Dept. of fine distinctions. The Northfield-based retailer of a negative-ion generator says the product “is not cleared by the FDA, so we do not make any health claims for it.” Yet the advertised dial settings include “fewer colds and flu” and “reduced recuperation time.”

Numbers George Orwell would have loved, from Second Harvest Update (Winter): “Unemployment in 1992 averaged 7.4%, higher than the 6.7% in 1991 when the recession ended.”

“Hate crimes in Chicago, although they are almost a daily occurrence, continue not to be newsworthy,” according to Northwestern University journalism professor David Protess, reporting on media coverage from January 1 to November 16, 1993–unless, of course, the victims are white. “None of the newspaper accounts focused on Chicago cases with black victims, although African-Americans were the most common victims of hate crimes…. Although in-depth data on all hate crimes are continuously available to be reviewed at the [Chicago] Commission [on Human Relations], journalists instead tend to cover hate crimes reactively, as isolated incidents, and using traditional norms of newsworthiness.”

The Illinois State Toll Highway Authority is “a relatively unaccountable bureaucracy and rate-setting body that’s allowed to raise taxes, namely tolls, with virtually no public review and hardly any meaningful judicial review.” That’s what Howard Learner of the Chicago-based Environmental Law and Policy Center of the Midwest tells Robert Heuer in Illinois Issues (February). Heuer explains how the Toll Highway Authority manages to combine government power and business secrecy: “While lawmakers regard tollways as a win-win proposition, serving transportation needs at no cost to the state, the fact is that tax dollars do finance the groundwork. On these first two phases of the toll expansion [I-355 south and Illinois 53 north], IDOT [the Illinois Department of Transportation] has done environmental and engineering studies, center-line sitings and ‘strategic buys.’ The state owns almost 50 percent of the Route 53 right of way, having banked some of that expensive real estate for 20 years….The authority will buy the land from the state, acquire the plans and underwrite more extensive ones before building– hiding all the while behind a no-tax-dollar fiction that helps dispel public input. In effect, IDOT is like a basketball guard bringing the ball up the court before passing to the authority for the slam dunk.”

More fine distinctions. According to a review of the new book Hopping Freight Trains in America, “This book describes activities which are illegal. The publisher, the author, and Challenge Publications do not recommend that anyone engage in these activities.” Among the chapter titles listed on the back cover: “How, When and Where to Catch a Train.”

“Citizens working together are not only powerful and effective, but essential to any solution to issues in low-income communities,” former Wieboldt Foundation executive director Anne Hallett tells Forum Notes (February), newsletter of the Donors Forum of Chicago. “I have come to cringe at those who define the people as the problem rather than the solution, at calling people ‘clients’ and ‘consumers,’ at needs assessments, at dependency-creating help, at identification of ‘gaps in service,’ at ‘seamless webs of service’ (would any of us ever accomplish anything if surrounded by a seamless web of service?).”

Partial victory. Number of rental housing units Chicago lost (net) during the 1980s: 40,000. Number of affordable units the city plans to build (or substantially rehab) during the next five years, following the success of the Affordable Housing and Jobs Campaign spearheaded by the Chicago Rehab Network: 17,774 (The Neighborhood Works, February/March).

The Central Area Non-Circulator. “I don’t understand how you can effectively run a [trolley] system at grade level,” complains 42nd Ward Republican committeeman Clark Pellett in the Near West Gazette (February 3) about the Daley administration’s pet transit project. “You’ve either got to inconvenience normal pedestrian traffic by building fencing to enclose it so people won’t cross streets except at designated crossings, or else you’ll have to run at such a slow speed that you won’t gain anything from the system.”

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