Department of tact. Graham Grady, the city’s new building commissioner, who wants to increase city demolitions of abandoned buildings from 751 last year to more than 1,200 this year: “Contrary to stereotype, I think most city employees are basically good people who are capable of quality work. But there are some knuckleheads” (Chicago Enterprise, March/April).

Ever try to do your taxes sitting on the State Street sidewalk? The Center for Law and Human Services (1325 S. Wabash) is sponsoring the midwest’s first Homeless Volunteer Income Tax Assistance Project: “Refunds can be substantial, in some cases exceeding $2,000. For many homeless persons a refund of this size will be a ticket out of a shelter and into an apartment of their own.”

You have reached the foundation. Please do not leave a message. It will not be returned. From Forum Notes (February): “The J. Roderick MacArthur Foundation will no longer accept grant applications. The Foundation is making a significant new commitment to three specific projects, the MacArthur Justice Center in Chicago, the Death Penalty Information Center in Washington, D.C., and Article 19 in London….[Therefore] the Foundation will not be hiring a new president or executive director. It will reduce its entire staff to one person, Marylou Bane. As a result, no staff will be available either to communicate with potential donees or discuss potential grants. For similar reasons, no Foundation staff member will be available to discuss this change in policy.”

Just in case you didn’t know that the U.S. Senate is a white racist institution. From Families Against Mandatory Minimums’ case against the new federal crime bill: “$22 billion will only begin to cover the huge costs that will be incurred by this penalty-filled bill. The $6 billion for prisons covers only about 5 percent of their operating costs in future years. The $9 billion for police is a one-shot contribution by the feds….Meanwhile, in the early days of the Clinton presidency when a $30 billion urban aid package was proposed, Congress flatly rejected it as too expensive. In essence, the Senate has said to America’s cities, we’re willing to create prisons but not jobs for youths in your crime-plagued, and often African-American, neighborhoods.”

Only in Hyde Park. According to the University of Chicago Chronicle (February 17), at a January benefit auction for Blue Gargoyle Youth Service Center, an autographed copy of Michael Jordan’s Rare Air sold for $280–and lunch with emeritus law professor and 1991 Nobelist Ronald Coase went for $420.

“There is a dire need for African Americans to go into teaching,” says Chicago State University education professor Bartley McSwine. “Over the past 15 years, the number of African-American teachers in public schools has decreased by 30 percent.”

100 oppressed peasants + 1 landowner = 1 revolution. St. Ignatius Magazine (Winter) reports that math teacher Father Bob Thul, S.J., has coauthored Math for a Change, “applying mathematics problems to issues of justice and ethics.”

Huh? Mine is OK, but I hear all this stuff in the media, so… Donald Sevener reports in Illinois Issues (February) that in Northern Illinois University’s 1993 Illinois Policy Survey “nearly three-quarters of the respondents rated their own health care as good or excellent”–but “just a third of them thought health care in general in Illinois merited such a judgment.”

Stalemate with shouting. “The net contribution of the Catholic Church to the abortion debate may ultimately be fairly inconsequential,” write three social scientists in the Journal for the Scientific Study of Religion (September), quoted by the U. of C.’s Martin Marty in Context (February 15). “Our data show that the Church appears to be successful in recruiting Catholics to the antiabortion cause, but generates an opposing, ‘pro-choice’ reaction among religious and irreligious non-Catholics.”

Ah, springtime in the city of neighborhoods. “Wicker Park I’ve met you before,” writes Zack Anderson in the Lumpen Times (volume 2, number 14). “Wicker Park I’ve tasted the grey flesh of your rotten fruit, planted in vanity and watered with conceit. …Wicker Park echoing with the same old sounds, the young and the beautiful trying on attitude and political correctness and literature as if they were Chanel accessories. Wicker Park I hate you.”

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