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By Harold Henderson

“In the great tradition of the U of C,” 1990 grads Carlos Barrionuevo and Alexandra Quere are quoted as saying in University of Chicago Magazine (December), “two alumni decided to marry each other rather than prowling the bars trying to talk to Northwestern graduates.”

“Latinos are less concentrated and segregated than blacks, but remain more so than all other ethnic groups,” reports Pierre deVise of Roosevelt University’s Institute for Metropolitan Affairs in the study “The Spread of Latino Poverty and Overcrowding in Metropolitan Chicago, 1980 to 1985.” “Close to half (49%) of Chicago’s Latinos live in Latino majority neighborhoods, compared to 98% of blacks living in black majority neighborhoods.”

Were you shocked by the survey that showed (among other things) that less than one-quarter of Americans polled could name both U.S. senators from their state, and four of ten can’t name the vice president? Don’t be. Ignorance is chronic and hasn’t toppled the republic yet. Tucked away in the Washington Post National Weekly’s report on the sensational study (February 5-11) was this deflating fact: “Surveys indicate that Americans know about as much about politics and government today as they did during the 1940s.”

“Does Chicago think of its own artists as being somehow separate from the rest of the art world?” New Art Examiner (January) asks Donald McFadyen, who replies, “As losers for even being here! It’s an inferiority complex, no doubt. I’ve had dealers in New York, I’ve lived in New York, I could go and live there again; I am here because of inertia, livability, call it what you will, it doesn’t matter.”

“Transit is not an effective way to save energy,” according to Gordon Fielding, who wrote the chapter “Transit in American Cities” in the new book The Geography of Urban Transportation. “Other strategies have proven more beneficial. As transit provides only 2.5% of all urban trips, even a doubling of transit use will not conserve much gasoline. Although a full bus is more energy efficient than an auto with an average occupancy of 1.5 persons,…buses are full only at rush hours. Average occupancy over the whole day is only about 12 persons….Transit’s contribution to reducing air pollution merits less support than its role as an energy conserver. Again, limited use, especially in those urban areas most affected by automobile-generated air pollution, reduces transit’s contribution. Moreover, bus transit [which, according to Fielding, provides more than half of all mass transit] is itself a source of pollutants. Exhaust from diesel buses is not merely nauseating; it is also quite harmful.”

Profamily? Forget it, says Northwestern’s Adolph Reed Jr. in the Progressive (February). “It’s certainly necessary to combat the use of family rhetoric, which the right uses as a weapon against anyone who doesn’t conform to conservative patriarchal ideals. Contesting for ownership of a label whose popular usage is saturated with evocations of a narrow, conservative moralism, however, is not obviously the most effective way to do battle. The real issue, after all, isn’t whether ‘families,’ by whatever reckoning, are suffering or being undermined by rightwing policy initiatives. It’s that the right’s program impoverishes and otherwise endangers large numbers of individuals–without regard to their household arrangements and patterns of intimate attachment.”

“We can drop all the curbs in town and make it easier for people [with physical disabilities] to wheel themselves into Jewel,” says assistant director Dan Wasmer of Thresholds Psychiatric Rehabilitation on North Ravenswood, in the group’s magazine Thresholds Open Door (Winter), “but with the mentally ill it is a different story. We’re not talking about changing the curbs on sidewalks, we’re talking about changing the curbs in people’s minds.”

Selective Christianity. Ethics professor Lisa Sowle Cahill on the Christian Right’s “family values” crusade, quoted in the Chicago-based Christian Century (January 31): “Christians do have a stake in the intact family, and one prophetic role of the Christian family could be to challenge serial monogamy among the middle and upper classes.” But instead “I’m afraid that white, middle-class Christian families are trying to preserve the intactness of their families at the expense of families who are so economically and socially disadvantaged that it’s almost impossible for them to be intact.”

“Despite its practicality, the [1909] Chicago plan had one utopian feature,” writes Witold Rybczynski in his new book City Life: “[Daniel] Burnham and his colleagues, who scrupulously delineated existing streets, public parks, and even railroad rights-of-way, chose to ignore the tall buildings (many built by Burnham’s own firm) that were downtown Chicago’s most distinctive feature. This rejection of the skyscraper was certainly not an implied criticism of commercial development–the conservative Burnham was not antibusiness–nor was he suggesting that dozens of existing Chicago skyscrapers be demolished….It is possible that Burnham and [Edward] Bennett simply wanted to avoid the thorny issue of architectural controls altogether….It is also possible that the two men could not reconcile their urban theories–which assumed that public buildings would take precedence over commercial and residential structures–with the actual state of affairs in the American downtown.”

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