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Letters & Comments: April 1, 2010

"Feminism is no more a 'done deal' than civil rights, gay rights, or any other social issue."

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Sorry, Indiana

Re: the carp articles in the March 25 issue of the Reader, the invasion of the fish has already had profound ramifications if it indeed has erased the state of Indiana from the face of the earth (see graphic on page 13, which mentions the "Illinois/Michigan State Line").

Just yanking your chain. Otherwise, a fascinating article.

Tom Campbell

The Mayor and the Murder Rate

Re: "Taking the New Yorker for a Ride," by Ben Joravsky, March 11

While I have come to expect every article in the Reader to be colored by left-wing bias and while I have come to expect every article written by Ben Joravsky to be colored by both left-wing bias and a deep-seated irrational hatred of Mayor Daley, I would at least like it if someone over there would fact-check Joravsky once in a while.

To wit, no matter how you slice it, Chicago is not the "murder capital of the country" nor is the murder rate "much higher under Daley than it ever was under Byrne or Washington." In 1980 the murder rate per 100,000 people was 29.3 and in 1985 it was 22.2. Under Daley it has risen to a high of 30.6 in 1990 and then 30.0 in 1995, but since those highs it has dropped like a stone coming down in 2000 to 21.8 and most recently in 2005 to 15.6, where it has basically hovered since then (15.6 in 2007) with a slight rise in 2008 to 17.9. And where has Detroit's murder rate been? In 2007 it was 46 per 100,000—three times the rate of Chicago (but somehow Chicago has a higher murder rate than Detroit in Ben's mind) and 40.6 in 2008, which is only twice as high as Chicago's rate!

Jeff Singer

Edgebrook

Ben, I agree with most of what you've written.

But the murder rate IS an important measure of civic health, and there is just no question that it is down substantially from 8 years ago, and from the Washington and Byrne years.

There are no doubt a number of factors. And it's true that Chicago has not seen a decline of the scale of what's happened in New York. But for whatever reason, the city is much safer today than it was under Mayor Washington's tenure, and given the demographics of violent crime in this city, it primarily means it's immensely safer for young black men. I think it's important not to give the wrong impression.

I don't know that the Daley/Cline initiatives of 2003 were responsible for the decline. There are some other plausible factors. But given that the mayor attempted to address the problem head-on in 2003, and the murder rate immediately came down dramatically, to levels not seen since the early 60s, and stayed down, it's hard to fault the mayor on this particular measure.

ryanwc

Ben Joravsky replies:

Mr. Singer is absolutely correct that Detroit has a higher murder rate than Chicago. I never wrote that it didn't. By pointing out that Chicago actually has more murders—as opposed to a higher rate—than Detroit, I was being a bit facetious about the efforts of Mayor Daley's boosters to make it seem as though he's conquered crime in Chicago.

However, Mr. Singer is off with his numbers. According to statistics maintained by the Chicago Police Department, in 1980—when Jane Byrne was mayor—the murder rate was 28.78 (865 murders) per 100,000. In 1985, when Harold Washington was mayor, the murder rate was 22.1 (666 murders).

In 1989, when Mayor Daley took over, the murder rate was 24.6 (742 murders). In 1990, it was 30.5 (851 murders). In 1991 it rose to 33.3 (927 murders). In 1992, it peaked at 33.8 (943 murders). It started to fall in 1993 (33.4; 931 murders). In 1994, it was 33.3 (929 murders). And in 1995, it was 29.7 (827 murders). In 2000, it was 22.5 (628 murders), which is roughly what it was during the Harold Washington years.

I certainly wasn't faulting Mayor Daley for the high rate in the 1990s. My point was that there are a host of factors at play in the exceedingly complicated issue of the rise and fall of murder rates in big cities. You have to consider birthrates, incarceration rates, unemployment, drug laws, demographic changes, the destruction of public housing, the scattering of poor people to distant communities, and even abortion rates, as Stephen Levitt and Stephen J. Dubner point out in Freakonomics.

Murder rates in big cities throughout the country have been falling for about a decade. If you limit your points of comparison to economically devastated cities like Detroit you look pretty good. But if you compare Chicago to New York, Seattle, Los Angeles, and other cities that are relatively flourishing, you don't look so good—all of the cities have a lower murder rate than Chicago.

And in general, ryanwc, I'd be very cautious about proclaiming Mayor Daley's "head-on" attempt to address the problem a success. Last year, there were 55 murders in the 11th police district, which is on the west side, and 45 murders in the seventh district on the south side. It's sad to say but the murder rates in those communities remain about as high as they've ever been. Higher even than, yes, Detroit.

Feminism Not a "Done Deal"

Re: "Venus's Next Wave," by Michael Miner, March 25

If Sarah Beardsley and her readers really believe that feminism is a "done deal," then how do they respond to the selling out of women's access to reproductive health care by Obama, Pelosi, and the rest of the "progressive" Democrats who were supposed to represent change? Apparently it's okay to throw women under the bus to get a bill passed; I wonder if the "progressives" would have done the same thing if the "issue" at hand had been funding for sickle-cell anemia research, prostate cancer prevention, or Tay-Sach's Syndrome research (to mention just three health issues that "only" affect certain "special" populations).

Feminism is no more a "done deal" than civil rights, gay rights, or any other social issue. Hard-won victories demand constant vigilance to maintain, and the victories that haven't yet been won require still more work and dedication.

David G. Whiteis

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