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Dear Reader:

When I moved to Chicago in the 80s, the northern skyline was dominated by the PLAYBOY sign, its neon fuchsia clashing with the staid Old English letters spelling out "The Drake." The 80s collapsed, the building stood, but the Playboy corporation moved out and the sign fell.

From the apartment where I moved to in the 90s, I can just make out the Prudent in the Prudential sign, its letters as red as the one Hester Prynne wore, the buildings blotting out the rest. Sign o' the times, I guess. Even Hugh Hefner got married, the prudent playboy. Prudence, safe sex, good judgment veered into overprudent political correctness, even prudish, imprudent self- or other censorship.

I'm still wishing on the skyline, though. If I stand in just the right place and crane my neck to see, I can read the white bulbs that shine marquee-like through the night to spell out EQUITABLE. I hope it's a sign.

--Anne M. Peternel

Dear Reader:

The other day I noticed that a man who lives in my building got a parking ticket. I saw him take it off the windshield of his car with a disgusted jerk. I live in the South Loop, not far from the city police headquarters, on South State Street. I too find it disgusting that people get tickets around here, because police personnel always park illegally and never find a ticket on their cars.

I asked the meter maid I saw writing tickets why she doesn't write tickets for the police as well. She said she was told by her supervisor not to do it. "How do you know what cars are police cars?" I asked. She pointed to a little star-shaped decal that was fixed to the windshield. It said "Fraternal Order of Police." "I don't write tickets for those cars," she said.

There are 45 parking meters on State Street between 11th and 8th. Many more in the blocks around the police station. Most are to be fed 13 hours a day, from 8 AM until 9 PM, at 50 cents an hour. That's $6.50 a day, per meter. At six days a week, 52 weeks a year, that's $2,028 per year, per meter lost as city revenue. Multiply that by 45 meters and we see the city losing more than $91,260 a year! That's just the few blocks on State Street. Think of the other police stations and other blocks in the city where police personnel park free. Besides that, the city is losing revenue from all the tickets that should be issued to these meter violators, and the taxes that would be paid if these people parked in lots. We are talking about a lot of money being lost here!

--Gloria Klein

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