City File 

As others see our mayor. From Lisa Chamberlain's report "Mayor Daley's Green Crusade" in the July issue of Metropolis: "Seated at a long conference table surrounded by reports and memos, Daley's locution ricochets from a grand vision of environmentalism to the vexing minutiae of urban life: the damaging effects of rock salt, poor drainage, abandoned gas stations; how to properly dispose of batteries and aerosol cans; and getting homeowners to disconnect their downspouts so rainwater can be returned to the earth rather than funneled into an overtaxed wastewater system. 'I like to say he's a janitor with a vision,' says Barry Burton, a zoo horticulturalist from Detroit who came to Chicago's Department of Planning and Development in 1998 (he is now assistant to the mayor for landscaping initiatives)."

"Today, one is hard pressed to find even a liberal Democrat who is actively pushing any positive idea at all," writes Sam Smith, who practices alternative journalism in Washington, D.C. ("Undernews Extra," July 19). Republicans, on the other hand, "know what they want and they work for it--and not just during election campaigns. The level of dilettantism among Democrats has become increasingly depressing. During the Clinton years, for example, there was hardly a murmur as the dismantling of 60 years of Democratic social policies began, the prison population doubled, the war on drugs--the prototype for Bush proto-fascism--expanded, and as corruption became rampant....No one recalled that the last time a Democratic president actually won a sizable percentage of the vote [Lyndon Johnson, in 1964] he did so with some of the most progressive programs in the country's history--including civil rights, education, and the war on poverty."

Research results that do not surprise. A recent publication by education professors at the University of Michigan ("What Large-Scale Survey Research Tells Us About Teacher Effects on Student Achievement," at www.tcrecord.org) states that in math classes through the sixth grade, "students who were taught by a teacher with an advanced degree in mathematics did worse than those taught by a teacher not having a mathematics degree."

Why close the beaches? Levels of E. coli bacteria vary widely from hour to hour, day to day, location to location, and depth to depth, reports University of Chicago economist Don Coursey in an ongoing study, "The Economic and Health Risk Trade-offs of Swim Closures at a Lake Michigan Beach" (University of Chicago Chronicle, May 27). Based on 1998-2001 information from Indiana Dunes State Park, he and colleagues found a sky-high error rate in both directions. On 14 of the 22 closure days E. coli levels turned out to be low, while beaches remained open on 20 of the 28 days when E. coli levels exceeded regulatory standards. Coursey notes, "There is a very low risk of contracting E. coli from swimming in a lake"--just 4 of the 777 E. coli infections confirmed nationwide in 1998 were caused by that.

By the numbers. According to a June 28 release from the Chicago Board of Election Commissioners, 38.6 percent of registered Chicagoans voted in the March 16 primary election. Most committed were 66-year-old women, 55.3 percent of whom voted; least committed were 22-year-old men, 16.8 percent of whom made it to the polls.

Is God a Republican? How about the Catholic bishops? David Morris, posting on www.alternet.org on June 30: "While Catholic Democratic Governor McGreevey was sanctioned, in part for his support for abortions, Catholic Republican Governor Pataki of New York, who holds similar views on abortion, was not. Sacramento Bishop Wiegand chastised Catholic Democratic Governor Gray Davis for supporting abortion rights and recommended that he refrain from taking Communion. But he has issued no warning to Catholic Republican Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, who also supports abortion rights."

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