The City File 

"Doing a project is like pushing a feather through honey," said one city official at the August 14 gathering of red-tape-cutting bureaucrats known as the Scissors Society (Government Matters, Fall). "There's no momentum; the minute you stop pushing, progress stops."

What the numbers don't tell you. According to the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago, in 1972 only 56 percent of whites expressed support for housing integration, while in 1991 80 percent did so. But "people live with two mutually inconsistent beliefs," cautions U. of C. sociologist Douglas Massey. "White people say they support fair housing, yet when white respondents are asked how they feel about specific neighborhood racial compositions rather than about broad questions of principle, they tend to express considerably more ambivalence and hostility toward blacks. We need political leadership here to get people to adhere to their principles. This has happened in the past on other issues, but what is happening now is that politicians are playing on the divisions between groups rather than bringing people together."

Cumulative small-business taxes are less in Chicago than in Detroit, Seattle, New York, Philadelphia, Boston, Indianapolis, Phoenix, Los Angeles, Atlanta, and Washington, D.C., according to a National Federation of Independent Business survey. Chicago placed 26th of the 44 cities surveyed.

"Nerd" requires no translation. At Kanoon Magnet School, according to Michelle Martin and Michael Selinker in Catalyst (October), English- and Spanish-speaking students spend most of the school day in separate classes, but take one class together. "When they are together, they don't stay in language groups," says principal Diana Azcoitia. "All the naughty boys stay together, and all the honor students stay together. They really divide themselves by personality."

"Chicago is primarily a packaging and sorting city, ordering parts into machines, steel rod into screws and bolts, pigs into bacon, and trivia into instruction manuals," writes Dan Yarbrough in Inland Architect (September/October). "Curiously, that is exactly what Chicago was doing before it was 'discovered and settled.' Swamps and wetlands simplify things, although they themselves are very complicated. The water that enters them is filled with particles whose relationships to each other are as complex as DNA. Plants and creatures of the wetlands patiently assess and sort the particles, organizing them into useful components. The chief export of a wetland community is simple and pure water.

"Obviously, modern Chicago's chief export is not pure water."

"He thought the artists were like exotic creatures struggling to survive in an environment--that of city government--in which they were alien," writes Joyce Bolinger of Nick Despota, one of the first video artists hired by the city in the late 1970s using CETA (Comprehensive Employment and Training Act) funds. "I remember he once described the process of training the artists in CETA as turning butterflies into caterpillars." (Video, September-October)

I believe in cancer, maker of heaven and earth... "I've seen how you act when you hear someone has cancer. You treat cancer as if it were a god, ascribing to it total power," writes "Jackie Pine," who has AIDS, to her church congregation in the Chicago-based Lutheran Woman Today (March). "When the prayer chain is activated for the person with cancer, first you recite the litany of cancer's accomplishments: you know six people who died horrible deaths from this same type of cancer, and you have little hope for this victim. 'Glory be to the cancer; it's going to get us all.' After you have gone through this ritual, establishing the hopelessness of the situation, you agree to pray. If you view cancer with such hopelessness, AIDS would surely have an even more elaborate worship litany."

Why women's foundations are short of money. Keller Cushing Freeman, in the newsletter of the Chicago Foundation for Women (Fall): "I discovered that my husband, a gracious Southern gentleman, had contributed (in both our names) a donation to the local arts center on whose fund-raising committee he served. It was exactly 50 times the pledge I had made to the women's arts foundation on whose campaign committee I served. Neither one of us had negotiated our contribution in a family council. He gave out of his set of philanthropic assumptions; I gave out of mine."

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

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