“You look at these figures and you see the millstone around Chicago’s neck is not Lawndale but Commonwealth Edison,” says Lew Kreinberg, public-issues coordinator for the Center for Neighborhood Technology on West North Avenue. The Chicago Public Schools, he says, spend twice as much on energy as on textbooks. Some of the worst culprits are electricity-dependent schools built by the Public Building Commission in the early 1970s, such as Curie Metropolitan High School and Clemente Community Academy. Heating and cooling Curie costs $2.79 per square foot each year ($2.70 of that is for electricity). The figure is $2.48 for Clemente. By contrast, older school buildings that depend on a mix of fuels fare much better: Evanston (82 cents per square foot), New Mier (91 cents), and Lane Tech (84 cents).

Credentialism runs amok. “How,” asks Ann C. Fishburn in Chicago Lawyer (June 1988), “could Michael P. Fontana practice law–especially litigation–at Sonnenschein Carlin Nath & Rosenthal for a decade without someone discovering he wasn’t a lawyer?” Fontana was one credit hour shy of his diploma; when his firm learned this, he was fired. Neither Fishburn nor the authors of the Tribune’s law column seem to have asked another obvious question: if someone practices law successfully for a decade with one of the city’s top firms, what difference does it make whether he or she had the correct piece of paper on his or her wall?

Wild Party Alert, 1991-1992 division: According to the University of Chicago Chronicle (May 26), faculty members planning the university’s centennial celebration will form committees on “conferences, music performances and art exhibits, [and] the selection of award winners.” One more committee, yet to be named, will be in charge of “conceptualizing fun.”

Guess which one is the medical emergency. Harper’s “Index” (July 1988) reports: “Number of people worldwide who have died of AIDS since 1981: 72,504. Number of people who have died of measles since then: 14,000,000.”

Hispanics may soon become the nation’s poorest ethnic group, writes Jennifer Juarez Robles in the Chicago Reporter (June 1988), but poverty is not equally distributed among them. “1986 census data show that 45.3 percent of Puerto Ricans in central cities lived in poverty, compared to 30.2 percent for Mexicans and 23.5 percent for other Hispanics.” Why? Robert Aponte of the University of Chicago’s Urban Family Life Project suggests this explanation: “[Mexicans’] move here is more permanent. There isn’t anything to go back to, but Puerto Ricans can return to the island which may prevent them from making the kind of commitment [that Mexicans have made].”

“The next time someone asks to put you on hold,” advises the Chicago-based Business Lines (June 1988), “here’s what to say: ‘I can hold until my other line rings, so take down my number in case I have to hang up.’ Most people will respond by not putting you on hold or by getting back to you in 20 to 30 seconds. And if you’ve hung up, they’ll feel obliged to call you right back,” because you’re sooo humble.

“State taxes have been reduced by over $4.2 billion in the last nine years,” notes the Chicago Metropolitan Executive Directors’ Council for Developmental Disabilities. Reduced how? “Elimination of state sales tax on food and drugs and the state portion of the inheritance tax; expansion of the Circuit Breaker tax relief and Pharmaceutical Assistance; increased homestead exemption; and establishment of senior citizens’ real estate tax deferral.”

Chicagoans’ chances are about 9 in 1,000 of being audited by the Internal Revenue Service, according to agency figures gathered by David Burnham in APF Reporter (Spring 1988). The odds range from a low of 5 per 1,000 in Providence, Rhode Island, and Louisville, Kentucky, to highs of 23 in Anchorage, Alaska, and 25 in Las Vegas, Nevada.

The kids are all right. According to a ten-nation survey of 6,000 high-school-age, middle-class students, “Teens are much better adjusted than their parents and other adults give them credit for.” So says a report by Michael Reese Hospital and Medical Center, whose Dr. Daniel Offer headed the study. “At least 73 percent of the youths surveyed in each country have a healthy image of themselves”–more so in richer countries, less so in countries where teens make up a larger proportion of the population. Individual affluence seems not to matter so much: “Actually, per capita income was associated only with better body image.” More money, more makeup, night?

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