By Harold Henderson

Gee, they have well-maintained trees. Must not be any dissenters in Chicago anymore. From a recent Grant Park Advisory Council press release quoting its president Dennis O’Neill: “With the Democratic National Convention coming this summer, the whole world will be watching Chicago and given the disaster that happened in Grant Park in 1968, we want to project an image of Grant Park that is one of well-maintained trees, gardens, lawn, fountains, and ornamental infrastructure. One that Chicagoans will be proud to show off.”

“Partisanship reached record levels in 1995” in Congress, according to Victor Crown and Karen Nagel in Illinois Politics (February). The most moderate Democrat in the Illinois delegation (downstater Glenn Poshard) voted with conservative House majority leader Richard Armey 43 percent of the time; the most moderate Republican (the North Shore’s John Porter) voted with Armey 83 percent of the time. That leaves a lot of empty ground in the middle.

At the multicultural mall. Jonathan Franzen in Harper’s (April): “It does seem strange that with all the Marxists on college campuses, more is not made of the resemblance that multiculturalism and the new politics of identity bear to corporate specialty-marketing–to the national sales apparatus that can target your tastes by your zip code and supply you with products appropriate to your demographics.”

“It is fortunate that at the same time many wildlife species are showing preference for areas of dense human population, society is in turn becoming increasingly appreciative of wildlife,” writes Richard Warner in Illinois Research (Fall/Winter). “For example, during the 1980s the number of Illinois citizens participating in activities related to wildlife observation doubled.”

CTA cost per paratransit trip provided for people with disabilities in 1984: $31. Cost in 1995, according to Timothy Jans, whose company is one of four now contracting with CTA to provide that service: $21.55 (MTA Monitor, February).

“Is it really 14 minutes to midnight?” asks William Arkin in the Hyde Park-based Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists (March/April), commenting sourly on the Bulletin’s “Doomsday Clock” recently being advanced closer to midnight. “There are far fewer nuclear weapons out there today than even four years ago. The number of weapons actually operational is even less. Only a handful of warheads are being produced worldwide (contrast that with a 5,000-plus annual production rate a decade ago). Hardly any serious research on new systems is being undertaken….But the Bulletin board is guilty of the old Pentagon game of changing the standards to justify its action. Nuclear midnight means something different than it did previously.”

Of the 17 Illinois cities with the highest 1993 property tax rates, number in the six-county Chicago metropolitan area: 0 (Tax Facts, February/March).

“The inability of many progressive people to recognize that some things are simply beyond the pale of civility and decency–pornography and racist epithets among others–is a threat to our flagging republic,” writes Rochelle Gurstein in In These Times (February 19). The problem, she says, is that we live “in a society that takes pride in having freed itself from the outmoded notions of shame that used to prescribe limits not only to speech but to imagination, artistic representation and action.”

“African Americans were the only racial or ethnic group whose real median income increased between 1993 and 1994, the U.S. Census Bureau reported Feb. 7. Black-owned businesses grew at a rate of 46 percent between 1987 and 1992, compared to a nationwide increase of 26 percent” (Chicago Reporter, March).

“The biggest obstacle facing American school children isn’t an unsafe learning environment or a lack of updated computer equipment,” writes Ann Wiens in New Art Examiner (February). “It’s a lack of positive societal attitudes toward learning. By and large, education is touted as something you need in order to get a good job and make money. The thought that you might want it in order to live a richer life, to have a deeper understanding of your world, to intelligently and actively participate in your government is often met with indifference or outright hostility….Young people don’t need to be protected from the knowledge that racism in this country was once more overt than it is now, that language most of us find utterly offensive was, a relatively short time ago, the norm. They need this information in order to see where we’ve come from, the distance we’ve covered, and where we might progress or regress, based on the choices we make as a society.”

“In the State of the Union Address, two people sit behind the president. Who are they?” asks Stephen Rynkiewicz in Chicago Journalist (February). “Applicants for entry spots at WBBM Newsradio continue to struggle with that question on the CBS station’s newsroom employment test. More troubling, neither can many of the aspiring news writers name the three branches of the federal government.”

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