen dioxide (smog), for instance, we add catalytic converters and agree to live with an “acceptable” level of pollution. “In a way, this represents a return to the medieval approach to disease, in which illness–and death itself–was regarded as a debit on life endured as payment for original sin. In our updated version, we think that some level of pollution and some risk to health is the inevitable price to be paid for the material benefits of modern technology.”

Ironies of history, near-west-side division. Architect-historian Deborah Slaton writes in Inland Architect (March/April 1988): “The threat of demolition comes just as the neighborhood surrounding Holy Family shows signs of being able, once again, to support the church in a style to which it was once accustomed.”

Want to start a farm? More than 15,000 Chicagoans are expected to do so this spring, by requesting a “Farm Starter Kit” (garden seeds and plants) from the city’s Department of Human Services.

Would you buy this company? “Pretend, for a moment, that you are the new chief executive officer of a corporation with $20 billion in annual sales,” writes state representative Woods Bowman in Chicago Enterprise (March 1988). “This company has operated in the red for seven of the past eight years–and the shareholders want a better bottom line. You call in your chief fiscal officer. She tells you that your predecessor budgeted each of the company’s divisions separately. Sometimes they added up to a profit; more often they did not. Worse, the expense side of the budget usually is rewritten and increased during a fiscal year, even if revenue projections have not changed. You can stop pretending now, for this has been a true-to-life description of how the State of Illinois and the Illinois General Assembly create a budget.”

“In our culture, which emphasizes control and problem solving, people tend to think that the right technique will solve any problem,” writes John Garvey in the Chicago-based Salt magazine (April 1988). “We speak of ‘parenting’ as if it were something you could learn well and turn out children made to order, products of skills all parents can acquire. I’m pretty sure life isn’t like that. You do the best you can, and–given the culture, bad luck, and the presence of evil–things can still go wrong, sometimes terribly wrong.”

Chicago, the world’s 17th largest metropolitan area, ranks fifth in the number of multinational corporation headquarters, according to the editors of the new book The Capitalist City. The leaders are New York (59 HQs), London (37), Tokyo (34), Paris (26), and–in a tie, with 18 apiece–Chicago and Essen. And we don’t need to tell you where Essen is, do we?

“Singapore is very much like Southern California only nicer,” writes Mary Howe, who traveled there as part of a city-arranged trade mission (the NORBIC Network, March 1988). “They have a wonderful law where they arrest you and fine you $250 for littering. The end result is the cleanest, graffiti-free city I’ve ever visited.”

It could be Grandma, but on the other hand Uncle Ned is real cranky. From an Illinois Department of Public Health news release: “Once you have made the decision to place an older relative in a nursing home, the next question usually is, ‘Which one?'”

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