City File 

Questions you never thought to ask. Topic of the Arthur H. Compton lectures at the University of Chicago's Enrico Fermi Institute on Saturday, April 29 (rainbow.uchicago.edu/efi/compton_lectures.txt.html): "Glassy Systems: What Is Common to Glasses, Traveling Salesmen, Neural Networks and Proteins?"

The bad news is happening slower. "Kale Williams, former executive director of the Leadership Council for Metropolitan Open Communities, observes that during the last ten years, the rate of resegregation in both suburban and city communities has slowed compared to earlier decades," write Michael Leachman and Philip Nyden in "Housing Discrimination and Economic Opportunity in the Chicago Region," a January report written for the Human Relations Foundation of Chicago. "A noticeable example of this contrast would be the stunning five-year resegregation of Chicago's Austin neighborhood in the 1970s versus the much slower shift in Chicago Lawn's ethnic and racial make-up in the 1980s and 1990s."

Oh, you mean in the patients. Headline on a recent American Bar Association press release: "Dementia presents a growing challenge to managed care health plans."

Thinking about gentrification. America Sorrentini, executive director of Segundo Ruiz Belvis Cultural Center, on Milwaukee near Damen, is quoted in the winter issue of "Chicago Area Project News": "We have been talking to people in other parts of the country about the French model which has incentives for developers who do not force longtime residents out. I wish we could adopt something like the French model in Chicago."

The Chicago Board of Education claims that it's looking for "fierce crusaders" as teachers, writes Greg Michie, who taught for nine years in Chicago's public schools and is now a doctoral student at the University of Illinois at Chicago (StreetWise, January 18). He says he did a double take the first time he read that phrase. "If teaching is indeed an art, then CPS's quest for fierce crusaders seems a bit like asking visionary artists to work on a paint-by-numbers canvas."

"If you could do only one thing for your trees, mulching would be the best choice," according to a March press release from Hendricksen the Care of Trees. The Wheeling-based company notes that mulch conserves soil moisture, evens out root temperatures, and sustains soil microbes. It also kills grass, but is that such a great price to pay?

News left-wingers don't want to hear. Welfare reform, starting with state-specific waivers and culminating in the 1996 federal reform legislation, has "reduced public assistance participation and increased family earnings," report Robert Schoeni of RAND and Rebecca Blank of the University of Michigan in the National Bureau of Economic Research's working paper number 7627 (March). "The result was a rise in total family income and a decline in poverty."

News right-wingers don't want to hear. Michigan State economists David Neumark and Scott Adams compared cities with living-wage ordinances and those without and found that the ordinances seem to boost the pay of low-wage workers, though they also reduce the numbers of low-wage workers employed. On balance, they write in the National Bureau of Economic Research's working paper number 7606 (March), the ordinances "may help to achieve modest reductions in urban poverty."

Urban sprawl: 129 years and counting. Chicago State University geographer William Peterman writes in his new book, Neighborhood Planning and Community-Based Development: "Cyrus McCormick's choice, following the Great Fire of 1871, to relocate his farm implement factory to a site near what is now the Cook County Jail on the west side of Chicago and George Pullman's decision to locate his palace (sleeping) car factory on rural land south of the city and to build a model worker's town next to it on the shore of Lake Calumet were typical of industrial development activity at the end of the century and are consistent with a pattern of central-city abandonment that continues to this day."

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