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City File



As others see us. From the Economist magazine's December 30 profile contrasting the congressional districts of Nancy Pelosi and Dennis Hastert: "In Illinois a broad girth is a sign of health. In San Francisco even the chefs are thin."

"When I went to grammar school at Edmund Burke School [at 54th Street and King Drive], one of the first things the teachers talked about was who Edmund Burke was," south-side activist Timuel Black tells Katrina Jones of the Chicago Reporter (January). "About two years ago, I was asked to talk about Bronzeville to the youngsters at Walter H. Dyett Academic Center [555 E. 51st St.]. As a teacher, Capt. Walter Henry Dyett was one of the best known persons in Chicago, and, after he died, this school was named for him. He encouraged hundreds of black musicians during the jazz period, such as Nat Cole, Johnny Hartman and many others who became famous worldwide. I asked these kids who Capt. Walter Henry Dyett was, and not a hand went up. Not one. So I turned to the teacher and asked her if she had told them about Dyett, and she said, 'No, I didn't know anything about Capt. Dyett, either.'"

All deliberate speed. A recent United for a Fair Economy press release notes that since 1970 the white home-ownership rate has risen from 65 percent to 75 percent, while the black home-ownership rate has risen from 42 to 48 percent.

Tort reform? Both sides are wrong, argues Anthony Sebok of the Brooklyn Law School (, December 15). "The real problem with our tort system," he writes, "is not that too many culpable defendants escape liability, as the pro-plaintiff groups would have you believe. Nor is it that too many undeserving plaintiffs win lawsuits, as the pro-business groups would have you believe. Rather, it is that the tort system has become so expensive that we rarely get a chance to find out whether a tort has actually occurred. Put another way, the real problem with our tort system is is so expensive to litigate that few deserving victims sue, and many blameless defendants settle just so they can escape the expense and uncertainty of the civil justice system. In this sense, our system is both anti-deserving plaintiffs, and anti-innocent defendants....Last year, only 2% of all federal civil cases were decided by a trial."

The range of human diversity, according to the Chicago Department of Cultural Affairs. A recent press release announcing a Nature Conservancy photo exhibit at the Cultural Center states, "[Annie Leibovitz's] work portraying everyday women, for example, has ranged from a Las Vegas showgirl to an elderly carnival performer."

Who says the recession is over? The "Illinois State Comptroller's Quarterly" (January) reports that "state revenues driven by the economy are not growing. Total individual and corporate income taxes are down while sales taxes are up only modestly."

Frank, we hardly knew ye. In 1957 the 90-year-old Frank Lloyd Wright visited his Robie House in Hyde Park, when the Chicago Theological Seminary was planning to replace it with a high-rise dormitory ("CornerStone," newsletter of the Landmarks Preservation Council of Illinois, January). "It is particularly sad that professional religionists should be the executioners," Wright said. "It all goes to show the danger of entrusting anything spiritual to the clergy."

We're not going to Mars. We're going back to the Eisenhower era at warp speed. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities notes in a January 15 report that in fiscal year 2003 total federal revenues declined to their smallest share of the U.S. economy since 1959.

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