The City File | City File | Chicago Reader

The City File 

Sign up for our newsletters Subscribe

Eat my message. Target Marketing, quoted in the Progressive (August 1990), describes the patented process developed by Chicago's Viskase Corporation, which has developed a way "to print messages on the frank casings it manufactures, using an edible food material."

Congratulations! You will soon be paying for a town hall and fire station for a village of 400 people in Bowdre Township in eastern Illinois, as part of the grossly overextended Illinois "civic center" program. According to Illinois Tax Facts (July 1990), there are now 56 legislatively authorized civic-center authorities in the state. "Even after the original goal of providing civic centers for large downstate communities had been achieved, the General Assembly has continued to propose and fund new civic centers. And when the need for large civic centers had obviously been exhausted, legislators simply changed the rules of the game, allowing for smaller projects in smaller communities"--without setting any limits or policy rationale. "An increasing number of projects carry the earmarkings of influence-peddling and legislative wish-list fulfillment.... If the civic center program has indeed become 'grease' to keep the machinery of government running more smoothly, the price of the lubricant has become far too costly."

Dept. of dubious authorities, from a Waldenbooks press release: "In a passionate account of what it is to be an American woman, Father Andrew M. Greeley reveals another side of his multi-faceted character..."

We can look forward to an extended period of on-the-job training. State comptroller (and attorney-general candidate) Roland Burris notes that in January 1991, regardless of the outcome of the November elections, all six statewide officeholders will be new to their offices--for the first time in state history. (He also predicts a severe budget crisis for the rookie governor.)

"Nobody lives around here anymore, but our Masses on Sunday are packed," says Father George Ruffolo, pastor of Saint Francis of Assisi Church at Roosevelt and Newberry (Claretian Newsletter, August 1990). "This was once called the Cathedral for Mexicans, and it's still a hub for Hispanics.... They come from different parts of the city; they come in buses, in cars, and on trains. Somehow the word gets around; they might even hear about St. Francis in Mexico before they come to this country."

Overheard on the train: "J. tells me I dress wrong to attract guys. But if I have to attract them, I don't want them."

Let the punishment fit the crime. Safety engineer David MacCollum, in Workplace Safety & Health (July 1990), newsletter of the National Safe Workplace Institute on South Michigan, has an incentive for careless construction managers: "Corporate management should require project managers to be the first person to tell a widow that her husband will never come home because of the company's unsafe construction methods. Just one visit as a 'prince of death' would make some of the most hardened antisafety construction managers become real advocates for safety."

The public-radio capital of Chicagoland is Evanston, according to WBEZ's tally of its latest fund drive, in which Evanston (with 435 pledges) far outdistanced each of the city's 50 wards and its innumerable other suburbs.

"The average American cannot fathom a part per billion is actually smaller than a part per million," U.S. energy secretary James Watkins told nuclear execs in Washington May 22, "or that the risk of riding a motorcycle at 10-to-the-minus-three is 10,000 times worse than the probability of a nuclear power plant accident at 10-to-the-minus-seven. So, we cannot seem to communicate clearly and honestly." We'll second that. Even if the secretary's figures are honest, the difference is simple: I can choose whether I want to assume the risk of riding a motorcycle, but I have to take whatever risks Com Ed feels like dishing out.

Census of the fittest. "I think of it as statistical Darwinism," gripes Nate Lee in New City (July 19-August 1). "If you're too stubborn, lazy or stupid to be counted, you don't deserve to be counted. And if the rest of us have to suffer, well, we're used to suffering all the stubborn, lazy, and stupid people that don't count, anyway. You probably don't vote so you're not represented and you cost the rest of us infinitely more than $400 a year in your attitude alone."

Humanity vs the market. "Generally, landlords who live near their tenants are more compassionate than absentee landlords who have little contact with the residents, said Kam Liu whose Century 21 franchise is in Chinatown. 'Long-time landlords tend to keep the prices low if they have long-term renters who they know can't afford higher rents,' he said. 'But as soon as that apartment becomes open, it can go up several hundred dollars at once'" (Michael Selinker in the Chicago Reporter, June 1990).

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

Support Independent Chicago Journalism: Join the Reader Revolution

We speak Chicago to Chicagoans, but we couldn’t do it without your help. Every dollar you give helps us continue to explore and report on the diverse happenings of our city. Our reporters scour Chicago in search of what’s new, what’s now, and what’s next. Stay connected to our city’s pulse by joining the Reader Revolution.

Are you in?

  Give $35/month →  
  Give $10/month →  
  Give  $5/month  → 

Not ready to commit? Send us what you can!

 One-time donation  → 


Subscribe to this thread:

Add a comment

More by Harold Henderson

Agenda Teaser

Performing Arts
September 18
Galleries & Museums
August 20

Popular Stories